Ziegfeld, the Time of his Life – Randolph Carter 1988

  • Ziegfeld, the Time of his Life – Randolph Carter 1988
  • First published in 1974 by Paul Elek, London
  • This new and revised edition published in 1988 by Bernard Press 7 Weil Road, Hampstead, London NW3 ILH

‘Superb biography… Carter, in this lavishly illustrated volume, has avoided … any effort at pop-psychology, instead concentrating his care on anecdotal history… Meticulously, Carter also charts the influence of Ziegfeld’s many aides, people such as Gene Buck, photo¬ grapher Alfred Cheney Johnston, Lady Duff-Gordon and above all set-designer Joseph Urban, whose brilliant and innovative designs have too long gone unappreciated… The account is studded with beautiful photographs… a fine library item or excellent gift for the theatre acolyte.’ Patrick McGilligan, Boston Globe (USA)

Before the advent of sound, Ziegfeld’s attitude toward film, like that of most Broadway producers, was faintly patronizing.

His influence on films, however, was considerable. As early as 1916, DW Griffith had produced Diane of the Follies, in which for the first and last time, Lillian Gish was permitted to play a ‘Wicked Woman’. The film, alas, has been lost; Miss Gish herself has no recollection of the plot beyond the luring of a socially prominent Long Island youth into her evil coils.

In 1922 Constance Talmadge appeared as Polly of the Follies, in which an actor named Bernard Randall impersonated the great Ziegfeld. The cast of Pretty Ladies, another Follies saga (1925) included Ann Pennington, Zazu Pitts, Lilyan Tashman, Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford, and featured impersonations of Cantor, Rogers and Gallagher & Shean. In 1927 Billie Dove (in a moment of pique Louella Parsons dubbed her William Pidgeon) starred in An Affair of the Follies, and in 1928 Phyllis of the Follies featured Alice Day and Lilyan Tashman. Among film stars incubated in the Follies (besides Rogers, Cantor, Fields, Miller and Brice) were Olive Thomas, Mae Murray, Lilyan Tashman, Hazel Dawn, Billie Dove, Nita Naldi, Dorothy Mackaill, Ann Pennington, Mary Nolan, Virginia Bruce, Lina Basquette, Paulette Goddard, Louise Brooks and of course Marion Davies.

Diane of The Follies – Lillian Gish

Lillian Gish exotically robed for DWGriffith’s film Diane of the Follies – Courtesy Lillian Gish

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