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Busby Berkeley DIRECTOR

Busby Berkeley, originally William Berkeley Enos, was born on November 29, 1895 in Los Angeles, California to two actors. Shortly after his birth, his family moved to New York and by age five he was introduced into their vaudeville act. During World War I, he served in the U.S. Army as a field artillery lieutenant who would conduct and direct parades. After cease fire, he was commanded to stage camp shows for the soldiers. When he returned to the U.S., Berkeley became a stage actor and assistant director in a number of small acting troops. He finally discovered his talent for staging extravagant dance routines when he was forced to take over a production of the musical “Holka-Polka”. Berkeley quickly became a known name on Broadway, choreographing seventeen Broadway productions. He decided he wanted to make his routines even larger and more spectacular, so in 1930 he moved to Hollywood to compose dance numbers for movies.

His first projects included Samuel Goldwyn’s Eddie Cantor musicals like “Whoopee!” (1930), as well as others. It was while working on these that he worked on a technique in which he would only use one camera and close-up on various dancers. When asked once why he chose to do this he responded: “Well, we’ve got all the beautiful girls in the picture, why not let the public see them?” Berkeley also implemented a technique which gave the appearance that the dancers were part of a kaleidoscope. He worked on several other Goldwyn films like “Palmy Days” (1931), “The Kid From Spain” (1932), and “Roman Scandals” (1933) before asked to direct the musical routines in Warner Brothers “42nd Street” (1933).

Warner Brothers was so happy with the success of the latter that they offered Berkeley a seven year contract, which he accepted. Quickly after, he made “Footlight Parade” (1933) and “The Gold Diggers of 1933” (1933) back-to-back. Berkeley rapidly became a household name to those who liked to watch movie musicals. From 1933 until 1937, the choreographer directed numbers for almost all of the great musicals Warner Brothers produced, not limited to “Dames” (1934),”Fashions of 1934” (1934) “Gold Diggers of 1935” (1935), and “In Caliente” (1935).

However, with the decline of the musical picture in 1938, he found less work. He directed two non-musicals for Warner Brothers, “They Made Me a Criminal” (1939) and “Fast and Furious” (1939), before going to MGM in 1940. While here he got to work with teenage stars Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney for four pictures, although in “Girl Crazy” (1943) he was fired in the middle of production, supposedly at the insistence of Garland. He also worked with other studios in the 1940's, like 20th Century Fox for “The Gang’s All Here” (1943), in which he directed the outrageous number “Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat”. While the film did make money, Berkeley and Fox disagreed on budget matters. He also helped make such pictures like “Strike Up the Band” (1940), “Lady Be Good” (1941), and “Cinderella Jones” (1946).

In the late 1940's, he moved back to MGM and created some of the amazing finale numbers for the studio’s Esther Williams ballet films. Berkeley additionally directed his last feature of the forties, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” (1949), although the choreography was done by Gene Kelly. In the fifties, he did a few musical numbers for films like “Call Me Mister” (1951), “Small Town Girl” (1953), and “Easy to Love” (1953), but was pretty much forgotten by the decade’s end. He only directed one more movie, “The Blue Veil” (1951), although his name was not credited. Berkeley also was the director of four “Big Town” (1954-55) episodes and one “MGM Parade” (1956) episode. His final film as choreographer was “Billy Rose’s Jumbo” (1962).

Into the seventies, he directed the Broadway musical “No, No Nanette” as well as a thirties-style commercial. He also made his rounds, giving lectures to assorted colleges. Berkeley died in Palm Springs, California on March 14, 1976, at the age of eighty due to natural causes. While the choreographer/director earned much critical success in his early years, he never won any prestigious honors, and only had the knowledge that he was nominated for three Oscars.    


1962       Billy Rose's Jumbo

1954       Rose Marie

1956       MGM Parade

1953       Easy to Love  

1953       Small Town Girl

1952       Million Dollar Mermaid   

1951       The Blue Veil  

1951       Two Tickets to Broadway 

1951       Call Me Mister 

1950       Two Weeks with Love  

1950       Annie Get Your Gun 

1949       Take Me Out to the Ball Game 

1948       Romance on the High Seas 

1946       Cinderella Jones

1945       All Star Musical Revue

1943       The Gang's All Here 

1943       Three Cheers for the Girls 

1943       Girl Crazy  

1943       Cabin in the Sky 

1942       Born to Sing

1942       Calling All Girls

1942       For Me and My Gal 

1941       Lady Be Good

1941       Babes on Broadway

1941       Ziegfeld Girl 

1941       Blonde Inspiration 

1940       Strike Up the Band 

1940       Forty Little Mothers 

1939       Fast and Furious 

1939       Babes in Arms 

1939       They Made Me a Criminal 

1939       The Wizard of Oz 

1939       Broadway Serenade 

1938       Gold Diggers in Paris

1938       Comet Over Broadway 

1938       Garden of the Moon 

1938       Men Are Such Fools 

1937       Hollywood Hotel 

1937       The Go Getter   

1937       Hollywood Hotel 

1937       Varsity Show 

1937       The Singing Marine 

1936       Gold Diggers of 1937

1936       Stage Struck 

1935       I Live for Love 

1935       Bright Lights 

1935       Gold Diggers of 1935 

1935       Stars Over Broadway  

1935       I Live for Love  

1935       In Caliente  

1935       Gold Diggers of 1935 

1934       Fashions of 1934
1934       Wonder Bar

1934       Dames

1933       She Had to Say Yes   

1933       Roman Scandals

1933       Footlight Parade  

1933       Gold Diggers of 1933 

1933       42nd Street 

1932       The Kid from Spain  

1932       Bird of Paradise 

1932       Night World  

1932       Girl Crazy  

1932       Sky Devils  

1931       Flying High

1931       Palmy Days  

1931       Kiki 

1930       Whoopee! 

Matinee Classics - Director and choreographer Busby Berkeley
Matinee Classics - Cabin in the Sky starring Ethel Waters, Eddie ' Rochester' Anderson, Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong, Rex Ingram, Mantan Moreland, Willie Best, Butterfly McQueen, Nick Stewart and Duke Ellington
Matinee Classics - Take Me Out to the Ball Game starring Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Esther Williams, Jules Munshin, Betty Garrett, Edward Arnold, and Richard Lane

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