Actress and singer Anna Held led a fascinating life as one of Ziegfeld’s earliest muses. A popular comedy star on the New York theater scene, Held made La Belle Époque all the more lovely. Though personifying glamour, Held’s early life was anything but glamorous.
Held overcame an impoverished life as an orphan and paved her way to success in the music halls of Paris. Replacing Lillian Russell as a beloved theatrical performer, Held soon took the United States by storm. Inspiring her first husband, Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., to transport the thriving Paris entertainment scene to the states, Held influenced and developed what would become the Ziegfeld Follies.
While Held was the picture of vivacity, beauty, and wealth–especially during her years with Ziegfeld–she hid many facets of her life from public view. She concealed her Jewish heritage, a daughter from a former marriage, and her unhappiness with Ziegfeld’s gambling and infidelity. However, Held went on to devote herself to a variety of other efforts apart from Ziegfeld.
Eve Golden’s Anna Held and the Birth of Ziegfeld’s Broadway paints a fascinating portrayal of Held that is made all the more interesting by the inclusion of rare photographs as well as information from family records. Held was truly an accomplished and notable asset to the theater scene. Her moving story, though seldom told, is heavily tied to Ziegfeld legend and early theatrical entertainment and deserves to be studied.
Anna Held and the Birth of Ziegfeld’s Broadway is available through the University Press of Kentucky.