Sunday, 15 December 2013

Busby Berkeley and the Coen Brothers

I've been watching Busby Berkeley movies lately and noticed something interesting. The Coen brothers must have been big fans. Take a look at some comparison shots from The Big Lebowski:

The Big Lebowski (1998)


The shot where the Dude floats between the dancers' legs was the subject of a practical joke during filming.
One or two of the dancers got the idea that we should all wear outrageous, over-the-top pubic hair coming out of our panties underneath our skirts, so they approached the hair/wardrobe department who obliged us with black curly wigs, which we tore apart and shoved in our panties, hanging out the sides like a jungle. So, there is Jeff, laying underneath the first girl in the line-up and he starts smiling, thinking to himself. 'Somebody's not taking care of business.' As he rolls past the first few girls and sees that we all weren't 'taking care of business', he is now laughing out loud, and the ladies are trying to stifle our laughter, which also makes it difficult for us to balance in heels with a wide straddle. One of the Coens cuts the take. No one knows what's going on except the dancers and Jeff. So the dancers flash the choreographers and they fall on the floor laughing. But the crew and the Coens still don't know what's going on. So we all turn to them and flash them. The crew laughed, but Joel and Ethan were not amused. One of them said something to the effect of, 'million-dollar-a-day set, people, let's get going.'
                                                                                          ~Dancer Jamie Green
42nd Street (1933)

No one floats between these girls' legs, but they didn't have the equipment to shoot that back in 1933.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

Saddam's shoe tower...

42nd Street (1933)

... had a predecessor in 1933.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

A scene of dancers making patterns in a circle....

Dames (1934)

... has numerous counterparts in Busby Berkeley musicals. This one is from Dames, a film once listed as one of the Coen brother's seven favourite films.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

The Dude makes an entrance...

Gold Diggers of 1935

... much like another made in 1935.

The Big Lebowski (1998)
The young lady being tossed in the air from a circular blanket at a beach party...

Dames (1934)

... has a parallel in this shot in which another young lady appears to fly out of a circle of her peers.

Three women fly up to the camera, followed by a fourth who is carrying... wait for it...


Dames (1934)


... a bowling ball!

Believe it or not.


1 comment:

Kathy Smart said...

Perceptive. If the Coen brothers can copy (sorry, be inspired/make tributes) then anyone can.