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 Busby Berkeley

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Busby Berkeley

Motion Picture Director. A director and choreographer of film musicals, he is considered one of the greatest in the media. Ironically, he was self-taught as a dancer, having no formal lessons, and in his early years as a choreographer, he was constantly afraid that people would find out. Born Busby Berkeley William Enos in Los Angeles, California, his parents were members of the Tim Frawley Repetory Company that acted on the stage. At the age of 12, he enrolled in the Mohegan Lake Military Academy in Peekskill, NY, with the intention of making the Army a career. But like so many other young men who plan on one career only to change to another, he began his future choreography career while serving in the United States Army during World War I, when as an artillery Lieutenant in France, he was directed to stage a parade. Shortly afterwards, he began to organize stage shows for the soldiers, using the soldiers themselves. Upon demobilization at the end of the war, he became a stage actor and director of a small acting troop on Broadway. Forced to take over the musical "Holka-Polka" he discovered that he actually enjoyed staging extravagant dance routines, and quickly became one of Broadway's top dance directors. Shortly afterwards, he went to Hollywood in 1930 at the request of Samuel Goldwyn. There, he quickly became famous for his lavish dance routines using scores of showgirls and for using overhead camera shots to show off the kaleidoscope effect of the synchronized motion. Such films as "Palmy Days" (1931), "Roman Scandals" (1933), "Gold Diggers of 1933" (1933), "42nd Street" (1933), and "Gold Diggers of 1935" (1935), all became famous for his detailed choreographed routines. He created musical numbers for almost every great musical that Warner Brothers produced from 1933 to 1937. During an interview near the end of the Great Depression, he stated "I tried to help people get away from all the misery...to turn their minds to something else. I wanted to make people happy, if only for an hour." As the 1930s waned into the 1940s and into World War II, the musical genre began to fade, and Berkeley became a full-fledged director, making such films as "Strike Up the Band" (1940), "Forty Little Mothers (1940), "For Me and My Gal" (1942), "The Gang's All Here" (1943), "Cinderella Jones" (1946), and "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" (1949). He continued to make films into the 1950s, but by the end of the 1950s, he was nearly forgotten, and the film "Billy Rose's Jumbo" (1962) was his last. A revival of his 1930s films in the late 1960s brought him back out of his earlier forced retirement, and he returned to Broadway to direct "No, No Nanette," which became a success. He was married four times, and died in Palm Springs, California at the age of 80.

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 1326
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Busby Berkeley (29 Nov 1895–14 Mar 1976), Find A Grave Memorial no. 1326, citing Desert Memorial Park, Cathedral City, Riverside County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .