Good to see that our friends at Warner Home Video (WHV) are bringing us more Busby Berkeley Vol. 2 this fall. The famed choreographer brought new life to the musical film with his inventive camera tricks, wild (often surrealistic) imagination, and of course, seemingly hundreds of the cutest chorus girls in Hollywood.
The first volume featured the prime titles in the Berkeley canon, such as “42nd Street” (1932), “Gold Diggers of 1933”, the fabulous “Footlight Parade” (1933), and “Dames” (1934). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to persuade friends to take a chance on “Dames” but with no takers. Too bad, it’s their loss.
The second volume can’t match the quality of the first, but there are still pleasures galore to be had.
Volume 2 titles are:
“Gold Diggers of 1937” which boasts one of Berkeley’s best numbers, the mind-blowing “All is Fair and Love and War” highlighted by cannonballs shooting jigsaw puzzle-like images that when put together show visages of Berkeley’s chorus cuties.
“Gold Diggers of Paris” (1938), undoubtedly the weakest of the four Gold Diggers movies. I haven’t seen it in years, and have no recollection of it. It stars Rudy Vallee, which doesn’t bode well (only Preston Sturges made him palatable), but I’m looking forward to seeing it again.
“Hollywood Hotel” (1937) is a very entertaining spoof set in, you guessed it, Hollywood. The film introduced the anthem “Hooray for Hollywood.” It also features one of my favorite Berkeley numbers, “Let That Be a Lesson for You.” It will be worth buying the whole set, just to get that number. Once heard, it will stick in your mind for ever.
“Varsity Show” (1938). Rah-rah college musical featuring The Lane Sisters. But inquiring minds want to know if WHV is giving us the 120-minute version, as originally seen in 1938, or the truncated 90-minute version which plays regularly on TCM? I’m hoping it’s the former.
It’s too bad room could not be found for “Garden of the Moon” (1938), as that film contains one of my favorite 1930s songs, the incredible “Girl Friend of the Whirling Dervish” Now, that’s a song title.
All films contain short subjects and cartoons from the era which often yield surprises. For instance, the “Dames” DVD contains an early 1930s Technicolor short called “Good Morning Eve”, which boasts some of the most eye-popping Technicolor I’ve ever seen. It also affords the rare opportunity to see Vernon Dent, frequent Three Stooges foil, in three-strip Technicolor. I take my small pleasures where I can.