Located at 1341 Sixth Avenue and the corner of 54th Street in Manhattan, the Ziegfeld Theatre opened February 2, 1927. The theater was designed by Broadway impresario Florenz Edward Ziegfeld Jr. ’s favorite designer, Joseph Urban, with architect Thomas W. Lamb serving as consultant. Considered one of the Art Deco masterpieces of its time, the construction was financed by William Randolph Hearst.
The theater's opening show, Rio Rita, was a hit. It has since come to be considered one of the last, great, "light musical comedies" or "Follies-based" type of musical. Closing after a long run of 439 performances, the musical was made into a feature film in 1929 and then an Abbott & Costello version in 1942.
Due to the decline in new Broadway shows during the Great Depression, the theater became the Loew's Ziegfeld in 1933 and operated as a movie theater until showman Billy Rose bought it in 1944.
NBC leased the Ziegfeld for use as a television studio from 1955 to 1963. The Perry Como Show was broadcast from the theater beginning in 1956. It was also used to present the televised Emmy Awards program in 1959 and 1961. 1963 saw the Ziegfeld return once again as a legitimate Broadway theater. Sadly the revival was short-lived.
In 1966 the final decision to demolish the theater to make way for an office building was carried out. "The Ziegfeld was one of those buildings that went just a few years too soon," wrote architectural critic Paul Goldberger. "Had it been able to hold on just a bit longer, a later age would surely have seen its value and refused to sanction its destruction."
However, there has always been undeniable glamour associated with the the Ziegfeld name and just a few hundred feet from the original Ziegfeld Theatre, the ‘new’ Ziegfeld Theatre ( 141 West 54th Street ) opened December 17, 1969. The movie house was one of the last big palaces built in the United States and proudly showed off some memorabilia of the prior Ziegfeld Theatre and of the Ziegfeld girls .
Sadly, it has recently been announced that the Ziegfeld Theatre would imminently close and after a renovation, reopening in 2017 as the Ziegfeld Ballroom, an event facility. The final movie to play the Ziegfeld Theatre was “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” on January 28, 2016.
We look forward to learning if the new ballroom will echo the beautiful Art Deco interior of the original 1927 Ziegfeld!
EXTRA: The Demolition of Ziegfeld Theater ( Robert C. Weinberg , Jan. 9 1966)
'90 Years' blog entries will feature historical happenings and news that surrounded the Long family at the beginning of our Cadillac dealership in 1927