Wednesday, January 24, 2018

"Uncle Buzz" and Mickey and Judy

Busby Berkeley is a name well known to Classic Movie fans and especially fans of musicals. The choreographer/director was a trendsetter in the business with his staging concepts in such films as 42nd Street (1933) and Footlight Parade (1933). Berkeley, who had been working at Warner Brothers for six years, was brought to MGM in 1939. His first film there was Babes in Arms.

Babes in Arms was Berkeley's first time working with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, both child actors who had been working since they were toddlers and who already had impressive filmographies. Judy had just finished working on The Wizard of Oz, which would earn her a Juvenile Academy Award, and would arrive to recording sessions before filming of Babes in Arms began still in her costume and makeup as Dorothy Gale (Berkeley choreographed a routine for the Scarecrow that was cut from the final film).
Nobody ever topped Judy and Mickey. I don't know any two kids who could be better than those two were. Judy...called me 'Uncle Buzz' and always wanted me right there when the camera was photographing her. She would not do a scene unless I stood by the camera, and afterward she would ask me how she looked and if she had done all right.
Mickey Rooney remembered Berkeley as:
...a genius. He could be charming, with his flashing eyes and huge, expressive eyebrows and a smile that warmed everyone around him. But he had one small problem: he drank... [and] he had that alcoholic's perfectionism. He was tough on all of us. He was always screaming at Judy, 'Eyes! Eyes! Open them wide! I want to see your eyes!' To him her eyes were her greatest asset. 
The film, about the kids of vaudeville performers with dreams of staging a production of their own, featured impressive musical numbers. With Berkeley it was always BIG!

Here's a deleted scene with Rooney as President Roosevelt. The footage was removed and destroyed after FDR's death in 1945. Footage was found recently on foreign prints and someone put it on YouTube!

The entire film, which Rooney considered to be his best performance (he was nominated for an Academy Award) was shot in only eleven weeks and was a 'solid smash hit,' making it onto the Top Ten Box Office Hits list of 1939 - and we all know what a year THAT was!

Judy celebrating her 16th birthday on the set, with Rooney and Berkeley.

The film was quickly followed by another great success, Strike Up the Band (1940), with Rooney as a drummer who turns his high school band into modern dance orchestra with dreams of winning a nationwide band contest. Berkeley again directed, and left his unmistakable touch on the film's finale, "Do the La Conga," which he wanted to be "a huge number with about five minutes of Judy singing and every possible camera angle... AND he decided he wanted to do the entire song and dance number in one take." Everyone else in the production was dubious but after five days of rehearsals and careful laying out of every shot, Berkeley got what he wanted. Roger Edens, who wrote the song, remembered the atmosphere that enveloped everyone, saying it was "like the opening [night] of a Broadway show. There was the same great tension, because the number could only be shot once. When the morning came to shoot, the whole studio was down there. Everyone was very tense and keyed up-and the result was a real giving performance. The scene went beautifully, without a hitch. Even now it has an unforgettable something extra about it." You can watch it below.

Berkeley on the set of Strike Up the Band:
Why mess with success? The trio got together again for Babes on Broadway (1941), this time putting on a show for British war orphans to help realize their dreams of Broadway (I sang "Chin Up, Cheerio, Carry On" for our church's USO show a few years back - I was nowhere near as good as Judy though). 


Busby Berkeley directs this sort of thing about as well as anybody.
~ Variety

Berkeley was also to direct Girl Crazy (1943), the fourth musical with Rooney and Garland but he was removed from the film at Garland fell ill from overwork. Berkeley, who had been ill himself, wanted a big splashy number, clashing with Edens and causing a situation where only one of them could stay. As both Judy and Mickey could no longer handle his militant dictated, directing was taken over by Norman Taurog. Berkeley's only contribution to the film, the "I Got Rhythm" number, was left in the film. You can watch it (in two parts) below:


Mickey and Judy 
The Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Musicals of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland
A History of the Four Garland/Rooney Musicals and a Guide to the Original Soundtrack Recordings
This post is part of The Busby Berkeley Blogathon hosted by Hometowns to Hollywood. Be sure to check out all of the other posts on this celebrated director and choreographer!

Friday, January 5, 2018

2017 Movie Stats

This year I watched 277 new-to-me movies and 46 movies that were rewatches.
New to me: 277 (232 pre-1970, 45 post-1970)
Rewatches: 46 (21 pre-1970, 25 post-1970)
Total: 323 (253 pre-1970, 70 post-1970)

Where I watched them: 112
TCM: 209 (7 rewatches)
Library: 33 (5 rewatches)
Personal DVD: 48 + 3 VHS (29 rewatches)
YouTube: 2
Netflix: 22 (4 rewatches) - one a Netflix Original (Our Souls at Night)
Other (TV, website): 4 
Theater: 2 (Smokey and the BanditDespicable Me 3 at a Drive-In)

Here are my top ten movie discoveries:

1/10: Star Trek (2009) - Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Leonard Nimoy
3/28 When in Rome (1952) - Van Johnson, Paul Douglas
4/3 Barefoot in the Park (1967) - Jane Fonda & Robert Redford, Mildred Natwick, Charles Boyer
5/10 Miranda (1948) - Glynis Johns, Margaret Rutherford
6/11 Phantom Lady (1944) - Ella Raines, Franchot Tone, Alan Curtis
6/24 Ride the Wild Surf (1964) - Fabian & Shelley Fabares, Tab Hunter, Barbara Eden
6/30 Pride of the Marines (1945) - John Garfield & Eleanor Parker, Dane Clark
8/? Niagara (1953) - Marilyn Monroe & Joseph Cotten, Jean Peters
9/12 It Should Happen to You (1954) - Judy Holliday, Jack Lemmon, Peter Lawford
10/23 Sissi (1955) - Romy Schneider & Karlheinz Böhm, Magda Schneider

Classics I finally watched:
The Mummy (1932) - Boris Karloff
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) - Patricia Neal & Hugh Marlowe
Gigi (1958) - Leslie Caron & Louis Jourdan
          The Innocents (1961) - Deborah Kerr

          To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) - Gregory Peck

          Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1963) - Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Agnes Moorehead

          From Russia With Love (1963) - Sean Connery

          The China Syndrome (1979) - Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon, Michael Douglas

          Back to the Future (1982) - Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd

          Titanic (1997) - Leonardo DiCaprio & Kate Winslet

Number of movies per decade:

1920s: 0
1930s: 57 (2 rewatches)
1940s: 84 (5 rewatches)
1950s: 77 (7 rewatches)
1960s: 35 (7 rewatch)
1970s: 6 (2 rewatches)
1980s: 4 (1 rewatch)
1990s: 11 (6 rewatches)
2000s: 16 (10 rewatches)
2010s: 32 (6 rewatches)

Number of movies per month:

January: 22 (3 rewatches)
February: 18 (1 rewatches)
March: 26 (7 rewatch)
April: 21 (4 rewatch)
May: 31 (4 rewatches)
June: 30 (5 rewatches)
July: 18 (4 rewatches)
August: 29 (2 rewatches)
September: 28 (1 rewatches)
October: 46 (5 rewatches)
November: 20 (3 rewatches)
December: 34 (6 rewatches)

Most Watched (Leading) Movie Stars:

Clark Gable - 14 films
Chris Pine - 14 films
Dennis Morgan - 12 films
Eleanor Parker - 11 films
Bette Davis - 11 films
Joan Crawford - 8 films

John Garfield, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Ryan, Robert Taylor, Van Johnson, Jane Wyman, Franchot Tone, Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon, & Matt Damon - 7 films

Carole Lombard, Eve Arden, Jack Carson, & Greer Garson - 6 films

Stars I discovered/grew to love/admire:

Eleanor Parker
Ella Raines
Eve Arden
Judy Holliday
Paula Prentiss
Robert Ryan
Romy Schneider

*The math doesn't quite add up in some places but it's only one or two off and I doubt anyone cares ;)

**To see last years stats click here.

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Bill and Myrna New Year's Blogathon is Here!

Well I'm already off to a great start this blogging year as I post this a good twelve hours later than I intended. I came down with a bad cold Wednesday and last night I ended up going to bed early. But enough about that!

Welcome to the Bill and Myrna New Year's Blogathon!!! I can't wait to read all the entries on my favorite movie couple!

Already we have several posts up. I've linked them below and will continue to update over the course of the blogathon:

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films kicks of the blogathon with Why I Adore Powell and Loy.

The Midnite Drive-In takes a look at the first film in The Thin Man Series with In Like Thin.

Blog of the Darned checks out the third, and his personal favorite film of the series, Another Thin Man.

Love Letters to Old Hollywood discusses the "wonderfully goofy" I Love You Again.

Caftan Woman covers the second film in The Thin Man Series, After the Thin Man.

Charlene's (Mostly) Classic Movie Reviews takes a look at the rare non-comedic Powell/Loy film Evelyn Prentice.

Critica Retro finds Bill funny in drag for Love Crazy.

Hamlette's Soliloquy delves deep in to one of the best WWII films ever made, The Best Years of Our Lives.

Musings of a Classic Film Addict discovers the not-to-be-missed Double Wedding.

Love Letters to Old Hollywood finds an instant favorite in So Goes My Love.

Old Hollywood Films takes a look at the great Screwball comedy Libeled Lady.

Movies Meet Their Match wraps things up with The Great Ziegfeld.

Thanks to everyone for participating and for The Flapper Dame for agreeing to co-host!