Jump to content


Photo

The Gang's All Here (1943)


  • Please log in to reply
10 replies to this topic

#1 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19759 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 14 May 2007 - 01:32 AM

This is one of the weirdest 40's Hollywood musicals I've ever seen... the surrounding plot is paper thin (star Alice Faye once said that her voice was deeper than the plots of the musicals she starred in) but the musical numbers are bizzare.

First thing you notice is the complex camera moves that Busby Berkeley manages to do on a crane with a 3-strip Technicolor camera -- the first shot goes on forever, from one item to another, in different lighting cues, until it ends up in a wide shot of the whole stage and audience. Another scene involving Benny Goodman's orchestra reminded me of Spielberg's crane shots in "1941", with the camera flowing past musicians and then craning to extreme wide shots, then booming back in again.

Then there's the infamous Carmen Miranda number involving the women holding giant bananas in their hands... with the camera not only craning in and out, up and down, but also on a dutch head tilting back and forth.

Then the final musical number just gets totally wacky. After one section involving Alice Faye singing to some waltzing kids, it tilts from her face to the kids dancing:

Posted Image

Posted Image

Then dissolves to a giant hand of neon rings:

Posted Image

The rings form patterns as dancers in the dark handle them, and at some point, the rings lower from the ceiling back to the dancers:

Posted Image

Then the camera goes through a ring, which forms a circular frame for a kalaidescope effect of dancers forming abstract colors:

Posted Image

Which goes into another circle where disembodied heads of all the main characters sing a verse from the song:

Posted Image

Until the screen is filled with little disembodied heads singing like stars in the sky.

And you have to remember that there are very few cuts in this piece, and the camera is constantly swooping in and pulling back again.
  • 0

#2 Kenny N Suleimanagich

Kenny N Suleimanagich
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 900 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • New York

Posted 14 May 2007 - 02:00 AM

I haven't seen this, but the way you're describing it reminds me of Gold Diggers of 1933, with the wild crane shots and elaborate sets with lighting cues.
  • 0

#3 Mike Williamson

Mike Williamson
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 534 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 14 May 2007 - 05:18 AM

In terms of the camera moves, it's similar to some of the earlier Busby Berkeley pictures like "Golddiggers", but that doesn't give you a real idea of how batshit crazy it is. I saw it for the first time earlier this year and left the theater really confused, the overall effect is just baffling.

Besides the disembodied floating heads, I think it was mostly the addition of intense, garish color that makes the movie so strange. There's a handful of Technicolor films that have aggressive color effects in them, like the montage in "Singin' In the Rain" or the flash to blue in "Black Narcissus", that can push you out of the film. I tack it up to people experimenting with the use of color and pushing the boundaries. "The Gang's All Here" is probably the least successful and goes the furthest of the three films I mentioned, more a cautionary example than anything else.
  • 0

#4 James Steven Beverly

James Steven Beverly
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 4199 posts
  • Director
  • El Paso, Texas

Posted 15 May 2007 - 04:34 AM

I HAVE THE ANSWER:

The psychedelic drug LSD was first synthesized by the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in the Sandoz (now Novartis) laboratories in Basel, Switzerland in 1938. It wasn't until 5 years later on April 16th, 1943, that the psychedelic properties were discovered.

"The psychedelic effects of LSD were unknown for the next five years." Dr. Hofmann writes in LSD: My Problem Child that a "peculiar presentiment" prompted him to revisit LSD-25. While re-synthesizing the compound for further study, he became dizzy and was forced to stop work: "Last Friday, April 16, 1943, I was forced to interrupt my work in the laboratory in the middle of the afternoon and proceed home, being affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away."

Three days later, on April 19, 1943 (known as Bicycle Day), Dr. Hofmann intentionally ingested 250 µg of LSD, which he hypothesized would be a threshold dose, based on other ergot alkaloids. In reality, this is a fairly substantial dose and the threshold would actually be around 25 µg. Hoffman wrote: "By now it was already clear to me that LSD had been the cause of the remarkable experience of the previous Friday, for the altered perceptions were of the same type as before, only much more intense. I had to struggle to speak intelligibly. I asked my laboratory assistant, who was informed of the self-experiment, to escort me home. We went by bicycle, no automobile being available because of wartime restrictions on their use. On the way home, my condition began to assume threatening forms. Everything in my field of vision wavered and was distorted as if seen in a curved mirror. I also had the sensation of being unable to move from the spot. Nevertheless, my assistant later told me we had traveled very rapidly."

Dr. Hofmann summoned a doctor, who could find no abnormal physical symptoms other than extremely dilated pupils. After spending several hours terrified that his body had been possessed by a demon, that his next door neighbour was a witch, and that his furniture was threatening him, Dr. Hofmann feared he had become completely insane. "[The doctor] saw no reason to prescribe any medication. Instead he conveyed me to my bed and stood watch over me. Slowly I came back from a weird, unfamiliar world to reassuring everyday reality. The horror softened and gave way to a feeling of good fortune and gratitude, the more normal perceptions and thoughts returned, and I became more confident that the danger of insanity was conclusively past. Now, little by little I could begin to enjoy the unprecedented colors and plays of shapes that persisted behind my closed eyes. Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me, alternating, variegated, opening and then closing themselves in circles and spirals, exploding in colored fountains, rearranging and hybridizing themselves in constant flux. It was particularly remarkable how every acoustic perception, such as the sound of a door handle or a passing automobile, became transformed into optical perceptions. Every sound generated a vividly changing image, with its own consistent form and color ... Exhausted, I then slept, to awake next morning refreshed, with a clear head, though still somewhat tired physically. A sensation of well-being and renewed life flowed through me. Breakfast tasted delicious and gave me extraordinary pleasure. When I later walked out into the garden, in which the sun shone now after a spring rain, everything glistened and sparkled in a fresh light. The world was as if newly created. All my senses vibrated in a condition of highest sensitivity, which then persisted for the entire day. This self-experiment showed that LSD-25 behaved as a psychoactive substance with extraordinary properties and potency. There was to my knowledge no other known substance that evoked such profound psychic effects in such extremely low doses, that caused such dramatic changes in human consciousness and our experience of the inner and outer world.

Interest in the drug was revived after Dr. Hofmann's experiment, and the University of Zurich began conducting systematic human trials on both normal participants and psychiatric patients diagnosed with schizophrenia. In both cases, the predominant reaction was euphoria. Sandoz began producing LSD under the trade name Delysid for research, suggesting that the drug might be useful "to elicit release of repressed material and provide mental relaxation, particularly in anxiety states and obsessional neuroses" and also for self-experimentation by psychiatrists, "to gain an insight into the world of ideas and sensations of mental patients".

Note the date 1943 THE SAME YEAR THE MOVIE WAS MADE, Coincidence? I think not. Although the aticle goes on to say the drug was not imported into the United States until 1948, it would have been very possible for a prominate Hollywood director with a connection to Europe. He served in France in WW1, and was assigned to train troops to perform for military exhibitions and parades in Chaumont, France. When the war ended Berkeley was re-assigned to Coblenz, Germany as a member of the U.S. 3rd Army of Occupation as an assistant entertainment officer also born in Born Coblenz, Germany on 11/6/1886 was Gus Kahn the great writer and lyrisist who began his career in vaudeville before turning his attention to Hollywood and Broadway in the mid-20s, collaborating with George Gershwin, Sigmund Romberg, Walter Donaldson and Bronislau Kaper. Kahn would have undoubtably been well know to Berkeley and sense Basel, Switzerland is on the German / French border, a short rail trip up the Rhine to Coblenz (Koblenz-German spelling).

It is not inconceivaby that the drug could have made it's way through connections in Europe to the US in small amounts as contraband thus coming into Berkeley's posession. Gus Kahn died in 1941 at the hieght of Nazi power of an apparent of a "heart attack". Is it possible that the Nazis had gotten wind of the new drug and decided it could help their war effort? Is it possible that Kahn's death was in reality an act of revenge for smuggeling a drug into the US that the Nazis believed could be used as a weapon? It is also notable that Chaumont is an equily short train trip to Basel. Could Berkeley have had other connections to the Sandoz laboratory in Basel during the 1937 to 1943 piriod? Berkeley had just released Gold Diggers in Paris in 1938, a sequiel to his most celibrated picture Gold Diggers of 1933 and 4th in the Gold Digger series just one year prior to the invasion of Poland by Germany and a mere year and a half prior to the fall of France on May 10, 1940. No doubt the French under German occupation would be looking back to happier days and wanted, nay NEEDED America's entry into the war, so is it so inconceivable that they would have been willing to smuggle a potential weapon like LSD out of a neutral country like Switzerland and put it smack dab int the hands of the Americans?

Is it ALSO so incoceivable that the Swiss, having the Sandoz laboratory positioned so close to the German border and seeing the aggression Hitler had shown against Poland, France, Sweden and Norwegian as well as the earier "annexation" was Czechoslovakia and Austria, might want to protect thier discoveries in the event of invasion by diverting some to America and therfore had be complacent in this so as to have the diplomatic tool of "Plausable Denieghability" by letting operatives deliver the drug into the hands of an American, particularly an American who had served in the US Army against the Germans and what better cover than people in the entertainment industry, people who would distract a potential enemy with their celebrity and would otherwise be concidered as somewhat harmless and non threatening? So for The French underground and German dissidents, what better beard than Busby Berkeley , a flamboyant, womanizing choreographer? Little to no attention of security officials in the Third Riech would be paid to individuals with an association to Berkeley and any attention that was garnered would be one of fan worship. It is indeed ENTIRELY possible that Magical Mystery Tour could have obtained the halucenagen and learned of it's psychodellic properties prior to staging The Gang's All Here in 1943. It could have even played a part in earlier production which substituted traditional choreography with images of mediphoric sexualitycarried to the full blown abstract. 2 decades beforeflower childer and the Beatles experimentation with the drug which resulted in such milestone history making albums such as the White Album, the Magical Mystery Tour album and the industry changng Sargent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, Busby Berkeley may have been the original pioneering genuis behind the idea of creativity in the arts through the intense use of halucenagenic pharmaceuticals. Was Busby Berkeley indeed a man before his time? I leave it to you, yoiu have the evidence, you decide, was Busby Berkeley taking LSD at the time he was filming The Gang's All? Our best evidence says he was in a patriatic (though perhaps mis-guided) attempt to save the free world from shadow of Nazi domination, but only Busby knows for sure, but unfortunately for us, it's a secret that as of March 14, 1976, the day of Busby's death, will remain a mystery for all times. As for myself, I like to think he's on a cloud right now, puting a sugar cube with Micky Mouse on it under his tongue, grabbibg a crane and 3-strip Technicolor camera and staging scenes of gorgous girl angels in skimpy outfits holding giant bananas while floating through hoops of fire, and that's the way we should ALL remember him! B)





(From History of LSD - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 15 May 2007 - 04:39 AM.

  • 0

#5 Bill Totolo

Bill Totolo
  • Sustaining Members
  • 698 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, CA

Posted 15 May 2007 - 01:41 PM

If you can't wait for it to arrive via Netflix, like me, here are afew clips available on YouTube.
  • 0

#6 Jon Rosenbloom

Jon Rosenbloom
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 713 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 15 May 2007 - 08:43 PM

They did some pretty wild stuff before the video tap. I love the way the movie just spirals off into outer space. What would your marks look like if you were the dolly grip? How do you work out those moves ("Ok, let's set a new number 20.")? How does the operator remember where the focus went off (and it does buzz a few times.)?
  • 0

#7 Matt Butler

Matt Butler
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 93 posts
  • Other
  • Sydney,Australia

Posted 22 May 2007 - 03:44 AM

Could you imagine Busby let loose with this lot?
There would probably be a *regime change* overnight!


  • 0

#8 Dominic Case

Dominic Case
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1357 posts
  • Other
  • Sydney Australia

Posted 22 May 2007 - 11:02 PM

There would probably be a *regime change* overnight!

Great comparison, Matt.

Busby Berkely developed his style in the 1930s- it was the age of Art Deco - a very populist style of art, easily reproducible. And it was the age of the assembly line. It is all about the ability of many people to work as a single unit, each performing a small element that all added up to a glorious whole.

So was he a communist? :unsure::ph34r: It's a possibility that sits well with the narration on the North Korean clip above. And he did fight against the Nazis. But I'd say it's about as useful a theory as the one that he took LSD in 1943 to do The Gang's All Here. To me it's just a desparate ramp-up of the style he'd been using for a decade or more, trying to maintain the shock factor in the dark years of the war.

After all it is just possible that artists can create new and shocking images without the aid of mind-altering chemicals.
  • 0

#9 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19759 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 23 May 2007 - 01:19 AM

After all it is just possible that artists can create new and shocking images without the aid of mind-altering chemicals.


I think the LSD comment was just a joke (as was my remark on "what drugs was he taking?", which is my thought every time I watch his movies), though Busby Berkeley was known for getting drunk while sitting in his bathtub dreaming things up. What's interesting is that he had no format training in dance choreography, nor was he a dancer -- his background was designing marching formations for parades while in the army.
  • 0

#10 Dominic Case

Dominic Case
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1357 posts
  • Other
  • Sydney Australia

Posted 23 May 2007 - 02:20 AM

I think the LSD comment was just a joke (as was my remark on "what drugs was he taking?",


As was mine about BB as a communist, too. :rolleyes:

After all I've seen his work compared with Leni Reifenstahl as well. I guess there'll be oomeone to offer any theory you care to try for size, joke or not!

What I wonder is how he got away with some of his symbolism - particularly the banana stuff.
  • 0

#11 James Steven Beverly

James Steven Beverly
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 4199 posts
  • Director
  • El Paso, Texas

Posted 23 May 2007 - 03:29 AM

I think the LSD comment was just a joke (as was my remark on "what drugs was he taking?", which is my thought every time I watch his movies), though Busby Berkeley was known for getting drunk while sitting in his bathtub dreaming things up. What's interesting is that he had no format training in dance choreography, nor was he a dancer -- his background was designing marching formations for parades while in the army.



A JOKE, A JOKE YOU SAY!!! SO, you actually believe the studio spin doctors stories that he was merely DRUNK and having the DTs as he sat in that bathtub conjouring up his distorted nightmares of sexual depravity....ha..HA, I say! Busby Berkeley's work was FILLED with mediphoric SEX SEX SEX, wild pagan surreal images to inflame the imagination, which means his dreams were made of stronger stuff. Could mere alcohol, even after a really, REALLY long bender, have produced that kind of avantguard forey into such explicit sensual visions? I think not, NO Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds made her appearence LONG before John Lennon's daughter got her first box of crayolas! There is NO DOUBT Berkeley lounged there in his Mr. Bubble, blasted to another cosmic plane on some "Swiss-made" jungle juice, the kind ya don't buy from Welch's, tripping balls and shattering the space time continumn! Wild-eyed and foaming at the mouth, he clawed at the ceramic of the tub, scratching out his psychotic, grotesque story-board frames into the snow white porcelain with his fingernails. Have that tub brought to me and I'll PROVE IT!!! Why do you continue to doubt when I have clearly layed out the entire oporation of the Swiiss, French, German and American conspiracy to spirit LSD out of the hands of the Nazis and into the hands of American entertainers! After all, I have as much credibility as Erich von Däniken, Clifford Irving or that guy that did the alien autopsy movie hoax thing and I will not stand by and be slandered as some kind of prankster, a mere jester for your amusement, a CLOWN with nothing better to do than fabricate wild, unsubstanciated stories in order to coax a grin from your face, a joker in search of a chuckle, a buffoon with jibes to tickle you fancy, a comedian to set the table A'ROAR. I, sir and a JOURNALIST with an accute nose for a story and this Busby Berkeley revelation will BLOW THE DOORS off of that impenatrible fortress that is Hollywood, MARK MY WORDS WELL SIR! I have opened the box and Pandora has stepped out of it, there's no turning back now and you sir will just have to accept the fact the Busby Berkeley was a STONER. :o
  • 0


Aerial Filmworks

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Rig Wheels Passport

Metropolis Post

Opal

Glidecam

Abel Cine

FJS International, LLC

Technodolly

Ritter Battery

Willys Widgets

CineTape

The Slider

Visual Products

rebotnix Technologies

Paralinx LLC

Wooden Camera

CineLab

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Tai Audio

Abel Cine

CineLab

CineTape

The Slider

Willys Widgets

Rig Wheels Passport

Aerial Filmworks

Visual Products

Tai Audio

Wooden Camera

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Ritter Battery

Metropolis Post

FJS International, LLC

Glidecam

Paralinx LLC

Opal

Technodolly

rebotnix Technologies

Gamma Ray Digital Inc