Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley

By Jeffrey Spivak | Go to book overview

18
The Palmy Days

Buzz and Etta flew to West Berlin for the city’s film festival in 1971. Still riding the wave of his newfound notoriety, Buzz accepted the Unicrit Prix Award, which was inscribed: “To Honour Busby Berkeley Master Musical Maker/A Tribute from Unicrit Berlin Film Festival 1971.” Buzz pontificated in his authoritative voice about beauty and his girls while the festival’s international press took notes: “I always named ‘em the Berkeley Girls, and no one picked any girls but me. I picked ‘em all. Always. Once a producer came up to me and said, ‘Buzz, that one on the end looks cute,’ and I said, ‘Oh, sit down.’ People have the damnedest ideas about beauty.” One generalized question brought forth a moment of honest self-reflection. What did he think of his career? “Well, I just say to myself, ‘Buzz, you must have done a hell of a good job; they all like it.’”

In July, film critic Richard Schickel interviewed Buzz for the television special “The Movie Crazy Years.” Schickel felt that the usual giveand-take between interviewer and subject was lacking. Buzz’s responses were often terse with little explanation. In the editing room, Schickel worried that he’d have no useful footage of Buzz. Working with his team of editors, Schickel was surprised to find that not only was every single word Buzz said usable, but that Buzz scarcely uttered a wasted word. According to Schickel, Buzz’s responses suggested “an orderly, logical way to present examples of his work.” In assessing Buzz’s viability, he said, “I haven’t the slightest doubt that if you gave Berkeley a camera (and a traveling crane, of course) and a hundred girls he could still, at 76, stage one of his patented production numbers.”

The Thalians, a charitable organization, began in 1955 as a means for Hollywood celebrities to reverse some of the town’s negative press by devoting their time and money to children with mental health problems. Buzz, a Thalians supporter, was the honoree at their all-star gala in

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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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