New York, 7 July 1899.
DeWitt Clinton High School, New York.
Served in U.S. armed forces; directed film for the Signal Corps., 1943.
Stage manager on Broadway, 1919–24; manager, stock company in
Rochester, New York, and director, New York City, 1924–26; stage
director, New York, 1926–29; co-director for Paramount in
Hollywood, 1929–32; joined RKO, began association with Katharine
Hepburn, 1932; began association with writers Ruth Gordon and Garson
Oscar for Best Director, and Directors Guild of America Award, for
My Fair Lady
, 1964; Honorary doctorates, University of Southern California, 1968, and
Loyola University, Chicago, 1976; D.W. Griffith Award, Directors Guild of
America, 1981; Golden Lion, Venice Festival, 1982.
24 January 1983.
Films as Director:
Grumpy (co-d); The Virtuous Sin (co-d); The Royal Family of Broadway (co-d)
Tarnished Lady ; Girls about Town
What Price Hollywood? ; A Bill of Divorcement ; Rockabye ; One Hour with You (co-d with Lubitsch, uncredited, + dialogue director); The Animal Kingdom (co-d, uncredited)
Our Betters ; Dinner at Eight ; Little Women ; David Copperfield ( The Personal History, Adventures, Experience, and Observations of David Copperfield, the Younger ); No More Ladies (co-d, uncredited)
Sylvia Scarlett ; Romeo and Juliet
Zaza ; The Women ; Gone with the Wind (co-d, uncredited)
Susan and God ; The Philadelphia Story
A Woman's Face ; Two-Faced Woman
Her Cardboard Lover
Keeper of the Flame
Gaslight ; Winged Victory
I'll Be Seeing You (co-d, uncredited)
A Double Life ; Desire Me (co-d, uncredited)
Edward My Son ; Adam's Rib
A Life of Her Own ; Born Yesterday
The Model and the Marriage Broker
The Marrying Kind ; Pat and Mike
It Should Happen to You ; A Star Is Born
Les Girls ; Wild Is the Wind
Hot Spell (co-d, uncredited)
Heller in Pink Tights ; Let's Make Love ; Song without End (co-d, uncredited)
The Chapman Report
My Fair Lady
Travels with My Aunt
Love among the Ruins (for TV)
The Corn Is Green (for TV)
Rich and Famous
River of Romance (Wallace) (dialogue d)
All Quiet on the Western Front (Milestone) (dialogue d)
By CUKOR: articles—
Interview with Eric Rohmer and Jean Domarchi, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), January 1961.
"Conversation with George Cukor," with John Gillett and David Robinson, in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1964.
Interview with Richard Overstreet, in Interviews with Film Directors , edited by Andrew Sarris, New York, 1969.
Interview, in The Celluloid Muse , by Charles Higham and Joel Greenberg, New York, 1972.
Interview with Gene Phillips, in Film Comment (New York), Spring 1972.
"Cukor and Cukor," with J. Calendo, in Interview (New York), December 1973.
"The Director," in Hollywood Directors: 1914–40 , edited by Richard Koszarski, New York, 1976.
"Surviving," an interview with John Taylor, in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1977.
"Dialogue on Film: George Cukor," edited by James Powers, in American Film (Washington, D.C.,), February 1978.
"Carry on, Cukor," with J. McBride and T. McCarthy, in Film Comment (New York), September/October 1981.
Interview with Gene D. Phillips, in Films and Filming (London), January 1982.
Interview with J.P. Le Pavec and D. Rabourdin, in Cinéma (Paris), March 1982.
"Gazovyi svet," in Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), no. 5, 1993.
On CUKOR: books—
Langlois, Henri, and others, Hommage a George Cukor , Paris, 1963.
Domarchi, Jean, George Cukor , Paris, 1965.
Carey, Gary, Cukor and Company: The Films of George Cukor and His Collaborators , New York, 1971.
Lambert, Gavin, On Cukor , New York, 1972.
Clarens, Carlos, George Cukor , London, 1976.
Phillips, Gene D., George Cukor , Boston, 1982.
Bernadoni, James, George Cukor: A Critical Study and Filmography , Jefferson, North Carolina, 1985.
Haver, Ronald, A Star Is Born: The Making of the 1954 Movie and Its 1983 Restoration , London, 1989.
McGilligan, Patrik, George Cukor, a Double Life: A Biography of the Gentleman Director , New York, 1991.
Levy, Emanuel, George Cukor, Master of Elegance: Hollywood's Legendary Director and His Stars , New York, 1994.
On CUKOR: articles—
Houston, Penelope, "Cukor and the Kanins," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1955.
Tozzi, Romano, "George Cukor: His Success Directing Women Has Obscured His Other Directorial Virtues," in Films in Review (New York), February 1958.
Reid, John, "So He Became a Lady's Man," in Films and Filming (London), August 1960.
"Retrospective Cukor" issue of Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), February 1964.
Buscombe, Ed, "On Cukor," in Screen (London), Autumn 1973.
Grisolia, M., "George Cukor, ou comment le desir vient aux femmes," in Cinéma (Paris), February 1974.
McBride, J., "George Cukor: The Blue Bird," in Action (Los Angeles), November/December 1975.
Friedman, A., "George Cukor: A Tribute," in Cinema (Beverly Hills), no. 35, 1976.
Sarris, Andrew, "Cukor," in Film Comment (New York), March/April 1978.
Estrin, Allen, "George Cukor," in The Hollywood Professionals , London and New York, 1980.
Bodeen, De Witt, "George Cukor," in Films in Review (New York), November 1981.
Flint, Peter, obituary in New York Times , 26 January 1983.
Obituary, Hollywood Reporter , 26 and 28 January 1983.
Kanin, Garson, "George Cukor's Loving Marriage to the Movies," in New York Times , 30 January 1983.
"Cukor Section" of Casablanca (Madrid), March 1983.
Magny, Joel, "George Cukor: Un homme qui s'affiche," in Cinéma (Paris), March 1983.
Taylor, John Russell, "Remembering George Cukor," in Films and Filming (London), March 1983.
Clarens, Carlos, "The Cukor Touch," in Film Comment (New York), March-April 1983.
Ward, L.E., "The Films of George Cukor," in Classic Images (Muscatine, Iowa), December 1986.
Berg, A. S., "George Cukor: Sparkling Director of Holiday, The Philadelphia Story , and My Fair Lady ," in Architectural Digest (Los Angeles), vol. 47, April 1990.
Mirza, C., "The Collective Spirit of Revolt: An Historical Reading of Holiday ," in Wide Angle (Baltimore), vol. 12, July 1990.
Lippe, Richard, "Authorship and Cukor: A Reappraisal," in Cineaction (Toronto), no. 21, Summer-Fall 1990.
Calanquin, L., "Saga of George Cukor," in Classic Images (Muscatine), no. 192, June 1991.
Cincotti, J. A., "I Thought It Was Going to Kill Me," in New York Times , 15 December 1991.
Lippe, Richard, "Greta Garbo: The Star Image: A Corrective Reading," in Cineaction (Toronto), no. 26–27, Winter 1992.
Petertic, A., "George Cukor," in Ekran (Ljubljana, Slovenia), vol. 17, no. 3, 1992.
Doty, A., "Whose Text Is It Anyway?: Queer Cultures, Queer Auteurs, and Queer Authorship," in Quarterly Review of Film and Video (Langhorne, PA), vol. 15, November 1993.
* * *
George Cukor's films range from classics like Greta Garbo's Camille , to Adam's Rib with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, to the Judy Garland musical A Star Is Born. Throughout the years he managed to "weather the changes in public taste and the pressures of the Hollywood studio system without compromising his style, his taste, or his ethical standards," as his honorary degree from Loyola University of Chicago is inscribed. Indeed, Cukor informed each of the stories he brought to the screen with his affectionately critical view of humanity. In film after film he sought to prod the mass audience to reconsider their cherished illusions in order to gain fresh insights into the problems that confront everyone. "When a director has provided tasteful entertainment of a high order consistently," noted Andrew Sarris, "it is clear that he is much more than a mere entertainer, he is a genuine artist."
Although most of Cukor's films are adaptations of preexisting novels and plays, he has always chosen material that has been consistent with his view of reality. Most often he has explored the conflict between illusion and reality in peoples' lives. The chief characters in his films are frequently actors and actresses, for they, more than anyone, run the risk of allowing the world of illusion with which they are constantly involved to become their reality. This theme is obvious in many of Cukor's best films and appears in some of his earliest work, including The Royal Family of Broadway , which he co-directed. In it he portrays a family of troupers, based on the Barrymores, who are wedded to their world of fantasy in a way that makes a shambles of their private lives.
The attempt of individuals to reconcile their cherished dreams with the sober realities of life continues in films as superficially different as Dinner at Eight, The Philadelphia Story , and A Double Life. Ronald Colman earned an Academy Award in the last as an actor who becomes so identified with the parts he plays that, while enacting Othello, he develops a murderous streak of jealousy which eventually destroys him.
While it is true that Cukor was often drawn to stories about show people, his films also suggest that everyone leads a double life that moves between illusion and reality, and that everyone must seek to sort out fantasy from fact if they are to cope realistically with their problems—something Cukor's characters frequently fail to do. Les Girls is the most explicit of all Cukor's films in treating this theme. Here the same events are told from four different points of view at a libel trial, each version differing markedly from the others. Because Cukor allows each narrator "equal time," he is sympathetic to the way each of them has subconsciously revised their common experiences in a manner that enables him or her to live with the past in the present. As Sarris remarks, Cukor does not imply that people necessarily are liars, but rather that they tell the truth in their own fashion.
Though Cukor must have harbored some degree of affection and sympathy for the world of romantic illusion—for there is always a hint of regret in his films when actuality inevitably asserts itself in the life of one of his dreamers—his movies nonetheless remain firmly rooted in, and committed to, the workaday world of reality.
Directing his last film, Rich and Famous , merited Cukor the distinction of being one of the oldest filmmakers ever to direct a major motion picture. His work on that film likewise marked him as a man who had enjoyed the longest continuous career of any director in film or television. Some of the satisfaction which he derived from his long career was grounded in the fact that few directors have commanded such a large portion of the mass audience. "His movies," Richard Schickel has noted, "can be appreciated—no, liked—at one level or another by just about everyone."
For his part, Cukor once reflected that "I look upon every picture that I make as the first one I've ever done—and the last. I love each film I have directed, and I try to make each one as good as I possibly can. Mind you, making movies is no bed of roses. Every day isn't Christmas. It's been a hard life, but also a joyous one."
—Gene D. Phillips