Ziegfeld girl

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Ziegfeld Girls were the chorus girls and showgirls from Florenz Ziegfeld's theatrical Broadway revue spectaculars known as the Ziegfeld Follies (1907–1931), produced in New York City. The revues were based on the Folies Bergère of Paris.


Sheet music cover for "Shine on Harvest Moon" with Ruth Etting of the Ziegfeld Follies

These showgirls followed on the heels of the Florodora girls, who had started to "loosen the corset" of the Gibson Girl in the early years of the 20th century. Decked out in Erté designs, these beauties gained many young male admirers and became objects of popular adoration. The showgirls were picked to be similar in appearance and in stature. They danced in complete synchronization, and were the only act that was uniform in the Ziegfeld Follies. Many were persuaded by suitors to leave the show to marry, some to men of substantial wealth. The Ziegfeld Ball in New York City continued as a social event of the season for years after the last production of the Follies.

In 1897, Ziegfeld made a common-law marriage with Anna Held, one of his showgirls. They were never legally married, but they lived together long enough to be considered so legally. In 1913, Held divorced Ziegfeld because of his infidelities with Lillian Lorraine, another Ziegfeld girl.[1]

Soon after that, Held died and Ziegfeld married another Ziegfeld girl, future film star Billie Burke. Although Ziegfeld had several affairs, Burke claimed that Lorraine was the only one of whom she was jealous.[1] Ziegfeld remained married to Burke (and in love with Lorraine) until his death in 1932.

List of Ziegfeld girls[edit]

Anastasia Reilly, 1923

Over the years, the Ziegfeld girls included many future film stars such as Marion Davies, Paulette Goddard, Joan Blondell, Olive Thomas, Jeanne Eagels, Barbara Stanwyck, Billie Dove, Lilian Bond, Louise Brooks, Nita Naldi, Julanne Johnston, Mae Murray, Dorothy Mackaill, Odette Myrtil, Lilyan Tashman, Claire Dodd, Cecile Arnold, Dolores Costello, Dorothy Sebastian, Juliette Compton, Mary Nolan, Iris Adrian, Annette Bade. Other Ziegfeld girls became social and business successes, such as Peggy Hopkins Joyce, Helen Gallagher, Anastasia Reilly,[2] Sybil Carmen, Myrtle Miller (Asta Sven) [3][4] and Irene Hayes. Other Ziegfeld girls included Leone Sousa, Monica Bannister,[5] Mildred Chris Kennedy,[6] Irene Amelia Melfi and Dorothy Hale.

Mona Louise Parsons was a Ziegfeld girl who later became a member of the Dutch resistance during the Second World War. Kiki Roberts, lover of American gangster "Legs Diamond", was also a former Ziegfeld girl.[7]

Declined members[edit]

Dolores Costello as a Ziegfeld girl, ca. 1923

Although many future stars started out as Ziegfeld girls, other women who became notable had been rejected by Ziegfeld for his revue. Norma Shearer (in 1919 and 1920), Alice Faye (in 1927), Joan Crawford (in 1924), Gypsy Rose Lee (in 1927), Lucille Ball (in 1927 and 1931), Phyllis Haver (in 1915), Eleanor Powell (in 1927), Ruby Keeler (in 1924), Hedda Hopper (in 1913), and June Havoc (in 1927 and 1931) were among the many hopefuls that the master showman discarded after auditions. In 1957, the then-current members were featured as mystery guests on the television panel show What's My Line?[8]

Last survivors[edit]

The chorus lines of the last century led to successors, chiefly The Rockettes of Radio City Music Hall. After the death of Dorothy Raphaelson in 2005, Doris Eaton Travis was the last surviving Ziegfeld Girl.[9] Travis died on May 11, 2010, at the age of 106.[10]


  1. ^ a b "Ziegfeld Who's Who: A to L". www.musicals101.com. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
  2. ^ Internet Broadway Database
  3. ^ "Myrtle Miller – Broadway Cast & Staff | IBDB". www.ibdb.com. Retrieved 2023-07-12.
  4. ^ "1940 -- Performs at World's Fair -- Good photo Asta Sven and Gabby Birch plus caption and review". The Miami News. 1940-08-08. p. 6. Retrieved 2023-07-12.
  5. ^ "19 Jun 2002, 17 - North County Times at Newspapers.com". Newspapers.com. Retrieved 2020-10-28.
  6. ^ "12 Nov 1990, Page 16 - South Florida Sun Sentinel at Newspapers.com". Newspapers.com. Retrieved 2020-10-28.
  7. ^ https://www.albany.org/blog/post/famous-faces-jack-legs-diamond/
  8. ^ What's My Line? - Ziegfeld Girls; Walter Brennan; Adolph Menjou, Greer Garson (panel) (May 12, 1957)
  9. ^ Dorothy W. Raphaelson, A Ziegfeld Girl, Dies at 100, Douglas Martin, The New York Times, Nov. 12, 2005
  10. ^ Doris E. Travis, Last of the Ziegfeld Girls, Dies at 106 Douglas Martin, The New York Times, May 12, 2010

External links[edit]