Known for movies

Short Info

DiedMarch 14, 1976, Palm Desert, California, United States
SpouseEtta Judd, Claire James, Merna Kennedy, Esther Muir
FactHis parents were members of the Tim Frawley Repertory Company. His father was the director. He was named after two people in the Tim Frawley Repetory Company: Amy Busby (a young English soubret who later became prominent on the London stage) and William Gillette who went on to become a Broadway star, performing in a Sherlock Holmes play he had written.

Busby Berkeley was one of the most innovative and influential filmmakers of the early Hollywood era. A master of the musical number, he is best known for his lavish, eye-popping productions featuring elaborate choreography, creative camera work, and beautiful showgirls.

Born in Los Angeles in 1895, Berkeley was the son of vaudeville performers. He made his stage debut at the age of five and toured with his parents’ act for several years. In the 1910s, he began working in film, first as an actor and then as a director.

Berkeley’s early films were shorts featuring comedy sketches and musical numbers. He quickly developed a reputation for his inventive camera work and creative use of editing to create dynamic visuals. In the 1920s, he began working on features, including the now-classic musicals “42nd Street” (1933) and “Gold Diggers of 1933” (1933).

Berkeley’s films were hugely popular with audiences and helped to establish the musical genre as a major force in Hollywood. His work was also highly influential on subsequent generations of filmmakers.

In the 1940s, Berkeley’s career began to decline, due in part to changing tastes in the film industry. He made a brief comeback in the 1950s with a series of successful television commercials. He died in 1976 at the age of 80.

Despite his relatively short career, Berkeley left a lasting legacy as one of Hollywood’s most important and influential filmmakers.

General Info

Full NameBusby Berkeley
DiedMarch 14, 1976, Palm Desert, California, United States
Height1.75 m
ProfessionActor, Film director, Television Director, Choreographer


SpouseEtta Judd, Claire James, Merna Kennedy, Esther Muir
ParentsGertrude Berkeley, William Enos
SiblingsGeorge Enos


NominationsAcademy Award for Best Dance Direction
MoviesFootlight Parade, Gold Diggers of 1933, Dames, Gold Diggers of 1935, The Gang's All Here, Babes on Broadway, Hollywood Hotel, For Me and My Gal, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, Strike Up the Band, Babes in Arms, They Made Me a Criminal, Wonder Bar, Girl Crazy, Fast and Furious, She Had to Say Yes, Cin...

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1In an era of breadlines, depression and wars, I tried to help people get away from all the turn their minds to something else. I wanted to make people happy, if only for an hour.


1The Gumm Sisters appeared during the 1934 Chicago World's Fair Exposition midway and at the Chicago Oriental Theater. Francis, now at age 12, was also featured as a solo act, a single entertainer on an eastern Vaudeville circuit with head-liner comedienne George Jessel acting as an emcee. Jessel encouraged their mother Ethel to choose a more appealing name after "Gumm" was met with laughter from the audience. According to theater legend, their act was once erroneously billed at the Chicago Oriental Theater as "The Glum Sisters." Several stories persist regarding the origin of the name "Garland". One is that it was originated by Jessel after Carole Lombard's character Lily Garland in the film "Twentieth Century," which was then playing at the Chicago Oriental Theater; another is that the girls chose the surname after drama critic Robert Garland. Judy Garland's daughter Lorna Luft stated that their mother Ethel selected the name "Garland" when Jessel announced that the trio of sisters "looked prettier than a garland of flowers." Francis changed her name to Judy soon afterwards, after changing their headline vaudeville family's last name to the "Garland Sisters." In the early spring of 1935, Louis B. Mayer asked songwriter Burton Lane and choreographer Busby Berkeley to go to the downtown Los Angeles's movie-vaudeville Broadway main street Orpheum Theater to watch the Garland Sisters' vaudeville act and to report back to him. A few days later the sisters, Mary Jane "Suzy/Suzanne" (born in 1915), Dorothy Virginia "Jimmie" (born in 1917), and Francis Ethel "Judy" (born in 1922), were brought for an impromptu audition at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's Culver City Studios. Judy Garland (13) performed solo "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart" and "Eli, Eli," a Yiddish song written in 1896, very popular in the sister's vaudeville repertoire. The Garland Sisters' final on-screen appearance came in 1935, in an MGM short entitled "La Fiesta de Santa Barbara," The Gumm Sisters' screen credit now was listed as "The Garland Sisters." The sister act broke up in August 1935, when Mary Jane Suzanne (Gumm) Garland, (at age 20), flew to Reno, Nevada, and married musician Lee Kahn, a member of the Jimmy Davis orchestra playing at Cal-Neva Lodge, Lake Tahoe. Louis B. Mayer's instructions demanded that Busby Berkeley supervise and stage any production number devised for Judy and Mickey in their film appearances which occurred after they were teamed in their MGM filming movie schedule.
2While under Jack Warner's Hollywood studio film contract, Broadway stage choreographer Busby Berkeley purchased a gated Spanish residence estate, 1800 Angelo Drive, built in 1926, facing the Jack L. Warner's gated estate (located across the street) on Angelo Drive, in Beverly Hills, California. Nestled behind private gates in prime Beverly Hills, North of Sunset Boulevard, a wonderful Spanish estate by one of Old Hollywood's most famous architects, Wallace Neff. Originally built in 1926, Neff showcased his unique blend of Spanish and Mexican architecture, which came to define the California style for which Wallace Neff became most famous. The home's subtle detailing included red Spanish Saltillo tile, hardwood floors, wrought iron railings, curved archways and classic tiling that echo from another era. Adding to the romantic architecture, the house is built against a hillside reminiscent of an Italian Villa on the Amalfi Coast. The interior features an expansive wood beam living room with a fireplace and a lounge with an abundance of natural light. A substantial and sleek chef's kitchen opens to a breakfast area and an indoor dining room with a patio. A private outdoor dining area with a BBQ grill and a fountain make it an entertainer's dream! The luxurious master suite, with sitting area and fireplace, opens to one of five private outdoor terraces. Natural light spills into a cozy family/media room. Three additional bedrooms complete the upstairs with individual access to a plant-lined walkway and patio. All of the closet interiors have been finished. Beyond the main residence, park-like gardens with fountains and pathways intricately weave around the property, providing intimate local lookouts and unimpeded views of the gorgeous Hollywood Hills. Further amenities include a swimmers pool with cabana, an oasis spa with a waterfall, an art studio, and a two-car garage and one-car motor court. The 1,778 sq.ft. property was listed in June, 2016, at the sale price of $7,980,000.00. In noting previous sale listings, the property was sold on October 8th, 2002 for $2,900,000 (at $646 sq.ft); previously sold on March 6th, 1998, for $1,330.000 (at $296 sq.ft.); the 2015 year property tax: $38,276.00, property tax assessment at $3,495,964.00; the 2014 year property tax: $38,276.00, property assessment at $3,427,484.00; the 2004 year property tax: $32.524.00, property assessment at $2,955,160.00.
3Ex-brother-in-law of Lois James.
4He was not the first person who used the famous overhead shot, a shot that looks like you're looking through a kaleidescope, with the dancers in a circle(s) in interesting patterns. (i.e A minor example of this technique precedes his work in Dancing Lady (1933).) But he did make the grandiose, kaleidoscopic overhead-shooting of musical extravaganzas his own unmistakable artistic style by expanding the concept to its limits and then beyond affordability.
5On his way home from a party thrown by William Koenig to celebrate the completion of In Caliente (1935), Busby hit two vehicles, killing three people in the second car: William von Brieson, his mother, and sister-in-law. Tried for murder, Berkeley, represented by Jerry Giesler, was acquitted in a third trial after the previous two ended in hung juries.
6Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945". Pages 23-28. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.
7His brother George (ten years Busby's senior) graduated from Culver Military Academy where he was an accomplished athlete and captain of the Culver Black Horse Troop. Years later, as a result of drug abuse, George was found dead on a park bench in Plattsburgh, New York, U.S.A.
8In his early days, he worked for a shoe company in Athol, Massachusetts for three years. In his spare time he played semi-pro baseball, organized a dance band and played in local shows.
9His parents were members of the Tim Frawley Repertory Company. His father was the director. He was named after two people in the Tim Frawley Repetory Company: Amy Busby (a young English soubret who later became prominent on the London stage) and William Gillette who went on to become a Broadway star, performing in a Sherlock Holmes play he had written.
10At age 12 he enrolled in the Mohegan Lake Military Academy near Peekskill. He graduated in 1914.
11Son of actress Gertrude Berkeley.
12Inspired the song "Busby Berkeley Dreams" by The Magnetic Fields.




Billy Rose's Jumbo1962choreographer - uncredited
Easy to Love1953choreographer
Small Town Girl1953choreographer
Million Dollar Mermaid1952choreographer
Two Tickets to Broadway1951choreographer - uncredited / musical numbers created and directed by
The Blue Veil1951dance director - uncredited
Call Me Mister1951choreographer
Two Weeks with Love1950choreographer
Annie Get Your Gun1950director: some scenes - deleted from final print, uncredited
Romance on the High Seas1948choreographer
The Gang's All Here1943dance director
Three Cheers for the Girls1943Short director: archive footage - uncredited
Calling All Girls1942Short choreographer
The Wizard of Oz1939choreographer: scarecrow's dance - deleted from final print, uncredited
Broadway Serenade1939creator: finale number / director: finale number
Gold Diggers in Paris1938dance numbers created and directed by
Hollywood Hotel1937dances created and directed by - uncredited
Varsity Show1937creator: finale / director: finale
The Singing Marine1937musical numbers created and directed by
Gold Diggers of 19371936dance director
Changing of the Guard1936Short coach to Sybil Jason
Stars Over Broadway1935numbers staged and directed by
I Live for Love1935choreographer - uncredited
In Caliente1935numbers created and directed by
Gold Diggers of 19351935dances created and staged by
Dames1934numbers created and directed by
Wonder Bar1934numbers created and directed by
Roman Scandals1933production numbers director
Plane Nuts1933Short choreographer - uncredited
Footlight Parade1933numbers created and directed by
Gold Diggers of 19331933numbers created and directed by
42nd Street1933creator: dances and ensembles / stager: dances and ensembles
The Kid from Spain1932numbers created and directed by
Bird of Paradise1932choreographer - uncredited
Night World1932choreographer
Girl Crazy1932choreographer - uncredited
Sky Devils1932choreographer
Flying High1931dances created by
Palmy Days1931dances and ensembles
Kiki1931dances staged by
Whoopee!1930dances and ensembles staged by


Big Town1954-1955TV Series 4 episodes
The Blue Veil1951uncredited
Annie Get Your Gun1950almost all footage scrapped and reshot, uncredited
Take Me Out to the Ball Game1949
Romance on the High Seas1948musical scenes
Cinderella Jones1946
The Gang's All Here1943
Girl Crazy1943"I Got Rhythm" number
Cabin in the Sky1943director: "Shine" sequence - uncredited
For Me and My Gal1942
Babes on Broadway1941
Lady Be Good1941musical numbers, uncredited
Ziegfeld Girl1941musical numbers directed by
Blonde Inspiration1941
Strike Up the Band1940
Forty Little Mothers1940
Fast and Furious1939
Babes in Arms1939
They Made Me a Criminal1939
Comet Over Broadway1938
Garden of the Moon1938
Men Are Such Fools1938
Hollywood Hotel1937
The Go Getter1937
Stage Struck1936
The Singing Kid1936uncredited
I Live for Love1935
Bright Lights1935
Gold Diggers of 19351935
Dames1934musical numbers
She Had to Say Yes1933

Music Department

Rose Marie1954stager: musical numbers
Romance on the High Seas1948musical numbers creator and director
All Star Musical Revue1945Short director: musical numbers
Three Cheers for the Girls1943Short creator of musical numbers
Born to Sing1942director of musical numbers: finale
Calling All Girls1942Short creator and director of musical numbers
Lady Be Good1941director: musical numbers
Gold Diggers of 19371936musical numbers created and directed by
Fashions of 19341934musical numbers creator and director


The Phynx1970Busby Berkeley
Footlight Parade1933Drugstore Clerk (uncredited)
Gold Diggers of 19331933Call Boy (uncredited)
Palmy Days1931Fortune Teller (uncredited)

Assistant Director

Billy Rose's Jumbo1962second unit director

Costume Department

The Danny Thomas Hour1967TV Series costumer - 1 episode


Plane Nuts1933Short "We'll Dance Until the Dawn", "I'll Make A Happy Landing The Lucky Day I Land You", uncredited


That's Entertainment, Part II1976Documentary acknowledgement: the special style and content of the musical sequences were created by


Cinéastes de notre temps1971TV Series documentaryHimself
The Movie Crazy Years1971TV Movie documentaryHimself
New York, New York1971TV SeriesHimself
The Mike Douglas Show1971TV SeriesHimself - Director / Producer
The David Frost Show1970TV SeriesHimself
The Joey Bishop Show1969TV SeriesHimself
We Must Have Music1942ShortHimself
A Trip Thru a Hollywood Studio1935Short documentaryHimself (uncredited)
Things You Never See on the Screen1935ShortHimself
And She Learned About Dames1934ShortHimself (uncredited)
Hollywood Newsreel1934ShortHimself (uncredited)

Archive Footage

American Masters2008TV Series documentaryHimself - Interviewee
Ziegfeld Girl Intro2004Video documentary shortHimself
The Canadians1998TV SeriesHimself
Busby Berkeley: Going Through the Roof1998TV Movie documentaryHimself
Great Performances1996TV SeriesHimself
That's Dancing!1985DocumentaryHimself
Brother Can You Spare a Dime1975DocumentaryHimself
Hollywood and the Stars1963TV SeriesHimself


Won Awards

2012OFTA Film Hall of FameOnline Film & Television AssociationBehind the ScenesChoreography
1971UNICRIT StatuetteBerlin International Film Festival

Nominated Awards

1938OscarAcademy Awards, USABest Dance DirectionVarsity Show (1937)
1937OscarAcademy Awards, USABest Dance DirectionGold Diggers of 1937 (1936)
1936OscarAcademy Awards, USABest Dance DirectionGold Diggers of 1935 (1935)

Source: IMDb, Wikipedia

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