Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley

By Jeffrey Spivak | Go to book overview

10
The Stage Debacle

Buzz was still sporting a sling when he was seen again at Slapsie Maxies’s with his good arm around Lorraine. The two were close, and Buzz gave Lorraine a small no-credit role in Cinderella Jones. Divergent announcements of Warner Brothers’ plans for Buzz were issued in January. First, Buzz was to direct and appear in “Star Spangled Banner Girls” followed by a biography of Marilyn Miller, Florenz Ziegfeld’s talented singing and dancing star.

Cinderella Jones was a tepid comedy with a couple of songs. Saddled with a basic premise that was somewhat dated in 1943, Judy Jones (Joan Leslie), an adorable dimwit, stands to earn a $10 million inheritance if she gets married within the next forty-eight hours. She decides to enroll in the local all-men’s college, hoping to meet a suitably intelligent marriage-minded fellow (a promise of largesse to the college eases her entry). All the while there’s Tommy (Robert Alda), the guy who really loves Judy (if she could only take a hint). By the end of the picture it’s revealed, not surprisingly, that he graduated college cum laude with an IQ of more than 200. As Judy and Tommy try to beat the deadline to marry, they’re stopped by an army transport rumbling through town. They hop a ride on board a tank and sing a final number, allowing Buzz a few girlie close-ups, some robust singing soldiers, and a happy ending.

Despite Buzz’s usual flair for fast comedy and snappy repartee, he was restrained with the limitations of a telegraphed script, causing him to default to broad physical comedy. As Judy absentmindedly substitutes a bar of soap in a cheese sandwich, the eater spews out bubble burps, à la the Three Stooges, and the gag gets repeated at least three more times. Hungarian character actor S. Z. (“Call me Cuddles”) Sakall, playing the role of the chemistry professor, fares a bit better. He sings, dances, and plays the jowly jailbird accused of hanky-panky near the girls’ dormitory. An in-joke (a form of which was seen in They Made Me a Criminal)

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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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