Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Kaleidoscope of Chorus Girls

A few nights ago, Woodley and I were planning to watch a movie together. However, somehow Busby Berkeley came up in conversation and we spent the rest of the evening watching clips on YouTube featuring his choreographies. 

If you haven't heard of Busby Berkeley before, don't feel too left out. I didn't find out about his creative genius until I started going to classic movies at The Stanford Theater with Woodley a few years ago. He is best known for choreographing elaborate dance numbers for movie musicals of the 1930's involving huge numbers of chorus girls, odd camera angles, and kaleidoscopic effects. His dancers move with amazing precision and timing and boy are there a lot of them! 

One of our favorites is called "By a Waterfall" from Footlight Parade, 1933. If you have some time (and enjoy synchronized swimmers, chorus girls, or kaliedscopes), check it out on YouTube (see below) the entire sequence is about 10 minutes and the really crazy stuff starts about 3 minutes into the clip.

Here's a brief biography of Busby Berkeley's life: Berkeley was born in 1895 in Los Angeles, CA to a theatrical family. He grew up performing on stage with his family but had to leave the theater when he joined the military during WWI. As a lieutenant in the artillery, in addition to firing ammunition, he learned to command a large number of people. Near the end of his military career, he was "ordered to stage camp shows for soldiers." ( When he returned to the states he began choreographing dance numbers for stage productions but eventually made his way back to Hollywood and began working on movies. Interestingly, he never had a dance lesson. 

As the title of this one comments, a good solution for the economic crises: "We're in the Money" from The Golddiggers of 1933, featuring Ginger Rogers:

Here's another interesting number featuring a bunch of chorus girls dressed as cats. This one is also from Footlight Parade.   

And just one more. :) "Pettin' in the Park" from Golddiggers of 1933. I wonder what exactly they meant by "pettin'" back in 1933. 

If you like those, check out other musical movies by Warner Brothers from the 1930's featuring Berkeley's choreography such as:  42nd Street, Dames, Gold Diggers of 1935, and The Gang's All Here. You can probably find them at your local movie rental store or on 

1 comment:

  1. Funny thing: I just watched "Two Weeks With Love" this weekend that Busby Berkeley also choreographed and was thinking I should remember to watch some of his other films.