CoffeeDan wrote:Thanks for coming to SSO and talking about Busby Berkeley, Mr. Spivak. I too had a copy of The Busby Berkeley Book when it was first published, and I read it to pieces. I'll probably do the same with your book!
My first question is about Busby Berkeley and his working relationship with musical arranger Ray Heindorf. They worked very closely together for Samuel Goldwyn, and I've heard that Buzz refused to sign with Warner Brothers unless they also signed Heindorf as well, saying that Heindorf's arrangements inspired him as much as the girls of the chorus did. Heindorf certainly changed things musically at WB -- did he have the same effect on Berkeley's numbers?
And for that matter, how closely did Berkeley work with his musical arrangers in general?
Second question: How many cameras did Buzz really use when filming his numbers? He always claimed he used a single camera, and that he had a firm sense of how he was going to shoot ahead of time -- "editing in the camera," as it were. But there are so many angles and such rapid cutting in some of his numbers, plus his groundbreaking use of the moving camera, that it doesn't seem possible. Some post-production work had to be necessary -- can you shed some light on his working methods in this respect?
Ray Heindorf was among the many unsung (and uncredited) workmen in the studio era. He arranged the numbers in the Warner Bros. years (and, as you point out, for Samuel Goldwyn where Berkeley got his start). It was Leo Forbstein who always received credit as Musical Director. The arranger was never revealed.
I'm not aware of Buzz refusing to sign with Warner Bros. if Heindorf wasn't included. Sounds a bit preposterous, since Buzz jumped at the chance to leave Goldwyn's employ. He also struck up a great rapport with then studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck. I don't believe he jeopardized his new lofty position with an ultimatum.
As far as Berkeley's working relationship with arrangers, I couldn't gauge, nor did I mention such relationships in my book. Buzz did, however, confer with song writers frequently when he gave them ideas or they reciprocated.
Buzz worked with a single camera always. Hard to believe that this austere method of shooting could be successful in major motion pictures of the day. Berkeley edited in his head. He "measured twice and drilled once" to borrow an expression. Yes, things outside of what had been planned occurred (an earthquake took place during "The Shadow Waltz" shoot), so they had to regroup and shoot again, but with a single camera. It was Buzz's appendage, that camera, and he shot in sequence when at all possible. The studio editors had little to do but tack one camera roll after another since Berkeley didn't employ multi-camera setups. If there were rapid cutting between sequences (as in "By A Waterfall"), Berkeley supervised the final product, but each snippet was filmed with the single camera, a technique he employed from his first film "Whoopee!" to "Jumbo", his last.