moira finnie wrote:
1.) While reading your book I realized that Berkeley's involvement with the pre-code Bird of Paradise (1932), the racy Wonder Bar (1934) and occasionally erotic In Caliente (1935) was responsible for introducing me to another, unexpectedly sultry side of Dolores del Rio, an actress whose only work I had previously seen presented her as a subdued, dignified madonna-like figure in John Ford's The Fugitive (1947) and Cheyenne Autumn (1964). (I am thankful also for TCM's airing these fairly forgotten films). Did Berkeley and del Rio work well together?
I realize that these three films aren't the best remembered of Berkeley's career (nor was he solely responsible for their content), but do you think that the filmmaker brought something special to these projects--especially in drawing out the leading lady's verve? Did Berkeley ever comment on The Production Code's impact on film or can you offer an opinion/example on how he worked around it? Was he likely to have invested as much of his imagination into movies that did not have the greatest scripts or larger budgets?
2.) As mentioned above regarding Judy Garland, flare-ups were described numerous times in your book showing Berkeley's lack of empathy for actors and dancers. Do you think that he was laser-focused on his technical, budgetary and aesthetic goals on the set throughout his career rather than concerned with individuals? Were there times when he reached out to help people he worked with? Is my impression correct that Berkeley seemed to have few real friends, other than his wives (particularly his last wife, Etta) and possibly George Amy, the editor and producer who helped him several times?
Thanks again for your answers. Your book is an essential in anyone's library if they are interested in the studio era.
There isn't any negative press that spoke to any caustic relationship between Dolores Del Rio and Buzz. She was already a star in her native Mexico by the time she worked at Warner Bros., and so had a wide exposure to different directors and their methods. But all who worked with Busby Berkeley when he was directing dance numbers were pawns on the cinema chessboard. A better question might be did he get along with his directors of photography, since they were his closest collaborators.
Of the three films you mentioned, I'd easily place "Wonder Bar" as one of Busby Berkeley's masterpieces, with "Don't Say Goodnight" in my top 5 of his musical numbers. The controversial "Goin' to Heaven on a Mule" is another argument for another day, but it's worth defending.
Yes, Berkeley was laser focused long before the term, or indeed the laser, was invented. His budgets were initially a blank check, then the checks got smaller, so he had to make do with less. "All's Fair in Love and War" from "Gold Diggers of 1937" is a perfect example of Busby Berkeley on a diet, after Warner Bros. shrunk his budgets, leaving him with a minimalist set and little else. His imagination propelled the number to an Academy Award nomination.
Buzz Berkeley knew many people as any big Hollywood director did, and he did have a few friends, but only one true confidant, his mother. When she passed, it was Etta, his sixth wife, who was there for him until the end.