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Busby Berkeley

(1895—1976) American choreographer and film director


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1895–1976)

US choreographer and film director.

Born in Los Angeles into a theatrical family, the son of a stage director and an actress, Busby Berkeley had appeared on stage by the time he was five. After World War I, in which he served as a field artillery lieutenant, he returned to the stage and became a leading Broadway dance director.

Sam Goldwyn introduced him to films, choreographing such Eddie Cantor films as Whoopee (1930), but the work for which he is best remembered was done with Warners, in whose films he produced kaleidoscopic patterns of rhythmically moving dancers (known as ‘Busby's Babes’), using huge casts on tiered stages, revolving platforms, and even in swimming pools. Symmetry and movement were often enhanced by enormous numbers of pianos, harps, and cascading waterfalls, the whole effect being achieved through the novel use of moving cameras. The Gold Diggers series (1933–37), Babes In Arms (1939), Ziegfeld Girl (1941), and Lady Be Good (1941) are a few of the remarkable films he choreographed. He also directed such films as Strike Up the Band (1940), For Me and My Gal (1942), The Gang's All Here (1943; his first colour film), and Take Me Out To the Ball Game (1949).

With changing tastes fewer films came his way, Jumbo (1962) being his last. Interest in his unique work revived in the 1960s, however, when his films were shown on television.


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