During the Depression, Busby Berkeley was king. His elaborate choreography transfixed a nation that was in a very bad place, allowing people the escape they needed from desperate times. Through the years, his choreography has continued to put a spell on viewers. In fact, some surprising movies have taken inspiration from his works. Put one or more of these titles on hold for curbside pickup today!
Some Busby Berkeley movies to start with:
42nd Street: A revered Broadway director sets out to put on one more production, and he is forced to hire an inexperienced performer as the lead. This movie inspired the long running play of the same name.
Gold Diggers of 1933: The Great Depression hits and Broadway is shut down, leaving a group of showgirls without jobs. A wealthy songwriter saves the day with a Depression-themed musical. When his brother finds out where the money is going and threatens to disown him, the showgirls cook up a scheme to raise the funds. This film brings us the song “We’re in the Money,” sung and performed by Ginger Rogers.
Footlight Parade: An out-of-work Broadway director, attempting to forge a new career creating musical sequences for movies, struggles to keep competitors from stealing his ideas. This film boasts James Cagney of classic gangster film fame as the lead, and the human waterfall!
Movies he inspired:
Beauty and the Beast: This classic Disney movie has a Berkeley-style chorus during the song “Be Our Guest.” Plates and silverware and candlesticks reenact some of Berkeley’s best moves.
The Great Muppet Caper: This madcap Muppet movie from the early 1980s contains a daydream sequence that starts off with Miss Piggy as a swimsuit model on the runway, then turns into a full Berkeley-style performance in a pool, complete with a human kaleidoscope.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: The opening scene involves a performance of “Anything Goes” at a Hong Kong nightclub with a chorus line.
The Big Lebowski: The scene where Lebowski dreams a fictional movie, Gutterballs, featuring an infinite staircase and Julianne Moore dressed as a Valkyrie, surrounded by a chorus line of dancers in elaborate bowling pin headdresses, is the embodiment of the Busby Berkeley style.