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Anna Held and the Birth of Ziegfeld's Broadway

Eve Golden

Publication Year: 2014

" Anna Held (1870?-1918), a petite woman with an hourglass figure, was America's most popular musical comedy star during the two decades preceding World War I. In the colorful world of New York theater during La Belle �poque, she epitomized everything that was glamorous, sophisticated, and suggestive about turn-of-the-century Broadway. Overcoming an impoverished life as an orphan to become a music-hall star in Paris, Held rocketed to fame in America. From 1896 to 1910, she starred in hit after hit and quickly replaced Lillian Russell as the darling of the theatrical world. The first wife of legendary producer Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., Held was the brains and inspiration behind his Follies and shared his knack for publicity. Together, they brought the Paris scene to New York, complete with lavish costumes and sets and a chorus of stunningly beautiful women, dubbed ""The Anna Held Girls."" While Held was known for a champagne giggle as well as for her million-dollar bank account, there was a darker side to her life. She concealed her Jewish background and her daughter from a previous marriage. She suffered through her two husbands' gambling problems and Ziegfeld's blatant affairs with showgirls. With the outbreak of fighting in Europe, Held returned to France to support the war effort. She entertained troops and delivered medical supplies, and she was once briefly captured by the German army. Anna Held and the Birth of Ziegfeld's Broadway reveals one of the most remarkable women in the history of theatrical entertainment. With access to previously unseen family records and photographs, Eve Golden has uncovered the details of an extraordinary woman in the vibrant world of 1900s New York.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky


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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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Prologue: The Hotel Astor, New York, December 31, 1913

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pp. 1-2

It was New Year s Eve and the Sixty Club was throwing its annual costume ball for the theatrical elite. "The ballroom was filled with fashions throng;/It shone with a thousand lights." Everyone seemed to be there: Ethel Barrymore, Laurette Taylor, Marilyn Miller, playwright Harry B. Smith and his wife, actress Irene...

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1. Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl

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pp. 3-22

Anna Held's stardom burst onto the new century like a fireworks display. For that brief prewar period known as La Belle Époque, Anna represented everything that was glamorous about Broadway, everything that was naughty about Paris. Backed by the demented zeal of...

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2. It Pays to Advertise

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pp. 23-47

When Anna Held and Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. met for the first time in her dressing room that summer of 1896, they had a lot in common. Both were young, attractive, and ambitious. Both were risk-takers and rule-breakers. And both loved show business with every ounce of their beings. We are more familiar with Flo Ziegfeld...

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3. The Belle of New York

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pp. 48-71

Papa's Wife was the first show in which Anna received star billing, so everyone knew the success or failure of it rested on her shoulders. But there was more on the line than Anna s career. She knew if she wasn't a success in Papa's Wife, her marriage might be doomed as well....

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4. Poor Little Rich Girl

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pp. 72-96

It's a truism among actors: Comedians want to try tragedy, dramatic actors want to make people laugh, and everyone "really wants to direct/* Anna was no exception. She'd scored a huge success over the past few years in comedy roles but couldn't quite forget that her earliest successes with Jacob...

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5. A Lucky Star

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pp. 97-123

The Parisian Model had an unusually long tryout period, spending more than two months in six cities before heading to New York* There were several reasons for this, the two most troublesome being the show's raciness and the misbehavior of Charles Bigelow. The Philadelphia opening had to be delayed for a week because Bigelow showed up late...

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6. The Mansion of Aching Hearts

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pp. 124-148

It has never been safe to judge a shows reception from out-of-town tryouts, Anna had learned that from Higgledy~Piggledy, which early reviewers had convinced her was going to be a Held triumph. But it was hard not to get carried away with the advance reception accorded to Miss Innocence. The...

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7. The Unchastened Woman

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pp. 149-177

There was nothing in Anna's new contract with Ziegfeld to keep her from working in Europe over the next year As she felt more secure in her relationship with her straying husband, her professional pride perked up as well, "Work keeps you young, and I hate to grow old,"...

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8. Under Two Flags

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pp. 178-201

The news of Ziegfeld's marriage came like a thunderbolt to Anna. Just as she had tried to ignore and deny his relationship with Lillian Lorraine (until Liane had forced the issue), Anna had managed to convince herself that his interest in Billie Burke was nothing more...

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9. The Last Rose of Summer

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pp. 202-214

When >em>Follow Me opened on November 29, 1916, people lined up around the block for the event. Not only was Anna celebrating her twentieth anniversary on Broadway and her comeback after a four-year absence, but she was no longer "just" a beloved...

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Epilogue: The Melody Lingers On

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pp. 215-221

Anna's death was hardly unexpected, so her funeral was a well-planned and celebrity-studded event, thanks to Lillian Russell's expert arrangements. Anna's coffin, draped in the French and American flags, was on view at Campbell's Funeral Church, at Broadway and Sixty-sixth Street. On August 13 crowds...

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pp. 222-228

First, a general note on the text and on the major sources: None of the quotes or conversations in this book has been invented; all are taken directly from published interviews, autobiographies, or private correspondence. As mentioned in the text, Anna Held was not conversant in English until about 1898, and any...


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pp. 229-232


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pp. 233-244


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pp. 245-260

E-ISBN-13: 9780813146539
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813121536

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2014