Most famous as the director
of over-the-top dance
numbers in 1930's Hollywood
musicals. Even if you've never seen
his movies, most people are familiar with the aerial shots of women
forming geometric patterns
, diving into swimming pools
William Berkeley Enos was born on November 29, 1895 in Los Angeles,
California. He became seriously involved in theatre when he got
out of the army after serving in WWI. He quickly became one
of Broadway's top musical directors, despite having no formal
training, and was the first person to both direct and choreograph a Broadway show.
In 1930, he was invited by Samuel Goldwyn to choreograph the film
version of "Whoopee!" starring Eddie Cantor (whom Berkeley had worked
with in stage production). He worked on a handful of movies for
MGM, but then switched to Warner Bros. It was here that
Berkeley really took off, starting with "42nd Street" in 1933.
His scenes required elaborate sets, involving tiers, revolving
stages, mirrors, swimming pools, and other props. In addition
to choregraphing the scenes, Berkeley took over direction of them,
drilling holes in the ceiling and putting the cameras on monorails
to create the images he wanted. The dances were huge, kaleidoscopic,
psychedelic, and often sexually suggestive. Audiences, seeking
distraction from the Depression, loved it.
As the 1940's came, though, the popularity of Berkeley's brand of
musical waned. He switched gears, taking on a full directorial role
of some non-musicals for Warner Bros. He did some more musicals
for other studios, including Gene Kelly's first film, "For Me
and My Girl" (1942). In "The Gang's All Here" (1943) he used Technicolor
for the first time. This film also featured Carmen Miranda, "The
Lady in the Tutti-Fruitti Hat". Berkeley continued to make films
through the 1950's, although his role became more and more minor.
In 1970 he directed a revival of the Broadway show "No No Nanette", which was a huge success.
Berkeley was married and divorced 3 times. He always lived with
his mother. Alcohol was a problem for him, and he was involved
in a drunk-driving accident that killed 2 people. (I haven't been
able to find the year that this happened). After his mother died,
he attempted suicide, by slitting his wrists and taking sleeping
pills. Although he survived, he never really recovered. He died on March 14, 1976
For an extensive filmography, see http://us.imdb.com/Name?Berkeley,+Busby