Casting By… – Documentary Review

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casting by poster artCasting Director Marion Dougherty didn’t invent Al Pacino or Bette Midler, but she certainly was very influential in the shaping of their careers. Pacino and Midler, and many other actors who’ve risen to super star status. Pacino, Midler and a long list of other movie stars and leading directors, including Martin Scorsese, Robert Redford, Woody Allen and Clint Eastwood appear in filmmaker Tom Donahue’s Casting By… to tell how Dougherty contributed to their success and to thank her for her invaluable input. Praise for Dougherty comes from a who’s who of Hollywood honchos. But, amid all of the headliners, Dougherty herself is actually cast as the central character in Casting By….

Donahue’s documentary focuses on Dougherty and her career as exemplifying the work of the women and men whose job it is to match actors to various roles — large and small — in the movies, television shows and in stage productions. If they’re as good at the job as Dougherty, their work often results in the creation of cultural icons.

In fact, Casting By… is a tribute to Dougherty (1923-2011), who achieved legendary status in show business during her long career, and is widely credited as having transformed the casting director’s role in Hollywood from a mere scheduler of studio contract players to a real decision maker in determining the image, gut and impact of a character.

The Career of Casting

Interviewed extensively in the film, Dougherty says that she was always drawn to the theater, but actually began her casting career unintentionally. Shortly after she graduated from college, a chum got her a job as an assistant in the casting department for the Kraft Television Theater, the NBC anthology/drama show that was broadcast live from New York. Soon promoted to the head of the department, Dougherty began to cast serious, well-trained New York theater actors for the prestigious television show. From the start, she had great instincts and an encyclopedic knowledge of actors.

Paving The Way for Women

Eventually, Dougherty established her own independent New York casting agency. She is noted for having given hired and mentored other women — Juliet Taylor and Wallis Nicita, among others — who’ve dominated the field of casting directors.

Dougherty was also the first woman to woman to become the vice president of a major Hollywood studio, when she was hired to head the casting department at Warner Bros. During her tenure there and subsequently at Paramount Studios, she continued to cast innovatively, amassing an astonishing list of casting credits, many of them for films garnering numerous Academy Awards.

Official Recognition: Not!

But Dougherty was never recognized with an award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which does not present an Oscar for casting. That’s a sore point, especially since most of Dougherty’s colleagues interviewed for the film and many other leading Hollywood players petitioned the Academy to present Dougherty with a special Academy Award.

Casting by… was completed in 2012, and had a successful festival tour before releasing theatrically in November 2013. This review was originally published on

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