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The Ziegfeld Follies was a theatrical juggernaut that did far more than launch the career of Marilyn Miller.
It forever transformed the Broadway musical.
When the show was first mounted in 1907, no one, not even producer Florenz Ziegfeld, could have possibly imagined its impact.
Ziegfeld was simply trying to mount a light, inexpensive entertainment for the summer season. But the result, Follies of 1907, was such a smash hit that Ziegfeld soon attached his own name to it and began mounting it annually as the main event of the Broadway season.
Over the years, Follies became an opulent spectacle, the likes of which had never been seen on the stage.
It also became a newsworthy event that was covered in gossip columns from coast to coast.
But what really made the Ziegfeld Follies an event was its showgirls, a collection of eager dancers and chorus-line singers advertised as "the most beautiful women in the world."
It became a popular sport to guess which one would break out and become the next big star, like onetime showgirls Barbara Stanwyck, Paulette Goddard, Gypsy Rose Lee, Josephine Baker, and of course, Marilyn Miller.
Today, the spirit of the Ziegfeld Follies is still very much alive.
The Broadway musical as we know it would not have been possible without the unique mix of style, sophistication, and sheer spectacle that the master showman Florenz Ziegfeld bestowed on the American stage.
Image: Ziegfeld Follies, in two acts. Source: Library of Congress
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