Monday, September 15, 2008

Entertainment: Backward Glances (1)

Topic: The Ziegfeld Follies 1907-1914 #1

On July 8, 1907, the first Follies opened. This first edition cost $13,000 to produce and the weekly upkeep was $1,800. The show was originally presented in the Jardin de Paris on the roof of the new York Theatre. Florence Ziegfeld was paid $200 per week by the firm of Klaw & Erlanger to manage this roof show. Anna Held is credited with having given him the idea of stressing beautiful American girls in a revue, which totaled about 50. Julian Mitchell, was the initial stager of the Follies.

Annabelle Whitford was the first girl to be spotlighted for her startling beauty. Mlle. Dazie, a popular ballerina of the period and a versatile performer was also included in the cast. Grace LaRue was prima donna of this first edition and one of her better numbers was "Miss Giner from Jamaica."

After its debut on the roof it was moved to the Liberty Theatre and Norah Bayes, a star in her own right even in 1907, joined the cast. The receipts were comparatively low, even in this new setting.

During 1908, Ziegfeld had his first Follies song hit. It was "Shine on Harvest Moon" and Norah Bayes and Jack Norworth introduced it. They also wrote it. Also in 1908 the name of F. Ziegfeld, Jr.'s name went above the Follies title for the first time. One of the main novelty numbers of the Follies was "Take Me Around in a Taxicab," which presented the girls on parade with taximeters attached to their shoulders flicking "On" and "Off" as they crossed the footlights. In 1908 the show piled up about 120 performances.

Lillian Lorraine entered the Follies fold in 1909 and was immediately hailed as the #1 beauty queen, she was Ziegfeld's first real dazzler. She became Flo's new romance.

Bert Williams and Fannie Brice made their debuts in the Follies in 1910. The first song that Fannie Brice sang was ""Goodbye Becky Cohen" by a newcomer, Irving Berlin, which was his first song for Ziegfeld. Fannie Brice's style of singing ranged from Yiddish to ragtime. Bert Williams was the first negro to mingle with Broadway's elite. Appearing in tails as well as tatters, his repertoire included "That Minor Strain," "I'll Lend You Everything I've Got Except My Wife," and "You're Gwine to Get Something What You Don't Expect."

One of the most daring feature of the Ziegfeld's show for 1910 was when he had the girls take a dip in the swimming tank to emerge in their snug, dripping suits and then run off the stage. This was downright bold, since in 1910 women's legs were not bare. Also in 1910 a new dance was introduced in the show, "The Pensacola Mooch," which was more or less a shuffle. Anna held was the considered the hot sex-kitten on Broadway in 1910. (27)

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