At age 12 he enrolled in the Mohegan Lake Military Academy near Peekskill. He graduated in 1914.
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945". Pages 23-28. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.
Ex-brother-in-law of Lois James.
He was not the first person who used the famous overhead shot, a shot that looks like you're looking through a kaleidescope, with the dancers in a circle(s) in interesting patterns. (i.e A minor example of this technique precedes his work in Dancing Lady (1933).) But he did make the grandiose, kaleidoscopic overhead-shooting of musical extravaganzas his own unmistakable artistic style by expanding the concept to its limits and then beyond affordability.
His brother George (ten years Busby's senior) graduated from Culver Military Academy where he was an accomplished athlete and captain of the Culver Black Horse Troop. Years later, as a result of drug abuse, George was found dead on a park bench in Plattsburgh, New York, U.S.A.
His parents were members of the Tim Frawley Repertory Company. His father was the director. He was named after two people in the Tim Frawley Repetory Company: Amy Busby (a young English soubret who later became prominent on the London stage) and William Gillette who went on to become a Broadway star, performing in a Sherlock Holmes play he had written.
In his early days, he worked for a shoe company in Athol, Massachusetts for three years. In his spare time he played semi-pro baseball, organized a dance band and played in local shows.
Inspired the song "Busby Berkeley Dreams" by The Magnetic Fields.
On his way home from a party thrown by William Koenig to celebrate the completion of In Caliente (1935), Busby hit two vehicles, killing three people in the second car: William von Brieson, his mother, and sister-in-law. Tried for murder, Berkeley, represented by Jerry Giesler, was acquitted in a third trial after the previous two ended in hung juries.
Son of actress Gertrude Berkeley.