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Why Gosling Should Take that Busby Berkeley Biopic (CLIPS)

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood March 20, 2014 at 5:29PM

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.
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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.

This article is related to: Ryan Gosling


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.