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George Cukor Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Trade Mark (3)  | Trivia (37)  | Personal Quotes (40)  | Salary (3)

Overview (4)

Born in Lower East Side, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA
Died in Beverly Grove, Los Angeles, California, USA  (heart failure)
Birth NameGeorge Dewey Cukor
Height 5' 8" (1.73 m)

Mini Bio (1)

George Cukor was born on July 7, 1899 in Lower East Side, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA as George Dewey Cukor. He is known for his work on My Fair Lady (1964), The Philadelphia Story (1940) and A Star Is Born (1954). He died on January 24, 1983 in Beverly Grove, Los Angeles, California, USA.

Trade Mark (3)

Directed many adaptations of books and plays and was known to be particularly skilled at interpreting stage plays for the screen.
His many film collaborations with Academy Award winner Katharine Hepburn
He was often regarded as a "women's director" because his films frequently are centered around strong female characters.

Trivia (37)

Interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California, in the Garden of Honor, unmarked. (Private area. Not accessible to the general public). Frances Goldwyn [Frances Howard], wife of mogul Samuel Goldwyn, is buried next to Cukor at her request because of her long, but unrequited, love for him.
He was replaced as director of Gone with the Wind (1939) because of constant disagreements with producer David O. Selznick over the screenplay and direction (not, as rumor had it, because Clark Gable considered him better suited as a so-called woman's director).
Worked as Broadway director before going into the film business with Grumpy (1930).
He was famous for the parties he threw later in life for large groups of directors, many being attended by such legends such as Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, Luis Buñuel and George Stevens.
He was famous as a sophisticated, witty personality but was also in the habit (mainly to be naughty) of blurting out unexpected profanities.
Was voted the 18th Greatest Director of all time by "Entertainment Weekly".
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945". Pages 163-172. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company (1987).
Did a few days work as intermediate director on The Wizard of Oz (1939) (although he never actually filmed any scenes) after original director Richard Thorpe had been dismissed. Victor Fleming was eventually hired to direct the picture. Coincidentally, Cukor's next film, Gone with the Wind (1939), also went on to be directed by Fleming after Cukor was fired due to disagreements with the film's producer, David O. Selznick.
He did not make a musical, or fully direct a film in color, until A Star Is Born (1954).
Directed 20 different actors in Academy Award-nominated performances: Basil Rathbone, Norma Shearer, Greta Garbo, James Stewart, Katharine Hepburn, Ruth Hussey, Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Angela Lansbury, Ronald Colman, Deborah Kerr, Judy Holliday, James Mason, Judy Garland, Anthony Quinn, Anna Magnani, Rex Harrison, Stanley Holloway, Gladys Cooper and Maggie Smith. Stewart, Bergman, Colman, Holliday and Harrison won Academy Awards for their performances in Cukor's movies.
In 1968, he accepted the Academy Award for Best Actress in a leading role on behalf of Katharine Hepburn, who was not present at the ceremony.
Enjoyed a successful working partnership with Katharine Hepburn, directing her in ten films over a period of 47 years: A Bill of Divorcement (1932), Little Women (1933), Sylvia Scarlett (1935), Holiday (1938), The Philadelphia Story (1940), Keeper of the Flame (1942), Adam's Rib (1949), Pat and Mike (1952), Love Among the Ruins (1975) and The Corn Is Green (1979).
Godfather of Mia Farrow.
He was largely responsible for the ultimate look of the characters in the film The Wizard of Oz (1939). Richard Thorpe, the film's first director, had decided on how the makeup should look, and had made some rather catastrophic decisions (see Buddy Ebsen). He was eventually fired, and during a stopover at the film's set, Cukor gave some directorial suggestions (such as removing Judy Garland's blonde wig), which ultimately were used in the finished film.
He was rather heavy set when he first began directing. In fact, he looked very much like producer David O. Selznick physically. In later years, he lost weight and much of his hair.
Was fired as director of Gone with the Wind (1939) only a month before The Women (1939) was scheduled to begin filming. Producer Hunt Stromberg enlisted Cukor's services immediately upon his sudden availability.
Attempted unsuccessfully to launch a huge movie project starring Maggie Smith as complex and troubled author Virginia Woolf.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives." Volume One, 1981-1985, pages 199-201. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons (1998).
Was the original choice to direct The Seven Year Itch (1955); however, he turned down the project.
Was the original choice to direct Lady L (1965).
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6738 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on February 8, 1960.
Described by British actor Leslie Phillips as "an absolute shit" in an interview with a local English magazine (in promotion for the film Venus (2006)). He said that Cukor "wouldn't listen to anybody", and that Gene Kelly had come up to him and said, "Look, if you suggest anything he will take your balls off. So you tell me what your ideas are and I'll sell it to him.".
For many decades, he owned a luxurious art deco mansion in the Hollywood hills above Sunset Boulevard, surrounded by Romanesque gardens, which served as the setting for many lavish parties.
With the United States Army during World War II, turning out training and propaganda films in New York.
Graduated from DeWitt-Clinton High School, New York City. Subsequently served an 11-year apprenticeship in the theatre, rising from assistant stage manager for a touring company to Broadway stage manager and director.
His father worked in the offices of the Manhattan District Attorney.
Started his career in Hollywood as dialogue director on All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). Prior to his arrival at MGM, he had brief spells at Paramount (1930-31) and RKO (1932-33). Subsequently under contract at MGM, 1933-37, 1939-44, 1949-50 and 1952-53.
He replaced John Sturges as director of Wild Is the Wind (1957), Charles Vidor as director of Song Without End (1960) (although Vidor, who died three weeks into filming, got sole credit), Joseph Strick as director of Justine (1969) and Robert Mulligan as director of Rich and Famous (1981). He also directed only one day's shooting of Lust for Life (1956) in the absence of Vincente Minnelli.
Although he won an Academy Award for My Fair Lady (1964) and the film proved to be his biggest-ever box-office hit, he did not make another film for nearly five years after it. During this period he was repeatedly frustrated in his efforts to launch new movie projects. These included: "Bloomer Girl", a lavish version of the Broadway musical, to star Shirley MacLaine; "The Nine Tiger Man", a version of the novel by his friend Lesley Blanche; "The Right Honourable Gentleman", a film about Sir Charles Dilke, a politician whose career was ruined by a sex scandal, to star Rex Harrison; and a melodrama about Victorian spiritualists. None of these ideas ever became films.
In 2013, the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York City honored him with a weeks-long comprehensive retrospective of his work, entitled "The Discreet Charm of George Cukor".
According to DeWitt Bodeen in a November 1981 issue of "Films in Review", he only heard Cukor complain about the imperfections of actresses three times: Spring Byington in Little Women (1933), Anouk Aimée in Justine (1969), and Gina Lollobrigida in an aborted version of "Lady L".
The famous Sargent portrait of Ethel Barrymore hung in Cukor's home.
Louis Gossett Jr., on working with Cukor on Travels with My Aunt (1972): "The consummate director and a filmmaking genius. He kept shooting until he got it right. He knew when to say something to you, and he knew when to leave you alone. He was always one step ahead of everyone.".
Despite his reputation as a "women's director", three actors (James Stewart, Ronald Colman and Rex Harrison) won the Best Actor Academy Award for films he was the credited director on while only two actresses (Ingrid Bergman and Judy Holliday) won Best Actress.
Directed 10 films nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards: One Hour with You (1932) (uncredited), Little Women (1933), David Copperfield (1935), Romeo and Juliet (1936), The Wizard of Oz (1939) (uncredited), Gone with the Wind (1939) (uncredited), The Philadelphia Story (1940), Gaslight (1944), Born Yesterday (1950) and My Fair Lady (1964). Gone With the Wind and My Fair Lady won Best Picture, but George Cukor only received credit for the latter.
He has directed eight films that have been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant: The Wizard of Oz (1939), (uncredited), The Women (1939), Gone with the Wind (1939) (uncredited), The Philadelphia Story (1940), Adam's Rib (1949), Born Yesterday (1950), A Star Is Born (1954) and My Fair Lady (1964).

Personal Quotes (40)

. . . you direct a couple of successful pictures with women stars, so you become a "woman's director" . . . Direct a sentimental little picture and all you get is sob stuff. I know I've been in and out of those little compartments. Heaven knows everyone has limitations. But why make them narrower than they are?
Give me a good script, and I'll be 100 times better as a director.
You would like to think you're pretty much an original, everything about yourself distinctive and individual. But it is surprising to realize to what extent you echo your family, and how, from childhood, you have been shaped and molded . . .
[on the rivalry between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis] It seemed to me that each one coveted what the other possessed. Joan envied Bette's incredible talent, and Bette envied Joan's seductive glamor.
[favorite piece of advice he would give to hyperactive actresses] Don't just do something, stand there!
Margaret Mitchell's only casting suggestion for Gone with the Wind (1939) was for her favorite star to play Rhett: Groucho Marx.
Jack Lemmon is not one of those actors who'll bore you to death discussing acting. He'd rather bore you to death discussing golf.
There's been an awful lot of crap written about Marilyn Monroe, and I don't know, there may be an exact psychiatric term for what was wrong with her but truth to tell, I think she was quite mad.
W.C. Fields had his own ideas about playing Mr. Micawber in David Copperfield (1935). He wanted to include a juggling routine and when I said [Charles Dickens] never mentioned Micawber juggling, he said, "He probably forgot".
[on Louise Brooks] A beautiful nothing.
You can always land on your feet if you know where the ground is.
Alas, I am not an auteur, but damn few directors can write. They're very clever and they can go through the paces. As a director, you've got to think of your own limitations. There are certain things you're sympathetic with, and there are certain things you say to yourself, "Well, I can do it because I'm perfectly competent, but there's so many people who can do it much better than I can." I've been sent a script I think is charming and I said, "I think you ought to get an Italian director; it's madness to ask me to do it."
If I were very handsome, maybe I'd have been an actor.
I don't weep or anything, but there's always some part of me left bloody on the scene I've just directed.
[on Ava Gardner] Ava Gardner's famous temper caused some sticky moments. She's a great trooper, we overcame all that. She's an old friend, with the command and control of the authentic star. Ava's a gent!
[on Ava Gardner] Ava herself was charming. She's a real movie queen, really exciting; lovely looking, too, with marvelous legs. When she crosses the screen, you're bound to follow her.
[1972, on Greta Garbo] Extremely well behaved and disciplined. She was unique--a creature born for the screen. She knew when to quit, she just sensed it. She is much too intelligent to want to try to come back now.
[1972, on Audrey Hepburn] She is a truly romantic creature. She doesn't just profess good manners--she is really well mannered at all times. She is not driven in her career but she gives full value and she is never indifferent.
[on Greta Garbo] Garbo went through a great deal to get a scene right. She worked out every gesture in advance and learned every syllable of dialogue exactly as written. She never improvised and I respected her for that.
[on Robert Taylor, who was directed by him in Camille (1936) and in Her Cardboard Lover (1942)] Robert Taylor was my favorite actor. He was a gentleman. That's rare in Hollywood.
[on Greta Garbo] She is a fascinating actress but she is limited. She must never create situations. She must be thrust into them. The drama comes in how she rides them out.
[on Gary Cooper] He accomplishes really sincere acting with very few tricks. Someone like Gary is dismissed with, "Oh, he is such a simple person, what he is playing is so simple." Look at it right up close, and you see it is much more than that, sometimes rather complex, but always subtle.
[on his overlong production of A Star Is Born (1954)] Neither the human mind nor the human ass can stand three hours of concentration.
[on Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)] The second time around, Bette wanted vengeance. It was Elizabeth the First, all over again. A mere apology from Joan wasn't enough. Bette wanted her head.
[on Jean Harlow] When I first saw her in Hell's Angels (1930) she was so bad she was comic. People laughed at her; she got big laughs where she didn't want them. Then she did Red-Headed Woman (1932) and Red Dust (1932) and she was marvelous. She was unique among actresses; she had that rare quality of speaking lines as though she didn't quite understand them . . . [she] played comedy as naturally as a hen lays an egg.
I don't think you can teach people how to be funny. You can make suggestions about how to speak a line or get a laugh, but it has to be in them.
[on Bette Davis] She is a star, and all stars learn how to cultivate one very important asset early in their career: a very short memory. They remember only what they want to remember.
[on Joan Crawford and the horror films she made at the end of her career] Of course, she rationalized what she did. Joan even lied to herself. She would write to me about these pictures, actually believing that they were quality scripts. You could never tell her they were garbage. She was a star, and this was her next picture. She had to keep working, as did [Bette Davis]. The two of them spawned a regrettable cycle in motion pictures.
[on directing Judy Garland in A Star Is Born (1954)] When you look at something, you're used to seeing the whole of a thing--then suddenly you see a section, arbitrarily, not composed. Just a section of something cut off. In the David painting "Sacre de Napoleon"; when the detail is reproduced in an art book, you see a head to one side, bits of other heads cut off here and there. And I thought, "Why not do that in a movie?" So I decided we could do that when she sang "The Man That Got Away". I wanted the camera to follow her, always in front--sometimes she would go to the side and almost disappear out of the frame--all in one long take, for the whole musical number.
[on the problems CinemaScope introduced to cinematography] We couldn't move the camera up or down because of distortion, and we couldn't move back and away from the camera. Everything had to be played out on a level plane--if someone were too much upstage, they would be out of focus. And you weren't really able to come in really close on faces. It was rather like what happened when sound came in--you were supposed to forget everything you had learned.
[on the arbitrary and indelicate re-editing to shorten A Star Is Born (1954)] If they thought it was too long there were other ways of shortening it besides chopping and hacking out vital bits. Had we been allowed, Moss Hart and I could have sweated out 20 minutes, which would have been imperceptible to the audience. That's something which I can't understand. Producers spend millions of dollars to do pictures and then suddenly, right out of the blue, they say, "Let's chop this out, then that . . . " It's one of the great sorrows of my career, the way the picture was cut by the studio. Judy Garland and I felt like the English queen who had "Calais" engraved on her heart. Bloody Mary, wasn't it? Neither of us could even bear to see the final version.
I suppose they call me a woman's director because there were all these movie queens in the old days, and I directed most of them.
[on Joan Crawford] Joan may have been preposterous, but she was never cruel.
[on Joan Crawford] In private life, Joan was a lovable, sentimental creature. A loyal and generous friend, very thoughtful--dear Joan, she forgot nothing: names, dates, obligations. These included the people at Hollywood institutions who had helped to make and keep her a star. When it was fashionable to rail against the studio system and the tycoons who had built it, she was always warm in their defense. She spoke of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as a family in which she was directed and protected, provided with fine stories and just about every great male star to play opposite; later, she built up a similar relationship with Warners.
[on Camille (1936)] I wanted to show that Marguerite was a public woman, that she went to the theater to be seen. She had to walk through a crowded lobby of men . . . I wanted her to walk through to show herself, as if on parade for clients. At first [Greta Garbo] walked through rather quickly, as if she didn't want to be seen. I might have said, "Walk through a little more brazenly, a little more slowly", but I didn't. I realized she was right. She could slip through, and you knew damn well the men would look at her anyway.
[Greta Garbo] didn't talk much to Robert Taylor. She was polite but distant. She had to tell herself that he was the ideal young man, and she knew if they became friendly she would learn he was just another nice kid.
[Greta Garbo] said that when she was acting she had some sort of an ideal picture in her mind--something she was creating--and she never saw the rushes because she was always disappointed in what she saw. But she said while she was acting she could imagine certain things and if she saw people just off the set staring at her, she felt like an ass, like somebody with a lot of paint on her face making faces. It stopped her imagination.
[on Camille (1936)] [Zoe Akins] managed to create a whole language, a kind of argot for the story. She wrote one very good scene of a party at Marguerite's house. All these tarts were sitting around, and Zoe had the idea they told rather coarse jokes in front of each other and Armand was shocked by it. In the middle of all these tarts being so raucous and common, Marguerite has a coughing spell. It was the only time she really coughed in the film. Most of the time she suggested her tuberculosis by little dry clearings of the throat and touching her mouth. Most ladies cough and splutter their way through this part . . . What [Greta Garbo] did in that scene was she suddenly lost her breath and went into the other room. Armand comes in and he's revolted by the coarseness he's just heard, and I'll never forget how beautifully Garbo played the next moment. She has a line that Akins wrote--"Oh, I'm just a girl like all the rest"--as if to warn him not to put her on a pedestal and sentimentalize her.
[on John Barrymore] Although he was playing a second-rate actor, he had no vanity as such. He even put things in to make himself hammier, more ignorant.
[on Marie Dressler] She acquired a peculiar distinction, a magnificence. She was a law unto herself. She would mug and carry on--which she did in this picture [Dinner at Eight (1933)]--but she knew how to make an entrance with great aplomb, great effect.

Salary (3)

The Personal History, Adventures, Experience, & Observation of David Copperfield the Younger (1935) $4,000 /week
Camille (1936) $4,000 per week
My Fair Lady (1964) $300,000

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