READING RESPONSE for 9/29/2010

Lauren Pattullo – Busby Berkeley and Gene Kelly

I have been tap dancing since I was six years old, so I have seen many of the musicals that are mentioned in the article. Gene Kelly is one of my favorite dancers, so I have personal experience as an audience member with his films.

I see the huge difference between Gene Kelly’s story-based musicals and Busby Berkeley’s huge productions geared towards spectacle. What is most interesting to me from the article is the fact that Berkeley only directed the musical numbers, with all their pizzazz, and somebody else directed the narrative sequences. Gene Kelly movies had a narrative form in part because it all flowed together, with the same writers and everything, while in Berkeley’s films it seemed that the huge musical numbers were geared solely towards wowing the audience with elaborate sets and pretty women parading around. There was hardly any integration in Berkeley’s films between narrative and the showmanship of it all, and now that I know they were directed separately, it makes more sense.

Gene Kelly’s musical numbers were very much expositional in relation to the narration. They expressed his emotions or even purely his actions. For instance, in Singin’ in the Rain, he sings the title song while he is doing just that: singing and dancing in the rain. There are no musical numbers that do not fit into the story somehow and, though there are some numbers that could be labeled lavish or self-indulgent, nearing what could be deemed spectacle, they can always be fit in somewhere in the plot line. It is also a commentary on movies LIKE Busby Berkeley’s films, since the topic of the movie is talkies and the transition into musicals once diagetic sound was added into “motion pictures.” A great example of this is also in Singin in the Rain, in the musical number that goes with “Beautiful Girls”. The beautiful girls in question were being portrayed as spectacles themselves, kind of like Louise Brooks in Prix de Beaute. The number didn’t feel like it was a part of any plot line, but it would be added to a movie anyway to please audiences.