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Watching Busby Berkeley’s choreography was like looking at dance through a kaleidoscope, with complicated rhythms of mathematical precision.
The son of stage actress Gertrude Berkeley, Busby first appeared on stage at age five, and went on to become the dance director for numerous Broadway musicals, garnering praise for arranging large numbers of dancers into elaborate geometric formations.
Berkeley brought this signature style to the big screen, choreographing dances for Eddie Cantor’s musicals. Expanding beyond the limits of the stage, he took advantage of top-down camera angles to transform groups of dancers into shifting kaleidoscopic works of art.
Berkeley choreographed numerous musicals for Warner Brothers throughout the 1930s, and directed several as well.
His personal life was as complicated as his choreography. Berkeley was married six times, and was tried three times for second-degree murder stemming from a 1935 car crash before being acquitted.
By the time he left show business in 1962, Berkeley had credits on nearly 80 films.