Ziegfeld Girls

How little the public realizes what a girl must go through before she finally appears before the spotlight that is thrown upon the stage.

Florenz Ziegfeld
From 1907-1931, the Ziegfeld Follies (named after producer Florenz Ziegfeld) were an annual Broadway production based on the Folies Bergere in Paris. Top headliners were showcased. But the real attraction were the Ziegfeld Girls, chorus girls who wore amazing costumes (created by top designers, like Erte and Lady Duff Gordon) and essentially walked up and down an enormous set of stairs on stage. Here are their stories…
Anna Held
She was born in present-day Poland of Jewish parents. However, in 1881, they were forced to flee Paris because of anti-semitic pogroms. Later, Anna converted to Catholicism. Florenz Ziegfeld saw her perform in London and convinced her to move with him to America where they entered into a common-law marriage. To achieve a tiny waist, she had her lower ribs surgically removed - a common practice at the time. In 1907, she and Ziegfeld created what became known as the Ziegfeld Follies, a yearly production like the Parisian revues or what the revues that Las Vega became known for. The Ziegfeld Girls were a chorus of girls who wore glittery, feathered costumes and basically were there to look pretty while the stars (like W.C. Fields, Josephine Baker, and Fanny Brice) performed. They were the "frame" for the show. Two years later, Ziegfeld left her for Lillian Lorraine, another Ziegfeld Girl. She died of plasma cell cancer in 1918.
Louise Brooks
Louise Brooks epitomized "The Flapper" of the 1920s and much happened to her during that decade. Her hairstyle was copied by everyone. In 1925, she acted in her first silent movie, but she walked out on Paramount four years later when they did not give a promised salary raise to her. She traveled to Germany where she played a lesbian in the silent movie "Pandora's Box" which made her famous. (Many thought she was a lesbian in real life.) In 1982, she published her memoir, Lulu in Hollywood.
Myrna Darby
Myrna Darby was one of the iconic Ziegfeld Girls of the 1920s. She was discovered by Ziegfeld at age 17. She was considered one of the most beautiful of the Ziegfeld Girls and was known as thoughtful and sweet. It is said that she died at age 21 from a broken heart after her marriage engagement was called off. However, she actually died from inflammation of the heart after a day of "sunburn and strenuous exercise". (www.streetswing.com)
Susan Fleming
Susan Fleming was called "The Girl with the Million Dollar Legs", named after the movie in which she played W.C. Fields’ daughter. In 1936, she ended her film career (which she hated) when she was married to Harpo Marx of the Marx Brothers. (They dated for four years, during which she proposed to him three times!)
Allyn King
If you let the dimensions of any part of your figure vary more than one-half inch from the following, weight 115 pounds, neck 12-1/2 inches, bust 34 inches, upper arm 11, lower arm 7-1/2, waist 26, hips 34, thigh 18, calf 12, ankle 8-1/2, then and in the event we shall have the right to cancel this contract upon giving you one week's notice. (Source: www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allyn_King)

This was Ziegfeld Girl Allyn King's contract. Her story is the saddest that I've read. She tried to maintain her weight until she almost died from her eating disorder plus diet pills.

She was checked into a sanatorium for two years. Soon after her release, she committed suicide by jumping out a fifth floor window. She died in 1927 - and this crazy expectation is STILL being imposed on women.
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