We don’t as a rule make a director the subject of a Monday Quiz, but today we are making an exception. It can be argued that although our subject shunned the front of the camera, he was a genuine STAR behind it.
William Berkely Enos was born in the 19th century (1895) but lived and prospered in Hollywood well into the 20th (until 1962, 14 years before his death). His CV consisting of 32 directoral credits includes a host of memorable classics making Busby Berkeley the foremost director-choreographer of American movie musicals.
His more elaborately choreographed films stand up amazingly well today. They included astonishing cinematographic techniques without a even a soupcon of special effects. His chorines don’t exactly dance in his musicals. Rather, as more than one critic has noted, they move around a lot often in circles. Sexual implications are seen in the ebb and flow. One scribe called it the product of Berkeley’s “mad frenzy.”
Whatever, we think you should know more about this cinematic pioneer than perhaps you already do. Thus our Monday Quiz (as usual, answers tomorrow). We are inspired today by an informative Berkeley interview in author Mike Steen’s Hollywood Speaks: An Oral History, published in 1974.
1) Question: Berkeley cut his creative teeth on the Broadway stage rather than in a Hollywood studio. a) True; or b) False.
2) Question: Berkeley came to Hollywood in 1929 at the behest of one famous personality. Can you name this person? a) Eddie Cantor; b) Charlie Chaplin; c) Buster Keaton; or d) Samuel Goldwyn.
3) Question: During the shooting of Gold Diggers of 1933 (for which Berkeley directed the dance numbers), there was a near disaster on the studio set caused by: a) an earthquake; b) flooding of the set after a water main burst; c) a long speech from Warner’s exec (at the time) Darryl Zanuck; or d) a Berkeley choreographic stunt that went wrong.
4) Question: Berkeley claims credit for “all the musicals teaming Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.” How old was Garland when she worked with him? a) 14; b) 17; c) 15; or d) 21.
5) Question: Berkeley’s first musical for Warner Brothers was 1933’s 42nd Street. That and a series of subsequent musicals (Gold Diggers of 1935, The Singing Marine, Dames, Footlight Parade,Fashion’s Follies) kept Warner Brothers out of the red during the Great Depression. a) True; or b) False?
6) Question: Which one of the following stars did NOT start out as a showgirl in a Busby Berkeley chorus? a) Betty Grable; b) Veronica Lake; c) Jane Wyman or d) Theresa Wright.
7) Question: Most Berkeley outings features musical stars. Which of the following non-musical stars worked with him successfully? a) Jimmy Durante; b) Delores Del Rio; c) James Cagney; or d) Esther Williams.
8) Question: Which of Berkeley’s many director credits really belongs to someone else? (Hint: the movie’s costar is Esther Williams.)
9) Question: Which famous personality sang on national television the praises of Berkeley’s innovative staging and filming techniques? a) Jackie Gleason; b) Ernie Kovacs; c) Ed Sullivan; or d) Edward R. Murrow.
10) Question: Although justly famous as a musical choreographer, Berkley directed a highly lauded drama featuring a distinctly non-musical actor in his first starring role. Can you name the actor and the title of the movie?