Say what you want about Hef--- to his credit, he's been a huge supporter of motion picture history and has financed several excellent documentaries. This one is takes a warts and all look at Busby Berkeley (1895-1976), acknowledging his genius and his decline (mother fixation, alcoholism, the 3 vehicular homicide trails) in honest doses. During his tenure at Warner's, Berkeley managed to resurrect the Hollywood musical, considered box office poison from 1930 until the astonishing double whammy of 1933's 42nd Street (released in March) Footlight Parade (October) and embarrass most other studios' choreography (Paramount's 1934 Murder at the Vanities would've benefited tremendously from his input). Crippling flaws aside, Berkeley was the best at his craft. It's also notable that he was perfectly capable of excelling as a "straight" director: his last film at Warner's was an excellent John Garfield entry, They Made Me a Criminal (1939), while most of his most fondly remembered earlier films had journeyman contract directors helming the overall pictures. It wasn't until Gold Diggers of 1935 that he gained sole directorial credit, which unfortunately would end in his embarrassed involvement in 1949's Annie Get Your Gun. His career would essentially be over by 1953. A big plus is that director/writer David Thomson managed to located 82- year old Berkeley favorite Toby Wing (1915-2001) and her 81-year old sister Pat and obtained interviews with them both (sadly, both have since died). This is a definite "10" for anyone who loves movie history. This is a hard-to-find title (I had to buy a VHS on eBay) since PBS has never obtained release rights. I believe this has been shown on TCM. Catch it if you can!
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