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Slideshow

PREVIOUSLY PLAYED

BUSBY BERKELEY

Through Thursday, December 15

He really took off when Ruby Keeler, via a single cut, moved from tapping in front of a painted backdrop to dismounting from an actual cab on a three-dimensional set of 42nd Street, complete with traffic, mounted police, and hundreds of dancers, all in character – but that was only the beginning. In his heyday, dance director, choreographer, auteur… and visionary Busby Berkeley (1895-1976) created a series of still must-be-seen-to-be-believed musical numbers (most in lustrous black & white) that included overhead shots of dancers forming mind-boggling kaleidoscopes; fifty-six white grand pianos rolling around the stage in patterns; scores of chorus girls playing neon-lit violins in the dark; a camera tunneling through the gams of tightly-muscled dames; a Technicolor dream with Carmen Miranda sporting a 50-foot fruit basket – all enough to send even a hardened surrealist’s head spinning. The first to realize the endless cinematic possibilities of the musical form, Berkeley has been widely imitated – but never equaled.  Not even close.

Reviews

“With his spectacular production numbers in 42nd Street, from 1933, Busby Berkeley resuscitated the musical genre. Lesser directors had been filming song-and-dance scenes with a dull, stage-bound fidelity; Berkeley—the subject of a Film Forum series Dec. 7-15—turned them into extravagant fantasies that could only be realized on film… Despite its identifiable techniques, Berkeley’s cinematic style is inimitable; it depends as much on grace and tone, rhythm and gesture, as does the art of the performers he filmed.”
– Richard Brody, The New Yorker

“An ideal Hollywood moviemaker of Depression-era escapism, Busby Berkeley, the choreographer and director of musical comedies, was also a pioneer who expanded the language of cinema. Decades before C.G.I., Berkeley constructed lavishly kaleidoscopic productions: scores of dancers and musicians; elaborate sets; and innovations like revolving stages, overhead camera shots and mirrors. And generations of homage-payers have mined his giddy, surreal imagery for inspiration (Steven Spielberg in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and the Coen brothers in The Big Lebowski, to name but two).”
– Daniel M. Gold, The New York Times

“INSTANTLY RECOGNIZABLE. Berkeley had a genius for sexual innuendo, overt in the pre-Code era […] and coyly un-censorable later on.”
– Farran Smith Nehme, The Village Voice 

Films in this Series

Wednesday, December 7

ROMAN SCANDALS
3:30   7:55

STRIKE UP THE BAND
12:30   5:25   9:45

Thursday, December 8

DAMES
12:30   4:00   7:30

FASHIONS OF 1934
2:20   5:50   9:20

Friday, December 9

THE GANG’S ALL HERE
12:30   4:30   8:30

TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME
2:35   6:35

Saturday, December 10

42nd STREET
12:30   4:25   8:20

THE GANG’S ALL HERE
2:20   6:15   10:10

Sunday, December 11

GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933
12:30   4:30   8:30

FOOTLIGHT PARADE
2:25   6:25

Monday, December 12

12:40

Monday, December 12

THEY MADE ME A CRIMINAL
4:05   7:20

NIGHT WORLD
2:45   6:00   9:10

Tuesday, December 13

THE GANG’S ALL HERE
12:30

42nd STREET
2:35

Tuesday, December 13

BABES ON BROADWAY
4:25   8:45

FOR ME AND MY GAL
6:45

Wednesday, December 14

GOLD DIGGERS OF 1935
12:30   4:15   8:00

WONDER BAR
2:25   6:10   9:55

Thursday, December 15

12:30

Thursday, December 15

HOLLYWOOD HOTEL
4:35   8:40

IN CALIENTE
2:35   6:40