Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Last week while in the midst of crazy Christmas shopping, I struck classic movie gold! There sitting on the shelf of the 2 for $20 DVDs was a discarded copy of 4 (in 1) of my favourite 1930s musicals (packaged together by TCM - here): 42nd Street, Dames, Footlight Parade, and Gold Diggers of 1937...and all for just $20! I've come close a few times to almost dropping much more money for the complete "Busby Berkeley Collection" a few times, so to find 4 of them for so cheap was such good fortune for me. Especially since a few months ago I cancelled my cable, and thus Turner Classic Movies went along with it :( 
Have you ever seen a Berkeley picture? Well, Busby was a dance choreographer on the set of each of those musicals. With the camera he shows you brilliant kaleidoscope images and formations that only cinema could show you. 
Generally hundreds of female dancers in perfect unison create these spectacular images. Can you even imagine how long something like this would take to perfect?! All the practice, camera movement, editing, etc. Every single time I watch, it simply fascinates me!

Just watch this scene from Footlight Parade
Is your mind exploding with awesomeness right this minute? I thought so! 

Another reason to watch all of his films is to be introduced and then fall in love with the acting talent he frequently uses, particularly the likes of 

Ruby Keeler

Dick Powell
Ruby and Dick are the quintessential Berkeley musical couple and are always featured together as a couple whenever they are in the same film. Their onscreen chemistry is just magnetic. Funny enough Dick has an uncanny resemblance to my very best friend. It's actually a little creepy for him to watch Dick in any of the movies because they look so alike! For me it's a treat (and comfort), especially since he moved all the way to London back in September :( 

Joan Blondell
Who just happened to be married to Dick Powell during the filming of many of the Berkeley pictures. You might also remember her as Vi from Grease.

Ginger Rogers

Another obvious draw to all these films are the costumes! Even the clothing worn outside the productions are so indicative and reflective of the era. Most all the women (young women) have short Marcel wave hair. Dresses are just below the knee and well fitted/tailored to the body. There are lots of big bows and ruffle details. 

Some of my favourite outfits I've seen in these films that I could easily wear today are mostly everything Joan Blondell wears in Footlight Parade. (Not the best image below, I couldn't find that great of a screen capture)
The songs as well are ones that will stick in your memory and play in your head for days after. It's not often you hear songs sung that way anymore, especially when men sing. There is something very romantic about Dick Powell's voice, and a sweetness to every female singer. 

All the dance sequences are out of this world. And one in particular springs to mind each and every time I think of a tap number. Ruby Keeler's infamous 42nd Street intro. It's so feel good and makes me want to sign up for tap lessons each time I watch.

These films are such wonderful warm comforts on cold and miserable days. 

1 comment:

  1. I love this post! I am such a huge Busby Berkeley fan. I've only seen a couple of his movies, but I'm dying to see more.