Friday, April 21, 2017

Bakelite and Busby Berkeley

Ta-da! Nothing tops this massive and magnificently opulent button in carved apple juice Bakelite with its exploding motif of geometric petals and theatrical facets. Weighty and glass-like, the bottom of the button is carved into a flower design that was painted a dusty mauve. From the top view, this fragile blossom looks like a sunken treasure in liquid gold. Because of its elaborate detail, every time I hold this button I see an old Busby Berkeley movie-musical unfolding in the kaleidoscopic contours of 1920's pageantry and its accompanying art deco mystique. It's almost as if this button wasn't just manufactured; it was choreographed.

Busby Berkeley was famous for creating highly ornate musical numbers that encompassed intricate, geometric patterns out of huge ensembles of showgirls. These on-screen fantasy sequences have been described as the glitziest, greatest and most jaw-dropping production numbers ever assembled for film. Specializing in epic splendors, his entertainment heyday during the Great Depression bedazzled Americans with a uniquely unparalleled cinema. 

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-Sherbert McGee      

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