This one hour biodocumetary on the life and career of choreographer Busby Berkeley is very interesting. It talks some about his personal life, but it doesn't turn into a tabloid piece. Instead it just focuses on the major points - that Berkeley never danced or took a dance lesson himself, that he drank heavily, got most of his inspiration while in the bathtub, that he married six times, only the last marriage being a happy one, and of course there is a small part about the infamous second degree murder trial in the 30's stemming from a drunk driving accident. He was tried three times before acquitted. Yet in the midst of all of this disorganized turmoil that was his personal life, Berkeley produced kaleidoscopic numbers with military and mathematical precision.
There are some great clips of Berkeley's numbers starting with his work in "Whoopee" where Sam Goldwyn, the epitome of the independent mogul, took a chance on Berkeley and a color musical at a time - 1930 - when musicals were falling out of favor, and came up with a hit followed by several more also starring Eddie Cantor. So Daryl F. Zanuck really wasn't taking much of a chance when he took then proved entity Berkeley to Warner Brothers to stage and create numbers for 42nd Street, followed by several other brash precode musicals there. The production code really put a crimp in Berkeley's style, and Warner Brothers soon lost interest in musicals, so Berkeley moved on to MGM where he was the director as well as choreographer. He had big budgets at MGM, and he had some success with musicals starring Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney and later Esther Williams, but ultimately his creative heyday was the 1930's.
If you want to see just how much cinematic choreography owes to Berkeley, try watching any of the precode musicals from the Dawn of Sound era - 1929- 1932. Almost any dance number involves chorines just walking around, swaying to the beat, almost appearing like they are looking for something to do. Busby got them all moving and moving in an interesting and coordinated way.
Highly recommended for anyone interested in Hollywood musicals, from the 1930's through the 1950's.
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