Busby Berkeley transformed the filming of dances into one of the most distinctive of cinematic creations and instantly recognizable of styles. “Gold Diggers of 1935,” which I discuss in this clip, is the first musical that he directed in its entirety; until then, he had directed only the production numbers, while the acted scenes were left to such filmmakers as Lloyd Bacon and Mervyn LeRoy. In 1933, Berkeley had co-directed, with George Amy, the back-office melodrama “She Had to Say Yes,” an enjoyably tart trifle with a few dramatic scenes of his visual genius. Though less skilled at directing light comedy and backstage drama than the makers of his earlier musical masterworks, such as “42nd Street” and “Footlight Parade,” and though saddled with a story that trapped him in a milieu far less immediately appealing than the world of New York theatre (namely, a resort hotel for the rich and ridiculous), Berkeley lent “Gold Diggers of 1935” an original hectic tone. But, even more, he found a way to connect its rather goofy story to the vast production number near the movie’s end—one of Berkeley’s greatest and most astonishing creations, “Lullaby of Broadway.” It’s worth mentioning that Berkeley’s artistry had the additional merit of showcasing some of the great songs of the day, many of them by the composer Harry Warren, who may be the most (and most unjustly) obscure of the prolific “Great American Songbook” composers.
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