Ziegfeld 101

Follies Chronology I

by John Kenrick

The photos below are thumbnails – click on them to see full size versions.

zparispbl.jpg (15789 bytes)A 1902 program for the original Jardin de Paris, a popular night spot on the Champs Elysees. Ziegfeld and Abe Erlanger borrowed its name for the run down New York roof theatre where the Follies premiered in 1907.

This is a year by year breakdown of Florenz Ziegfeld's legendary Follies. The cast and production information given here was confirmed by referring to the original programs, as well as articles and books covering the Follies. For details on Ziegfeld's other Broadway productions, click here.


Opened: The Jardin De Paris (atop The New York Theater), June 8 (70 performances)
Book and lyrics: mostly by Harry B. Smith
Score: Maurice Levi and various composers
Dances by: Gus Solke, Jack Mason
Principles Directed by: Herbert Gresham
Chorus Directed by: Julian Mitchell
Uncredited Directors: Jose Smith and John O'Neill
Musical Conductor: Frederick Solomon
Featuring: Grace LaRue, Emma Carus, Harry Watson, Helen Broderick and The Anna Held Girls. Nora Bayes joined the cast towards the end of the run.
Notes: Subtitled, "Just One of Those Things in Thirteen Acts," this $13,000 rooftop production was meant for a limited summer run. Although Ziegfeld conceived and mounted the show, the actual producers were Klaw and Erlanger, who paid Ziegfeld $200 a week for his "managerial" services. The script involved Capt. John Smith and Pocohontas traveling through time to visit the sights and celebrities of modern New York City. Skits gently spoofed current figures (Teddy Roosevelt, Victor Herbert, etc.) and the score included such forgettable songs as "In the Surf," "The Ju-Jitsu Waltz" and "I Oughtn't to Auto Any More." Almost every scene provided excuses to showcase pretty chorines in handsome but revealing costumes. At one point, Ziegfeld marched his girls into the aisles banging on drums, allowing patrons a close look at their charms. After the initial run, this production moved to Broadway's Lyric Theatre for two additional weeks, toured for two months, had a week long return run at the Grand Opera House on West 23rd Street, then spent a final month in Philadelphia.  This success was extraordinary for what was meant to be a summer rooftop diversion.


Opened: The Jardin de Paris, June 15 (120 performances)
Book and lyrics: mostly by Harry B. Smith
Score: Maurice Levi and various composers
Principles Directed by: Herbert Gresham
Ensemble Numbers Produced by: Julian Mitchell
Featuring: Nora Bayes, Grace LaRue, Mlle. Dazie and Harry Watson
Notes: Having stumbled on a winning format, Ziegfeld made sure his second Follies was as much like the first as possible -- and audiences embraced the results. With the history of civilization as its theme, this edition almost doubled the run of its predecessor, moving downstairs into the New York Theatre for several weeks. An otherwise forgettable score featured Nora Bayes singing her memorable hit "Shine On Harvest Moon." The Ziegfeld girls were the other main attraction, appearing as curvaceous New Jersey mosquitoes (wings and all) commuting through the then-unfinished Holland Tunnel. In a tribute to Broadway's latest hit, the girls paraded as "Merry Widows of the World." A more suggestive production number had them dressed as taxi cabs, with electric signs indicating if they were "on duty."


Opened: The Jardin de Paris, June 14 (64 performances)
Book and lyrics: mostly by Harry B. Smith
Score: Maurice Levi and various composers
Settings by: Lee Lash Studios, John Young, Ernest Albert, Hugo Baruch
Costumes by: Edel, W. H. Matthews, Jr., and others
Staged by: Julian Mitchell
Featuring: Lillian Lorraine, Bessie Clayton, Sophie Tucker, Nora Bayes and Jack Norworth. Eva Tanguay joined the cast in mid-run.
Notes: Nora Bayes returned, singing her latest hit, "By the Light of the Silvery Moon." When newcomer Sophie Tucker proved a hit on the pre-Broadway tour, a jealous Bayes demanded Tucker be dismissed. Tucker was left with one scene, playing a hefty leopard in a jungle number. When Bayes left early in the Broadway run, Ziegfeld brought in the dynamic vaudeville star Eva Tanguay – who was such a hit that she had to be given top billing. Ziegfeld's mistress Lillian Lorraine was given "Shine on Harvest Moon," and further displayed her creaky voice (and some more appealing attributes) singing "Nothing But a Bubble" while soaking in a bathtub. A production number entitled "The Greatest Navy in the World" featured the Ziegfeld girls wearing battleships as headgear that lit up when the stage lights were lowered. In another memorable sequence, several chorines flew over the audiences heads in a replica of the Wright Brothers' airplane.


Opened: The Jardin de Paris, June 20 (88 performances)
Book and lyrics: mostly by Harry B. Smith
Score: Gus Edwards "and many others"
Settings: John Young, Unitt & Wicks, Ernest Albert
Costumes: Herr Crage, W.H. Matthews, Jr.
Staged by: Julian Mitchell
Conducted by: Frank Darling
Featuring: Fanny Brice, Bert Williams and Lillian Lorraine, (with Anna Held on film)
Notes: The little-known burlesque vocalist Fanny Brice made such a hit on opening night singing "Lovey Joe" and "I Thought He Was a Business Man" that Ziegfeld tore up her contract the next morning, giving her a major raise and elevating her to star status. Bert Williams became the first Negro to co-star with whites in a major Broadway show – but only after Ziegfeld defied bigoted protests. As a precaution, in this edition Williams only appeared alone or with men, never sharing the stage with the all-white chorus girls. Williams justified the effort, becoming one of the most popular and lasting Follies comics. Anna Held was seen in an innovative filmed sequence playing the role of Hailey's Comet. The chorus girls (still billed as "The Anna Held Girls") appeared in a daring swimming tank extravaganza. They later joined Lillian Lorraine to ride swings over the audience's heads, tossing bouquets while singing "Swing Me High, Swing Me Low."


Opened: The Jardin de Paris, June 26 (80 performances)
Book and lyrics: George V. Hobart and others
Score: Maurice Levi, Irvin Berlin and others
Staged by: Julian Mitchell
Featuring Fanny Brice, Bert Williams, The Dolly Sisters, Lillian Lorraine, Leon Errol, Vera Maxwell and Bessie McCoy
Notes: This was the first edition officially called The Ziegfeld Follies, an overdue tribute from co-producers Klaw and Erlanger. Comic Leon Errol made his Follies debut as a nervous tourist led through the Grand Central Station construction site by porter Bert Williams. This marked the first of many showstopping skits these two comics would share over the years. Williams also began appearing on stage with the all-white Follies chorus girls, completing his personal demolition of a longstanding Broadway racial barrier -- and he introduced the comic solo "Woodman, Woodman, Spare That Tree.". A dance specialty had vaudeville's popular Dolly Sisters costumed as Siamese twins. The ladies of the chorus appeared attired as sailors on the "HMS Vaudeville," and danced the "Texas Tommy Swing." Lillian Lorraine's behavior became increasingly temperamental, culminating in a backstage catfight with Fanny Brice – which Brice ended by dragging the defeated Lorraine by the hair across the stage in full view of a roaring audience. Soon afterward, Lorraine skipped an important rehearsal, and was fired at the insistence of co-producer A.L. Erlanger.


Opened: The Ziegfeld Moulin Rouge (formerly The Jardin de Paris), October 21 (80 performances)
Book and lyrics: Harry B. Smith and others
Score: Raymond Hubbell and others
Scenery: Ernest Albert
Staged by: Julian Mitchell
Conducted by: Frank Darling
Orchestrations by: Frank Sadler
Featuring: Bert Williams, Elizabeth Brice, Leon Errol, Ray Samuels, Lillian Lorraine and Harry Watson
Notes: Erlanger renamed the Music Hall (downstairs from the Jardin de Paris rooftop space) in Ziegfeld's honor for this autumn edition which critics and audiences acclaimed as the finest Follies yet. The performance began with several cast members planted in the audience, arguing over what sort of show it should be -- a surreal touch that caught audiences and critics off guard. Errol and Williams performed a \ taxicab sketch, and Elizabeth Brice (no relation to Fanny) scored singing "Row, Row, Row." The finale was an eye-popping "Society Circus Parade," with ponies and showgirls circling the stage. The volatile Lillian Lorraine returned to sing "Daddy Has a Sweetheart," but was fired by Erlanger for missing rehearsals. Though she would return to the series in 1918, this marked the last year that Lorraine figured in Ziegfeld's private life.

New Amsterdam Playbill (32621 bytes)From 1904 through the 1920s, this was the New Amsterdam Theatre's standard program cover. Acclaimed as Broadway's most sumptuous venue, this house was the pride of Klaw and Erlanger's theatrical empire. It served as the home for Ziegfeld's Follies from 1913 through 1927, also housing such Ziegfeld hits as Sally (1920) and Whoopee (1928).


Opened: The New Amsterdam Theater, June 16 (96 performances)
Book and lyrics: Gene Buck, George V. Hobart and others
Score: Raymond Hubbell, David Stamper and others
Scenery: Ernest Albert, John Young and others
Staged by: Julian Mitchell
Featuring: Leon Errol, Frank Tinney, Jose Collins and Ann Pennington
Notes: Recognizing Ziegfeld's success, Erlanger housed the seventh edition of the Follies in his glamorous flagship theatre, The New Amsterdam, where the series would remain through 1927. Diminutive dancer Ann Pennington's high kicks and dimpled knees proved a sensation. Eccentric comic Leon Errol danced a "Turkish Trot," with his pants falling down in the midst of a massive Julian Mitchell dance ensemble. Women calling for the right to vote were spoofed in "The Ragtime Suffragette," and a production number depicted the opening of the Panama Canal, with the Ziegfeld girls pouring forth as one of the locks opened. The finale was set in a "Satanic Cabaret."


Opened: The New Amsterdam, June 1 (112 performances)
Book and lyrics: George V. Hobart, Gene Buck and others
Score: Raymond Hubbell, David Stamper and others
Scenery: Ernest Albert and others
Staged by: Leon Errol (replacing Julian Mitchell)
Conducted by: Frank Darling
Featuring: Ed Wynn, Leon Errol, Bert Williams, Annette Kellerman, Vera Maxwell and Ann Pennington
Notes: After a battle with Ziegfeld, director Julian Mitchell walked out in the midst of rehearsals. Errol took over – a grateful Ziegfeld reputedly lent a hand but gave Errol sole program credit. Bert Williams introduced "Darktown Poker Club," a pantomimed poker game that became a personal trademark. He also clowned with Leon Errol on top of an unfinished skyscraper. Vaudeville comic Ed Wynn scored well in his Follies debut, appearing as "Joe King the Joke King." Several scenes referred to the latest dance craze, the Tango, including the finale – a lavish "Tangorilla" dance routine set in the jungles surrounding Ziegfeld's beloved Palm Beach.

On to: Follies Chronology II

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