Gangster Squad

Why am I jazzed at the idea of Ryan Gosling taking on a biopic of an old Hollywood choreographer and director who is long forgotten by too many? Because Busby Berkeley was cool.

He's a great, sexy subject--not unlike doing a movie of the life of "Cabaret" director Bob Fosse. (Oh, he already did it himself: "All That Jazz." BTW, there's a must-read new bio out by Sam Wasson, who's picking up screenwriting gigs.) Berkeley moved from Broadway as a 20s dance director to Hollywood, where he helped to create the movie musical genre with a string of brilliant movies for Warner Bros. Check out the elaborate camera moves and kaleidoscopic dancers in "42nd Street," "Footlight Parade" and "Gold Diggers of 1933"-- all released in 1933 alone. Berkeley, who never trained as a dancer, drilled holes in soundstage ceiling for the overhead cameras. And watch the hallucinogenic clips below (Carmen Miranda with phallic bananas! Jimmy Cagney singing and dancing to "Shanghai Lil"!) and I urge you to acquire the Busby Berkeley Collection, Volumes I and II. Berkeley started directing in pre-Code Hollywood when it was exciting and its players were inventing things as they went along. 

Warner Bros. has optioned the Jeffrey Spivak biography "Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley" with "Drive" producer Marc Platt, who produced Disney's Sondheim musical "Into the Woods" and has long been developing a movie version of "Wicked" for Universal--he's just waiting for the global stage musical to run out of steam. He also just produced Gosling's recently wrapped "How to Catch a Monster," the star's writing and directing debut. Hopefully Platt and Gosling will bring on someone with superb musical/visual chops to direct--maybe Platt's "Wanted" director Timur Bekmambetov, Bill Condon ("Dreamgirls") or Baz Luhrmann ("Moulin Rouge"). No writer is yet attached.