Category Archives: Busby Berkeley

I was passing the studio the other day

The only snag with time travelling back to the 1930’s is if you get caught out time travelling. Its fine if I put on the Clara Johnson look, as no one is the wiser, but if I forget, or the camouflage vanishes, well…

So there I was, coolly back in 1933, walking past Warner’s studio, when I felt a hand on my shoulder, and a voice said, “Clara, so good to see you, we need you for a photo shoot right away. Just go put on a sexy dress, get down to the stills studio, and get it done.”

Well, given I didnt want her to get into trouble, what can I say, I went along with it. Short dress, showing lots of leg, enough to get the men excited, and all that. Up until yesterday, no concern, never seen recently, so I assumed it had got conveniently lost, until it hadnt!

1930s me

OK, anyone who believed that story, you’re way too innocent, even if it looks like it was taken 85 years ago, lol. Actually, it was taken about 5 years ago, but you have to admit, it has the look of something far more vintage. This fact is down to the talent of a friend named Frank, nothing to do with time travel, or studio photo shoots at Warner’s in 1933. But yes, look at those legs, lol, all me!

I assume its all done with one of these modern computer filter things, to turn this

2nd Photoshoot picture 4

into my 1930’s self! I actually posted it for a Myrna Loy ‘homage’ photo contest, said jokingly that it should look more 1930’s, and lo and behold…

But fine, if you really want to think that the first picture is genuinely me, taken in 1933, and that the second one is a colourised version of it, then fine. But which is the true story, you decide! 😉

So, you might then be asking, what was Clara doing at Warner’s in 1933, in the first place? Well, unsurprisingly, it was for one of those magical Buzby Berkeley musical numbers. Clearly she was a competent swimmer, as she is in this, see if you can spot her? Easiest in the fountain section, but you do see her in the pool too. So…?

The ultimate choreographer?

I thought I would need to blog on some depressing news relating to an area of Huddersfield, but thankfully I’ve been saved by events, but I’m not going to mention what that was, in case I need some inspiration for Sunday’s posting.

Officially, for most of her known dancing career in the movies, there is one choreographer, who it seems Clara Johnson danced in most of his routines. She certainly did dance for others (she seems to have danced for most studios, despite being a Goldwyn Girl for at least part of her career), but its rare to find a Busby Berkeley movie where she isnt in the chorus line. In fact I’m not concerned there are any she missed, but as I havent seen everyone of them, dont quote me on that, she might have missed one, lol.

Oh, why am I posting this today, you ask? Well, on this day, in 1895, the (probably) ultimate choreographer was born. He did do numerous Broadway productions in the 1920’s, but when sound, and musicals struck gold in Hollywood, he went to work there, and of course, because we still have film record of it, its what he’s remembered for.

The man was a genius in a choreograph sense, but clearly no angel. Married 6 times, had issues with alcohol, but somehow survived to 80, before dying of natural causes. He always said he only ever wanted to touch his previous routines, and in truth, he did a pretty good job of it. What I dont know, is what he was like to work for? I suspect he worked the girls hard, but was he fair with it, or did ambition ever just win out?

Just saying that Clara was happy to dance for him for about 7 years isnt really a big clue. She was never more than chorus line material, he was master of the dance routines, so it might just be she had to survive working with him, to pay for the rent, and other things, who knows? Whether he ever knew her as more than ‘one of the dance team’, again who knows?

But yes, when you think of 1930’s choreographed dance routines, in the Hollywood musicals, there is one name that probably comes to mind before all others, Busby Berkeley.

So therefore, ironically, for the video tonight, you get none of the music that the young ladies danced to, just their amazing routines. But yes, got to go with this, as it shows the full gamut of the dance routines he created. And yes, Clara Johnson appears in this mix numerous times!