Busby Berkeley

Busby Berkeley

Highest Rated: 100% The Gang's All Here (1943)

Lowest Rated: 60% Dames (1934)

Birthday: Nov 29, 1895

Birthplace: Not Available

American director/choreographer Busby Berkeley made his stage debut at five, acting in the company of his performing family. During World War I, Berkeley served as a field artillery lieutenant, where he learned the intricacies of drilling and disciplining large groups of people. During the 1920s, Berkeley was a dance director for nearly two dozen Broadway musicals, including such hits as A Connecticut Yankee. As a choreographer, Berkeley was less concerned with the terpsichorean skill of his chorus girls as he was with their ability to form themselves into attractive geometric patterns. His musical numbers were among the largest and best-regimented on Broadway. The only way they'd get any larger was if Berkeley moved to films, which he did the moment films learned to talk. His earliest movie gigs were on Sam Goldwyn's Eddie Cantor musicals, where he began developing such techniques as "individualizing" each chorus girl with a loving close-up, and moving his dancers all over the stage (and often beyond) in as many kaleidoscopic patterns as possible. Berkeley's legendary "top shot" technique (the kaleidoscope again, this time shot from overhead) first appeared seminally in the Cantor films, and also the 1932 Universal programmer Night World. Berkeley's popularity with an entertainment-hungry Depression audience was secured in 1933, when he choreographed three musicals back-to-back for Warner Bros.: 42nd Street, Footlight Parade and The Gold Diggers of 1933. Berkeley's innovative and often times splendidly vulgar dance numbers have been analyzed at length by cinema scholars who insist upon reading "meaning" and "subtext" in each dancer's movement. Berkeley always pooh-poohed any deep significance to his work, arguing that his main professional goals were to constantly top himself and to never repeat his past accomplishments. As the outsized musicals in which Berkeley specialized became passé, he turned to straight directing, begging Warners to give him a chance at drama; the result was 1939's They Made Me a Criminal, one of John Garfield's best films. Berkeley moved to MGM in 1940, where his Field Marshal tactics sparked a great deal of resentment with the studio's pampered personnel. He was fired in the middle of Girl Crazy (1941), reportedly at the insistence of Judy Garland. His next stop was at 20th Century-Fox for 1943's The Gang's All Here. Berkeley entered the Valhalla of Kitsch with Carmen Miranda's outrageous "Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat" number. The film made money, but Berkeley and the Fox brass didn't see eye to eye over budget matters. Berkeley returned to MGM in the late 1940s, where among many other accomplishments he conceived the gloriously garish Technicolor finales for the studio's Esther Williams films. Berkeley's final film as choreographer was MGM's Billy Rose's Jumbo (1962). In private life, Berkeley was as flamboyant as his work. He went through six wives, an alienation-of-affections suit involving a prominent movie queen, and a fatal car accident which resulted in his being tried (and acquitted) for second degree murder. In the late 1960s, the "camp" craze brought the Berkeley musicals back into the forefront. He hit the college and lecture circuit, and even directed a 1930s-style cold tablet commercial, complete with a top shot of a "dancing clock". In his 75th year, Busby Berkeley returned to Broadway to direct a success revival of No, No Nanette, starring his old Warner Bros. colleague and 42nd Street star Ruby Keeler.

Highest Rated Movies



No Score Yet Take Me Out to the Ballgame Director 2011
No Score Yet Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Film Director 2005
No Score Yet The Phynx Himself 1970
86% Million Dollar Mermaid Actor 1952
93% Take Me Out to the Ball Game Director 1949
100% The Gang's All Here Director 1943
100% Girl Crazy Director 1943
100% For Me and My Gal Director 1942
No Score Yet Blonde Inspiration Director 1941
No Score Yet Babes on Broadway Director Actor 1941
No Score Yet Strike Up the Band Director 1940
83% Babes in Arms Director 1939
No Score Yet They Made Me a Criminal Director 1939
No Score Yet Men Are Such Fools Director 1938
No Score Yet Hollywood Hotel Director 1937
No Score Yet Gold Diggers of 1937 Director 1937
No Score Yet The Go Getter Director 1937
No Score Yet Bright Lights Director 1935
100% Gold Diggers of 1935 Director 1935
No Score Yet Fashions of 1934 Actor 1934
60% Dames Actor 1934
100% Gold Diggers of 1933 Call Boy 1933
96% 42nd Street Actor 1933
80% Roman Scandals Actor 1933
No Score Yet She Had to Say Yes Director 1933
No Score Yet Busby Berkeley - The Busby Berkeley Disc Director


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