Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley

By Jeffrey Spivak | Go to book overview

14
Out of Sight

“Busby Berkeley will make a comeback,” wrote the Daily Review in September 1954. It reported that Buzz would be directing singer and actor Harry Richman for his show on a local Hollywood TV station. Although Harry had worked with Buzz back in 1930 for Lew Leslie’s International Revue, there was no reteaming despite the announcement.

The following month, producers Jack J. Gross and Philip N. Krasne of G ros s - Krasne, Inc. signed Buzz to direct three new “telefilms” for their series Big Town. The offer was real, and there was no question of the show’s viability since it had been around since radio. The show bounced around to different networks by the time of Buzz’s involvement. For its fifth season, NBC picked up Big Town, and the show was sponsored by AC Spark Plug. The lead role of Steve Wilson had been played by a few actors, Patrick McVey the most notable. In NBC’s version, Mark Stevens, a B-level actor whose biggest role to date was playing Olivia de Havilland’s husband in 1948’s The Snake Pit, was cast as Wilson. The setting was the newsroom of the fictional “Illustrated Press.” There, like Clark Kent at the Daily Planet, Steve Wilson could be privy to breaking stories of unscrupulous lawbreakers. The established tone was akin to Jack Webb’s Dragnet, with voice-over narration time-stamped to the minute. In the episode “The Lovers,” Buzz’s direction is interesting and erratic. A woman’s murder opens the drama, the weapon seen only in shadow. The assailant smashes it on her head, drops what appears to be a silver candlestick, and exits without being revealed. The de rigueur solving of the murder with false leads and red herrings left Buzz little to do. There was, however, something quite interesting in Buzz’s approach to filming dialogue, as can be seen in three short segments. Each was shot in extremely tight close-up which, after a while, conveys a claustrophobic feeling to the viewer. In one escalating dialogue passage, three actors are filmed this way, and the cutting between the faces makes them

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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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