Lullaby of Broadway

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This arresting image (click on it) is the beginning of the Lullaby of Broadway sequence in Gold Diggers of 1935, a Busby Berkeley movie.  It’s one of the grand song and dance set pieces that Berkeley is famous for; a short film in itself, lasting for 13 minutes.

It starts with a distant close up of the singer Wini Shaw singing the Oscar-winning theme song which describes the sophisticated, decadent night life of Broadway, the lifestyle of sugar-daddies and nightclubs…

When a Broadway baby says “Good night,” it’s early in the morning. Manhattan babies don’t sleep tight, until the dawn.

Surrounded by inky blackness and singing straight to the camera, Shaw gradually gets bigger and bigger until she fills the screen in a giant close up. Picture yourself in a big movie theatre – her face is three storeys high and she’s singing to you

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It’s a technically daring tracking shot done in a darkened studio, with the camera slowly dollying in to the singer. The camera crew had to keep the face in the same place in the frame as it comes closer. Berkeley is famous for the technical bravado of his dance scenes which often used large numbers of dancers in elaborate geometric formations. This one is special in being so simple, just a face in the dark.

When the beautiful singer finishes her song, she turns her head which is then shown upside-down. As the music changes mood, her face dissolves into a view of the Manhattan…

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You can see the whole sequence on You Tube here.

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