For Me and My Gal (1942)

Judging by its lofty pedigree on paper, For Me and My Gal should really be one of cinema’s most enduring and classic musicals. Not only was it directed by Busby Berkeley and produced by Arthur Freed, but it was Judy Garland’s first “adult” role, and, furthermore, Gene Kelly’s film debut. And yet it remains one of the more underseen Garland and/or Kelly and/or Berkeley pictures of the era, in part because, well… it’s a bit dark.

Stage Struck (1936)

One of my very favorite things in the world is old-school journalistic prose, especially film reviews, and MOST especially negative film reviews, so it was with a delighted heart that I came across this terrific pan from Frank S. Nugent’s review of Stage Struck in the New York Times, published September 28, 1936.

I Live for Love (1935)

I’m digging further into the mass of Busby Berkeleys I accumulated last week, and I’ve run into another odd, very un-“Berkeley”-like picture: I Live for Love. It’s very interesting to look at these smaller films as a kind of career in and of itself, moving parallel to his more well-known musical spectacles. Here we see another highly melodramatic piece with little evidence of the signatures and trademarks he developed in his musical works.

Busby Berkeley and the Gold Diggers of 1935

Man, Busby Berkeley really is on another level, isn’t he?  He certainly had an eye for film, which I think really distinguishes him from other choreographers, both of his era and of any time. His most famous set pieces simply can’t be replicated in any other medium–not only are the dancers choreographed, but the cameras as well… and you can’t get one of those great Berkeley overhead geometries seated in a theater.