Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley

By Jeffrey Spivak | Go to book overview

13
Jumping, Tapping, Diving

For ten months, from the Annie dismissal of May 1949 to the last day of February 1950, Buzz remained unemployed. An agreement dated February 28, 1950, between Buzz and Loew’s Incorporated was signed. Buzz was to act as a dance director for an untitled film for a period of at least seven days and possibly more, at a salary of five hundred dollars per week. On March 23, the untitled film was revealed to be Two Weeks with Love, and production officially began.

If you were in your fifties in 1950, the nostalgia of fin-de-siècle America, as wistfully portrayed in Two Weeks with Love, would’ve elucidated a warm memory or two. It was an era when a corset bridged the gap from young miss to lady, and knickers separated the boys from the men. Buzz, always making the most of what little was given, staged his numbers on smallish sets with verve and creativity. In the lovable nonsense number about love between a chimpanzee and monkey, “Aba Daba Honeymoon,” fresh-faced Debbie Reynolds and long-legged beanpole Carleton Carpenter dance, sing, and cavort under Buzz’s direction. In close-ups of his leads, you can almost hear the demanding boss urging them to “open your eyes…be expressive” in that razor tone he used on Judy Garland so many times. For their part, Reynolds and Carpenter were totally compliant (and utterly charming). In the downtime between camera setups, Debbie and Carleton marveled at the sight of Buzz being lifted at odd levels and angles, and together they jokingly sang the following to the tune of “How High the Moon”:

Somewhere there’s Busby,
How high the boom!

Jane Powell (“Janie” to Buzz) in the lead role uses her trained soprano voice in the fantasy number “My Hero.” With his eye for lighting and

-235-

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Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Screen Classics ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Prologue 1
  • 1 - Actress and Son 4
  • 2 - In Formation 20
  • 3 - The Show Fixer 27
  • 4 - A Cyclopean Vision 48
  • 5 - The Cinematerpsichorean 66
  • 6 - The Cancerous Tire 123
  • 7 - Post-Traumatic Inspiration 143
  • 8 - Buzz’s Babes 164
  • 9 - Art and Audacity 198
  • 10 - The Stage Debacle 211
  • 11 - Inconsolable 218
  • 12 - One Last at Bat 225
  • 13 - Jumping, Tapping, Diving 235
  • 14 - Out of Sight 257
  • 15 - The Ringmaster 262
  • 16 - Remember My Forgotten Director 266
  • 17 - The Figurehead 272
  • 18 - The Palmy Days 292
  • Epilogue 296
  • On Busby Berkeley’s Memoirs 300
  • Appendix- The Works of Busby Berkeley 303
  • Notes 327
  • Index 353
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