Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Busby Berkeley - Director/Choreographer.
Berkeley was born to silent film actress Gertrude Berkeley, who played mother roles in silent films. Berkeley was acting on stage by the age of five, acting in the company of his performing family. During World War I, Berkeley served as a field artillery lieutenant. Watching soldiers drill may have geven him his ideas for his choreography. During the 1920s, Berkeley was a dance director for two dozen Broadway musicals.
The “By A Waterfall” production number from Footlight Parade(1933) made use of one of the largest soundstages ever built, constructed especially to film Berkeley's creations.
His earliest movie jobs were on Samuel Goldwyn's Eddie Cantor musicals, where he began developing such techniques as a “parade of faces” and having his dancers all over the stage in many kaleidoscopic patterns. Berkeley's top shot technique appeared in the Cantor films. As choreographer, Berkeley was allowed a certain degree of independence in his direction of musical numbers. The numbers he choreographed were mostly upbeat and focused on decoration. One exception was the number “Remember My Forgotten Man” from Gold Diggers of 1933, which dealt with the treatment of soldiers in a post-World War I Depression.
Berkeley, became popular when he choreographed four musicals back-to-back for Warner Bros.: 42nd Street, Footlight Parade, Gold Diggers of 1933 and Fashions of 1934, as well as In, Caliente and Wonder Bar with Dolores del Río.
He was director at 20th Century-Fox for 1943's The Gang's All Here, in which Berkeley choreographed Carmen Miranda's “Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat” number.
Berkeley returned to MGM in the late 1940s, where among many other accomplishments he conceived the Technicolor finales for the studio's Esther Williams films. Please check Esther Williams Page , for more info. Berkeley's final film as choreographer was MGM's Billy Rose's Jumbo (1962).