Published Jul 17, 2013Most cinephiles likely wouldn't know the answer to the question, "Who is Marion Dougherty?" Dougherty was a guiding influence in making the role of casting director what it is today and is cited by many of Hollywood's biggest names as establishing their careers. Having been in the business for over 50 years, she "found" and aided fledging actors such as Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Glenn Close, Danny Glover and Jon Voight, to name a few.
Tom Donahue's Casting By examines the role of the casting director, a position that finds the fresh faces of film, often championing unknown actors that studios and directors didn't want to take a chance on.
Dougherty is front-and-center, which comes as no surprise given her 50 years in the business and reputation for introducing Hollywood to so many young stars. Through a seemingly endless stream of talking head interviews, spliced with the odd film clip and original casting call tapes, we learn the history of the profession as it shifted from television in NYC to the studios to present day.
Even after all the stars Dougherty has helped produce, she has gone largely unrecognized in the industry. Many Academy Award winners don't have her name attached, which highlights the struggles she and so many other casting directors have encountered in the industry.
Interestingly, Tarylor Hackford (director of The Devil's Advocate) plays a Devil's advocate of his own while being interviewed. Hackford (the current president of the Directors Guild of America) explains that a "casting director" doesn't direct anything and therefore the use of "director" in the title is a misnomer. "Casting by," in Hackford's opinion, is the correct alternative.
Conveniently, Hackford is also the only person to appear in the documentary that speaks against the role as being worthy of recognition. This translates to a plea for casting directors to be recognized by the Academy Awards and leads to an advocacy-driven segment for Marion Dougherty to be granted a posthumous (she died in 2011) Oscar for her work.
Despite the underlying motive of the film, there's an abundance of celebrity interviews and anecdotal tales that give an inside scoop on the Hollywood elite. While occasionally draining and self-congratulatory, there are some interesting nuggets of information.
Casting By is better-suited for the small screen, having a Sunday afternoon, PBS feel, but the 60-and-over crowd should find this a humdinger of an afternoon matinee option! (Films We Like)