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Casting Call: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley

One of Busby's leading ladies in his Warner Bros. musicals was Ruby Keeler. Keeler worked on a number of films with Busby, such as Dames, Footlight Parade, 42nd Street, and Gold Diggers of 1933. To play the bright-eyed dancer, we opted for Maggie Gyllenhaal. Both actresses convey a sultry sexiness and Gyllenhaal's looks have an old-fashioned feel to them. Gyllenhaal's most recent films include White House Down (2013) and Frank (2014), but we think it's about time she took on another period piece. 


Busby directed one of Hollywood's brightest stars, Gene Kelly, in his first film For Me and My Gal in 1942. Known today for his roles in Singin' in the Rain and An American in Paris, Kelly played a paramount role in the Hollywood musical scene during the 1940s. His boyish good looks and athletic dance moves made him quite the heartthrob, which is why we've selected James Franco for the role. He's handsome and charming (block out any visions of Alien from Spring Breakers that may have popped into your head) and he's always on the prowl for new projects.

There are talks of Ryan Gosling playing the role of Busby Berkeley, but we are more inclined to cast Jon Hamm as the leading man. He has a certain old-school charm to him, and we know he's able to play the creative type given his role as Mad Men's Don Draper. While we would not be disappointed with Gosling's portrayal of the 1930s dance director, we think there's quite a disparity in the physical similarities between the two; one that isn't found in the dark, bold features of Hamm. 


Judy Garland is a Hollywood icon and legend (you most likely know her as the Wizard of Oz's beloved Dorothy), described by Fred Astaire as "the greatest entertainer who ever lived." Those are big shoes to fill, but we think Anne Hathaway could do the role justice. We know she has the musical chops for it based on her Oscar-winning performance in Les Misérables, but there's also a certain doe-eyed beauty to Hathaway that has us convinced she could pass for a teenage Garland (she's part of that group of stars that age in reverse, like Pharrell or Gwen Stefani). 


During his time as a director at MGM, Busby worked on a number of films with teenage dream team: Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. Most notably, Rooney stared with Garland in the 1939 film Babes in Arms, directed by Busby, for which Rooney was nominated for an Oscar. At 94 years old, Rooney is still churning out a number of films, but we've selected Harry Potter's Rupert Grint to play the younger version of the star. There is an uncanny physical similarity between the two—ginger locks and all. We think Grint has the quirkiness needed to channel a young Rooney, and it's about time he explored a new genre of film.  


Darryl F. Zanuck was the chief producer at Warner Bros. when he approached Busby to direct the musical number 42nd Street. Zanuck later went on to found 20th Century Pictures—one of the most successful independent movie studios of all time that was eventually transformed into 20th Century Fox. To play the big-shot studio head, we turned to man-of-the-momentMatthew McConaughey. Although McConaughey isn't necessarily a physical match for Zanuck, we think he could build off his role as the unscrupulous businessman in The Wolf of Wall Street to capture the spirit of Hollywood's kingpin studio head.