Helene Held (1872 – 1918) was a Polish-born French stage performer and singer, most often associated with impresario Florenz Ziegfeld, her common-law husband.
Touring through Europe, Held was appearing in London in 1896 when she met Florenz Ziegfeld. Ziegfeld asked her to return to New York City with him and she agreed. He set about creating a wave of public interest in her, by feeding stories about her to the American press, such as her having had ribs surgically removed.
From 1905, Held enjoyed several successes on Broadway which, apart from bolstering Ziegfeld’s fortune, made her a millionaire in her own right. Ziegfeld’s talent for creating publicity stunts ensured that Held’s name remained well known. Held suggested the format for what would eventually become the famous Ziegfeld Follies in 1907, and helped Ziegfeld establish the most lucrative phase of his career.
In 1909, Ziegfeld began an affair with the actress Lillian Lorraine; Held remained hopeful that his fascination would pass and he would return to her, but instead he turned his attentions to another actress Billie Burke, whom he would marry in 1914.
The film The Great Ziegfeld (1936) tells a sanitized version of the story of the Ziegfeld-Held relationship. Luise Rainer won an Academy Award for her performance as Held.
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