Busby Berkeley was truly an innovator in
both dance and film making. His work was so innovative
that his name is listed in the American
Thesaurus of Slang and defined there as "any elaborate
dance number". Berkeley never took a dance lesson in
his life and although he couldn't dance himself he had an
incredible feel for movement on film.
following are the innovations that Berkeley is most
following are Berkeleyisms or, illustrations of his voyeuristic
use of one camera. The first thing he did on the
set of Whoopee was to lay
off two of the cameramen, saying he didn't need more
then one camera.
liberated the camera by placing it in all sorts of positions,
even putting it on cranes, in order to get high enough
for the image he wanted. The camera became a participant. He
put it above the dancer's heads, between their legs,
under water, above buildings, below buildings and even
cut holes in the roof of the set when he need to get
even higher. Previously, movie musicals had mostly
looked like filmed broadway plays, but Berkeley put the
camera in so many places that the audience could feel
a part of the action and changed their look forever.
learned about drilling troops during WWI, he used his
knowledge, to the fullest, to present movement of groupings
around the stage in a unique style.
work in the 1930's was the epitome of broadway modernity;
he wasn't the first to do overhead shots, he certainly
perfected the style by using elaborate geometric shapes
of beautiful women in dance numbers and use of closeups
to show these women became a Berkeley trademark.
was first to use a musical number as a "story within
a story". Example: Lullaby
of Broadway from Gold
Diggers of 1935 (considered
to be his best work on film), was 15 minutes long
and told the story of a young girl in New York Society
who gets killed in the end. Has a great dance sequence
when we see hundreds of tap dancers tapping while the
girl and her date (Dick Powell) looked on.
stars: Berkeley helped to create and popularize the following
movie actors who were in many of his films:
seemed to have an obsession with women getting killed. He
killed them in 42nd Street and Lullaby
of Broadway to name two numbers.
of women as "objects" to create his geometric images.
in the Park from Gold Diggers
of 1933 was
probably the most voyeuristic number which showed us
women in silhouette undressing.
and Warner Brothers loved Franklin
Delano Roosevelt. He was extremely patriotic
and his earlier films, 42nd Street and Gold
Diggers of 1933 were tributes to FDR's "New Deal". 42nd
Street was advertised as a "new deal in entertainment" and
was timed to open in Washington, DC during FDR's inauguration. Gold
Diggers of 1933 tapped into the optimism set forth
by the FDR administration that things were going to get
Forgotten Man number in Gold
Diggers of 1933 is Berkeley's tribute to all
the soldiers who came back from WWI to find a destroyed
economy and no jobs for them.
- Berkeley loved water. In fact, every morning
for 1/2 hour he would sit in his bathtub creating ideas
for his day's shooting. "By
a Waterfall" from Footlight
Parade illustrates this passion with water and his
truly erotic nature. He used all kinds of metaphors
like lines of girls in the water as zippers opening and
closing, girls jumping into the water as ejaculations,
etc. He was able to get away with these openly
erotic images because no one person was doing anything
luciferous in any one number and the Hayes code had not
yet be put in place. Instead, he was praised for his
abstract images produced by the hundreds of women who
made up these images. We need not even mention
the films he did with Esther Williams which produced
some of the most beautiful water ballets ever filmed.
erotic images were seen in his 20th Century Fox musical The
Gang's All Here. Who could miss it with all
the bananas and strawberries flying around as Carmen
Miranda sang the "The Lady with
the Tutti Fruiti Hat".
learn more about each actor, click on their name and you
will be taken to their info at the Internet