The Busby Berkeley Collection [6 Discs] [DVD]

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Special Features

  • 5 New documentary featurettes
  • 13 Original-era shorts
  • 9 classic cartoons
  • Radio promos
  • Trailer galleries
  • Closed Captioned


Rambling 'Round Radio Row #8
Honeymoon Hotel
Gold Diggers of '49
Tex Avery's first Warner Bros. cartoon stars Beans the Cat as a prospector during the 1849 Gold Rush--and when we say "rush", brother we ain't kiddin'! The plot, such as it is, gets under way when a snarling claim-jumper purloins a valuable package belonging to Porky Pig (bigger, fatter and louder than he'd ever be again). Beans vows to retrieve the stolen goods in exchange for the hand of Porky's daughter Little Kitty, thus setting the stage for a breathtaking car-chase finale--and never mind that cars haven't been invented yet! ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Shuffle Off to Buffalo
Built around the jaunty title song, originally written by Harry Warren and Al Dubin for the 1933 musical film 42nd Street, this cartoon takes place in Heaven, as an old man with a beard prepares a variety of babies for their arrival on Earth. Ethnic humor abounds, with twin Eskimo babies pulled from the refrigerator and shipped off to Mrs. Nanook of the North, and little Abie Ginsberg receiving a "Kosher for Passover" stamp on his backside. We're also treated to a mini-vaudeville show, featuring infantized versions of such 1930s celebrities as Eddie Cantor and Maurice Chevalier. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Good Morning, Eve!
This wacky Warner Bros. two-reeler was only the second live-action short to be filmed in three-strip Technicolor, and the hues are still vibrant today. It's an odd little film -- Leon Errol and June MacCloy play Adam and Eve (Errol wears spats with his fig leaves). Once Eve partakes of the forbidden apple, the couple embarks on a trip through the ages -- a singing, dancing, and wisecracking trip, of course. Most amusing is the scene in ancient Rome where Vernon Dent plays Nero and warbles a tune. Also represented are the days of Greece, Camelot, and finally they reach modern times (or as modern as they could get in 1934), in which a group of bathing suit-clad dancers perform a tightly choreographed number with beach balls. Overall, the short is only mildly amusing, and the fact that it is in color is really its biggest selling point. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Footlight Parade
The last--and to some aficionados, the best--of choreographer Busby Berkeley's three Warner Bros. efforts of 1933, Footlight Parade stars James Cagney as a Broadway musical comedy producer. Cagney is unceremoniously put out of business when talking pictures arrive. To keep his head above water, Jimmy hits upon a swell idea: he'll stage musical "prologues" for movie theatres, then ship them out to the various picture palaces in New York. Halfway through the picture, Cagney is obliged to assemble three mammoth prologues and present them back-to-back in three different theatres. There are all sorts of backstage intrigues, not the least of which concerns the predatory hijinks of gold-digger Claire Dodd and the covetous misbehavior of Cagney's ex-wife Renee Whitney. Joan Blondell plays Jimmy's faithful girl-friday, who loves him from afar; Ruby Keeler is the secretary who takes off her glasses and is instantly transformed into a glamorous stage star; Dick Powell is the "protege" of wealthy Ruth Donnelly, who makes good despite this handicap; Frank McHugh is Cagney's assistant, who spends all his time moaning "It'll never work"; and Hugh Herbert is a self-righteous censor, who ends up in a censurable position. The last half-hour of Footlight Parade is a nonstop display of Busby Berkeley at his most spectacular: the three big production numbers, all written by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, are "By a Waterfall", "Honeymoon Hotel", and "Shanghai Lil", the latter featuring some delicious pre-code scatology, a tap-dance duet by Cagney and Keeler, and an out-of-left-field climactic salute to FDR and the NRA! ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

As the title song says, you go to those shows to see those beautiful dames--and there's dames aplenty in this 1934 Busby Berkeley extravaganza. The wisp of a plot is motivated by one Ezra Ounce (Hugh Herbert), a silly millionaire who spearheads a national anti-fun movement. Ounce's distant cousin Dick Powell is a producer of musical comedies. Ounce's partner is Guy Kibbee, whose daughter is Ruby Keeler. Kibbee is also the "sugar daddy" of Joan Blondell, Powell's friend and co-worker. Fill in the rest of the blanks yourself. If the plot doesn't interest you (and there's no reason why it should), sit back and enjoy the humongous production numbers based on the Warren/Dubin songs "I Only Have Eyes for You", "The Girl on the Ironing Board", and of course the title number. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Young and Healthy
Double Exposure
I've Got to Sing a Torch Song
This little opus chronicles the importance of radio in the lives of everybody in the world. Chinese cops are alerted to a robbery via their rickshaw radio; a cannibal tunes into a cooking lesson; an Eskimo's radio is swallowed by a music-loving whale; and a sultan ignores a belly dancer to listen to "Amos 'N' Andy." The title song (from Gold Diggers of 1933) is performed on station "KFWB" by caricatures of Greta Garbo, ZaSu Pitts and Mae West. And there's more: Can YOU name another cartoon that boasts of cameo appearances by everyone from James Cagney to Benito Mussolini? ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Vaudeville Reel #1
Seasoned Greetings
Pettin' in the Park
The Busby Berkeley Disc
See great work from a great choreographer. His numbers seemed to always have the right touch as evident in "42nd Street" and his many other hits. ~ Nickie ?, Rovi

Gold Diggers of 1933
The second talkie version of the Avery Hopwood's theatrical war-horse The Golddiggers of Broadway, Gold Diggers of 1933 was the second of three back-to-back 1933 Warner Bros. musicals benefiting from the genius of Busby Berkeley. The basic plot is retained from the Hopwood play: Showgirls Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler and Aline McMahon attempt to find financial backing for the new show planned by producer Ned Sparks. Songwriter Dick Powell, an incognito man of wealth, offers to put up the money, a fact that brings down the wrath of his older brother Warren William, who despises show folk. Attempting to buy off the three girls, William is placed in a compromising position by the crafty Blondell and is compelled to bankroll the musical himself. The oddest aspect of Gold Diggers of 1933 is the fact that the mood of the songs is wildly at variance with the plot. The film begins with dozens of chorus girls (led by Ginger Rogers) happily chirping "We're In the Money", a rehearsal number interrupted when the finance men burst in to claim the sets and props from the impoverished troupe. At the end, when everyone is genuinely in the money, the troupe stages a downbeat "Brother Can You Spare A Dime"-style production number, "Remember My Forgotten Man"--and it is on this doleful indictment of the Depression that the film fades out! Other Berkeley-staged musical highlights include "Pettin' in the Park" (yes, that salacious little baby really is Billy Barty) and the neon-dominated "Shadow Waltz", all written by the prolific Harry Warren and Al Dubin. As spectacular as Gold Diggers of 1933 was, it would be topped by the last of Berkeley's 1933 trilogy, Footlight Parade. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Rambling 'Round Radio Row #2
42nd Street
The quintessential "backstage" musical, 42nd Street traces the history of a Broadway musical comedy, from casting call to opening night. Warner Baxter plays famed director Julian Marsh, who despite failing health is determined to stage one last great production, "Pretty Lady." Others involved include "Pretty Lady" star Dorothy Brock (Bebe Daniels); Dorothy's "sugar daddy" (Guy Kibbee), who finances the show; her true love Pat (George Brent); leading man Billy Lawlor (Dick Powell); and starry-eyed chorus girl Peggy Sawyer (Ruby Keeler). It practically goes without saying that Dorothy twists her ankle the night before the premiere, forcing Julian Marsh is to put chorine Peggy into the lead: "You're going out there a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!" Delightfully corny, with hilarious wisecracking support from the likes of Ginger Rogers, Una Merkel, and George E. Stone, 42nd Street is perhaps the most famous of Warners' early-1930s Busby Berkeley musicals. Based on the novel by Bradford Ropes (which was a lot steamier than the movie censors would allow), 42nd Street is highlighted by such grandiose musical setpieces as "Shuffle Off to Buffalo," "Young and Healthy," and of course the title song. Nearly fifty years after its premiere, it was successfully revived as a Broadway musical with Tammy Grimes and Jerry Orbach. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

We're in the Money
After the night watchman at a toy store goes home, all the toys come to life and make whoopee in the store's music department, singing and dancing to the tune of the title song (originally written for the 1933 musical film Gold Diggers of 1933). Wooden soldiers, dolls, jump-ropes, clothes mannequins and even the store's cash register all join in the fun, some of which appears in stock-footage form from the 1932 cartoon A Great Big Bunch of You. "Guest stars" include miniaturized versions of Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy and Mae West. We're in the Money was later reissued on the home-movie market as Midnight Follies. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

I Only Have Eyes for You
Those Beautiful Dames
Gold Diggers of 1935
With little plot but incredible photography and choreography, Gold Diggers of 1935 was exactly what you would expect a Busby Berkeley movie to be--visually stimulating, awe-inspiring and almost Freudian in its obsession toward perfection. The Titanic scale of Berkeleian choreography was especially apparent in the "Lullaby on Broadway" number, showing the last day in the life of a "Broadway Baby" before she kills herself. This scene has some of the most precise choreography ever filmed. This was the second of the Gold Diggers films and it remains a classic for the startling technological display found in all Berkeley efforts. ~ Tana Hobart, Rovi

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