Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley

By Jeffrey Spivak | Go to book overview

12
One Last at Bat

The trades in May revealed that Esther Williams was named by MGM to play the leading role in its newest film, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, which was to begin filming the following month.

Whatever instigated the ugly argument that sealed his fate with Warner Brothers mattered little to Buzz now. Romance on the High Seas had garnered positive reviews and turned a tidy profit. Buzz proved to himself he could still direct with imagination and authority. Over the Fourth of July holiday, he undoubtedly was a recipient of some very troubling news concerning Carole Landis. She was found facedown dead by her lover, actor Rex Harrison, who was married at the time to actress Lilli Palmer. In Carole’s clenched hand was an envelope containing a single Seconal, the only one of a bunch she didn’t ingest. If Gertrude hadn’t interfered, the shapely and beautiful Carole would have been a sure bet to take the role that Claire James later won. Carole never saw thirty.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game originated with Gene Kelly and his friend, choreographer Stanley Donen, in the summer of 1946. Its inception came after Kelly had refused an idea from MGM producer Joe Pasternak. Anchors Aweigh had been a solid hit a few years earlier, and Pasternak wanted a reteaming of Kelly and Frank Sinatra. Gene listened to Pasternak’s idea of two sailors (again) caught up in wacky nonsense as they unexpectedly end up owning a government surplus aircraft carrier. A short time later, they transform the carrier into a swinging nightclub. Kelly balked, so to speak, and began developing his and Donen’s story of three baseball players in the early days of the twentieth century. In 1946, MGM bought the rights for twenty-five thousand dollars.

Arthur Freed was the producer of Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Despite the fallout suffered during Girl Crazy, Buzz contacted Freed and told him he wanted to direct again. “I wanted to help him,” said Freed,

-225-

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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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