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The Busby Berkeley Collection

The Busby Berkeley Collection
Warner Home Video

Review by: Larry Thomas

Gotta sing! Gotta dance!

And no filmmaker ever embodied those words more than choreographer and director Busby Berkeley. In the 1930s, during the peak of the Great Depression, Berkeley conjured up a fantasy world where everyone could lose themselves for a couple of hours and come out feeling better. You won't be able to treat yourself to any better entertainment than The Busby Berkeley Collection containing five of his best Warner Bros. extravaganzas. 42nd Street is the quintessential backstage musical in which the director has his last chance and a chorus girl has to replace an ailing star. Gold Diggers of 1933 features a plot in which a millionaire composer rescues unemployed performers with a new show. Depression themes abound. Gold Diggers of 1935, which contains my favorite dance number, the surreal and unbelieveable Lullaby of Broadway. Footlight Parade, considered by many to be the best of Berkeley's films, stars James Cagney, in his finest musical performance, as a stage producer struggling with the new competition of talking pictures. Dames is the one film here that I've never seen, which will soon be rectified.

These films all used a stock company of performers: Joan Blondell (chorus girl), Dick Powell (tenor), Ruby Keeler (tap-dancing ingenue), Aline McMahon (older, but wiser), and such leading men from the Warner Bros. roster as Warren William, Warner Baxter, and George Brent. And there's plenty of comic relief from the likes of Guy Kibbee, Ned Sparks, Frank McHugh and Hugh Herbert.

The tunes are generally toe-tappers, the dialogue crackles with innuendo, and the pacing is lightning-fast.

In addition to the five films, there are hours of extras: newsreels, featurettes, cartoons, and trailers. If these films and players are totally unfamiliar to you, boy do you have an education coming! This is one of the greatest DVD packages to hit store shelves in a long, long time!


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