Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley

By Jeffrey Spivak | Go to book overview

8
Buzz’s Babes

Buzz made the move to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer with none of the grief he had suffered from Sam Goldwyn under similar circumstances. Mervyn LeRoy’s May memo came to fruition with Buzz’s first assignment. Bobby Connolly, Buzz’s peer from Warner Brothers, had been hired to direct the musical numbers for The Wizard of Oz when Buzz was busy with They Made Me a Criminal. Arthur Freed allowed Buzz a free hand in directing the number “If I Only Had a Brain,” sung by the scarecrow (Ray Bolger) to Dorothy (Judy Garland). Buzz employed reverse footage and undercranked his camera to an amusing effect. At his new studio he designed the number in much tighter physical space than his Warner Brothers soundstages allowed. The scarecrow flies, runs manically to and fro, and, like a dervish, spins merrily from fence post to fence post and back again. It was a great four-minute sample of Buzz’s adaptive ability, and it allowed him the opportunity to work with the enormous three-strip Technicolor camera, its process much improved from the twostrip bleached hues of Whoopee! Oz’s director, Victor Fleming, was quite taken with what he saw and wrote to Buzz: “I’ve just run the Scarecrow number. It’s simply great. You should have directed the whole picture.”

The Wizard of Oz notwithstanding, Buzz’s first true test at MGM was Broadway Serenade. The story of a musical couple (Jeanette MacDonald and Lew Ayres) who split when the wife’s career trajectory eclipses her husband’s (a similar story arc to A Star Is Born) was almost complete until producer and director Robert Z. Leonard decided a spectacular ending was needed. Time, unfortunately, was of the essence. Jeanette’s availability was compromised with other commitments, and the picture had to wrap by early February 1939. The new director on the lot had his assignment: quickly create a ten-minute number. And so Buzz tweaked his imagination with little input on how to proceed. He followed the description in the film expressed by manager and impresa-

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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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