The Gang’s All Here

Carmen Miranda sings "The Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat" in Busby Berkeley's film "The Gang's All Here." (1943)

Videos like these are one of the reasons I started this site. While doing research for Encyclopedia of the Exquisite, there were so many great links and video clips I wanted to share. You’ll see why.

Choreographer Busby Berkeley stars in Encyclopedia‘s entry on Showstoppers, highly stylized dance numbers that cropped up in films of the mid-20th century, and which diverted from the main action of the plot. Of course, when Berkeley stepped in not only as choreographer, but as the director for 1943’s The Gang’s All Here, there wasn’t much plot left. His surreal take on cinema marked the end of an era and the culmination of a style. Swarms of chorus girls populate the picture, which was shot in Technicolor, creating the kaleidoscopic effect that was Berkeley’s hallmark.

“My philosophy was purely—call it gigantic entertainment,” he said in the 60s. “A lot of people used to say I was crazy. But I can truthfully say one thing: I gave ‘em a show.”

The Gang’s All Here was his masterpiece. It kicks off with Carmen Miranda singing “The Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat,” and culminates in a bizarre, and wonderful, finale that sees his dozens of dancers waving neon tubing and disappearing into a spinning field of silk. Surely these scenes must have inspired Matthew Barney‘s “Cremaster Cycle.” But that’s another story.

(If you’re short on time, cut to 2 minutes 40 seconds in to the polka-dot polka video.)