Director George D. Cukor was born in New York City in 1899. Cukor worked as a stage manager for theater productions before moving to Hollywood in 1929. Movies were just starting to use sound at the time, and Cukor worked as a dialogue director. He earned his first major success with Little Women in 1933. He made films for 50 years and received an Academy Award for My Fair Lady in 1964. He died in Los Angeles, California, in 1983.
Born in New York City on July 7, 1899, George Dewey Cukor became one of the top film directors of the 20th century. He developed a love for the theater growing up, even resorting to skipping school to go see shows on Broadway. After graduating from De Witt Clinton High School, Cukor went to work behind the scenes in the theater. He held numerous positions, including stage manager, before becoming a successful stage director.
In 1926, Cukor directed a theatrical production of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. He also worked with Melvyn Douglas in A Free Soul two years later. Also in 1928, Cukor directed Dorothy Gish and James Rennie in the comedy Young Love. Before long, Cukor was invited to Hollywood. His first major film project was working as a dialogue director on the 1930 war drama All Quiet on the Western Front. He landed a few co-directing jobs as well, including The Royal Family of Broadway with Cyril Gardner.
Leading Hollywood Director
George D. Cukor soon became a director on the rise, directing Tallulah Bankhead in her film debut, 1931's Tarnished Lady, and helping to discover Katharine Hepburn when he fought with the studio to cast her in 1932's A Bill of Divorcement with John Barrymore. The following year proved to be a time of professional prosperity, with a string of well-received films: He reunited with Katharine Hepburn for the adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic Little Women—his first major success—and with Jean Harlow in the high-society comedy Dinner at Eight.
Continuing to work with some of film's top stars, Cukor directed the legendary Greta Garbo in Camille (1936). He also worked with Hepburn and Cary Grant on Holiday (1938) and on The Philadelphia Story (1940)—both sophisticated romantic comedies. Another classic Cukor film from this time was the dramatic comedy The Women (1939) with Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell. Around this time, the director suffered a career setback after being fired from the epic Civil War drama Gone with the Wind.
Cukor became known as a women's director, based on his ability to get great performances from so many leading female actresses. He hated this label, once telling The New York Times, "I think it's stupid. If you work over my work, in every picture there's a man, and usually he did a pretty good job." He also showed himself to be more versatile than some gave him credit for. He did an excellent job creating suspense in the 1944 thriller Gaslight with Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. That same year, his war drama Winged Victory hit the big screen.
More impressive work soon followed. Cukor directed the Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy classic Adam's Rib (1949). Around this same time, he worked with Judy Holliday and William Holden on the film Born Yesterday. He then tackled the movie musical genre with 1954's A Star Is Born, starring Judy Garland and James Mason.
By the 1960s, George D. Cukor was making few films, but he still possessed tremendous talent. He won his one and only Academy Award for directing the musical My Fair Lady (1964), starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. On the small screen, he directed Katharine Hepburn and Laurence Olivier in the 1975 television movie Love Among the Ruins. He received an Emmy Award for his work on the project.
Rich and Famous (1981) proved to be Cukor's last film. Jacqueline Bisset and Candice Bergen star in this tale of a competitive friendship between two writers. Two years later, on January 24, 1983, George D. Cukor died in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 83.
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