Busby Berkeley

Feeling fruity? Busby Berkeley is an amazing source of inspiration for composition on screen and ideas for how to cut from one series of shapes to another. Here is an example of Berkeley’s visual choreography featuring the fantastic Miss Carmen Miranda in ‘The Lady With the Tutti Frutti Hat’ from the 1943 technicolour musical extravaganza, The Gang’s All Here from 1943.

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This film is seriously bizarre. Consider the ending of the film which manages to go from children waltzing in polka dot dresses to hula hoops to disembodied heads!

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In this clip from the opening of the Gold Diggers of 1937, there is an example of his style of baroque choreography in which the human form is abstracted into pure pattern. He must have been very influenced by modernist painting and early abstract animations.

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Berkeley alienates the female form. His work removes all sense of the individual or personal and presents his dancers as dehumanised shapes of collective flesh that are completely under his control. His style was completely dependent on the high budgets of Hollywood escapism and the cheap labour of depression era dancers. To my modern eyes, his work is beautiful and yet permeated with a whiff of fascism.

By A Waterfall sequence from Footlight Parade, 1933.

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