5 Responses to “Words are such small, squiggly things”
The Antler Dance!
A truly ghastly mess! I love it!!
The worst stuff is at the start, with William Powell in heaven and the somewhat charmless puppet animation (why?) but there are some extraordinary images…
By the time this movie was made, the Ziegfeld Follies had gone from the show world’s platinum standard to a historical reference. Powell starred in “The Great Ziegfeld”, so he’s evoking memories of that movie — probably the dominant public vision of Ziegfeld and his shows by then — as well as giving a little history lesson. “The Great Ziegfeld”, a typical Hollywood fiction, at least managed some impressive (if not very accurate) evocations of the Follies and allows Ray Bolger to show off his non-Scarecrow dance skills.
An imperfect comparison would be the circus. A modern movie about a circus has to spend some footage not only showing what it was, but selling the power it once had in small cities and towns.
Ziegfeld girl and follies girl once denoted toast-of-the-town beauty and glamorous scandal; many silent stars and many more pretty also-rans were Ziegfeld alumni. At some tipping point, referencing Ziegfeld became a comic dig at a woman’s age (Floradora girl was the previous favorite). Not sure if that point had been reached when MGM made this.
I’m mystified that MGM would think it worth making a movie about something that had to be explained to the public. Flies in the face of their whole philosophy! And the success of their previous Ziegfeld blancmange should have guaranteed a certain awareness.
I wasn’t so much baffled by the insertion of backstory, which is kind of the only narrative glue the film has, but by the fact that its delivered via puppet animation. The heaven sequence I suppose is justified by the fact that they’d already filmed all of Flo’s earthly existence, so a sequel has to pick up from there…