Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley

By Jeffrey Spivak | Go to book overview

11
Inconsolable

There was no Hollywood red-carpet premiere for Cinderella Jones when it was finally released on March 9, 1946. By this time, the film had been recut and repackaged into a studio afterthought that garnered little praise. The gamble of waiting until Robert Alda had struck it big with Rhapsody in Blue didn’t pay off. Alda never reached the studio’s idea of his potential, and Cinderella Jones suffered because of it. The comedy with pertinent references to 1944 was dated and irrelevant two years later, and many of its war references were deleted by the studio.

Buzz’s twenty-two-year-old bride separated from her husband less than a week after Cinderella Jones opened, and she sought a divorce on the grounds of cruelty soon thereafter. On April 1, in front of Judge Kenneth Chantry, the plaintiff spoke disparagingly about her husband: “He constantly accused me of being with another man—things like that.” Newspapers reported the demise of Buzz’s fifth marriage. Weeks later, a crazy coda was appended to the story. By the end of the month, there were rumors that Marge was thinking of marriage again—to Busby Berkeley!

If Buzz courted the idea of remarriage, the timing couldn’t have been worse. Gertrude was declining rapidly, and Buzz admitted the whole situation “almost deranged me.” He held hope and maintained a vigil, but by early summer life’s spiraling senescence had Mother in its grip. A day nurse and a night nurse were on hand and kept a round-the-clock watch over Gertrude as Buzz dozed fitfully. On the evening of June 14, 1946, the night nurse exited Gertrude’s room and approached Buzz, relaying the following: “Mr. Berkeley, your mother has gone.” Moments before the pronouncement, Nellie Gertrude Berkeley Enos had silently died from cancer at the age of eighty-one.

Theirs was a co-dependency in the truest meaning of the word; their existences depended on each other. Buzz was overwhelmingly bereaved, for no mother and son had been closer in life. Her death enveloped Buzz

-218-

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