Ziegfeld 101

What Makes A "Ziegfeld Girl"

by Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr.

The article below was published under Ziegfeld's byline in 1925 by The Morning Telegraph, a now-defunct New York City newspaper. While there is no way of knowing if he actually wrote the piece, it is not unreasonable to assume that he at least approved the text.

Ziegfeld in 1928Ziegfeld as he appeared in the program for Show Boat.

Beauty, of course, is the most important requirement and the paramount asset of the applicant. When I say that, I mean beauty of face, form, charm and manner, personal magnetism, individuality, grace and poise. These are details that must always be settled before the applicant has demonstrated her ability either to sing or dance. It is not easy to pass the test that qualifies a girl for membership in a Ziegfeld production, but I am frank to say that once she has done so, much of the element of doubt is removed so far as the future success of her career before the footlights is concerned.

There is a prevalent impression that once a girl is enlisted under the Ziegfeld standard, her troubles are over and her hard work is ended. What a mistake! Let us hope that for many it does mean the end of trouble so far as earning a livelihood is concerned, that it means happy and comfortable home living honestly earned. But there are other troubles ahead for her, and plenty of hard work.

A Ziegfeld production is no place for a drone or an idler. Often are the times when you who read these words are just opening your eyes in the morning or are enjoying your breakfast and the early news of the day, that the girls of a Ziegfeld production are busy as bees on the stage of an empty theatre, if indeed they have not already put in an hour or more in striving to come nearer to perfection in that which is expected of them before the footlights. Yes, there is plenty of hard work for them in addition to that which they do when they appear, smiling and happy, when the curtain goes up. Giving a performance is the least of their worries.

How little the public realizes what a girl must go through before she finally appears before the spotlight that is thrown upon the stage. How few there are who succeed from the many who seek this method of earning a livelihood. And, I may add, from what totally unexpected sources come many of those who from the comparatively modest beginning in the chorus rise to the S of really great achievement in the theatrical profession. I venture the assertion that there is not one honest, wholesome walk of life from which they have not come to some one of the numerous Ziegfeld productions. The society girl, tired of that life, the school teacher wearied with the duties of her daily grind, the one whose life has heretofore been devoid of purpose, the stenographer, cashier or even the waitress. Maybe she is a chambermaid, but if she has the necessary talent and qualities a place awaits her in the Ziegfeld ranks.

Let us grant that a girl qualifies for one of my productions. It is interesting to note what follows. First, it is clearly outlined to her what she is expected to do. She may be impressed at the outset that the impossible is required, but honest application and heroic perseverance on her part plus skillful and encouraging direction by experts very seldom fail to achieve the desired results. But it is only through constant, faithful endeavor by the girl herself that the goal eventually is reached.

It is not the work of a fortnight, a month or several months to train these girls for the work expected of them. It is the task of several months and it is a fact that a girl, either while rehearsing or actually playing, may be training for some character or feature in some future production not yet definitely fixed even in my own mind. Of course, she is also doing this without knowledge herself of the fact. To illustrate what I mean, an apt dancer may be in thorough unison with the others in that particular group, and at the same time reveal a difference in dancing temperament, rhythm or technique; she may phrase, accentuate or actually interpret differently. Not only may she unconsciously register a favorable impression with my associates and me, but she may also suggest something by her work that will lead to some new and novel feature in a forthcoming production.

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