George Cukor: Not Just a “Woman’s Director”

When I thought of writing about my favorite old movie director, the first thing I thought to do was decide between Frank Capra and Alfred Hitchcock.  I love so many of the movies they’ve directed that they are usually the first names that come to mind when thinking about my favorites.  But after deciding to take a look at a few other popular directors, I realized that George Cukor could also be considered a serious candidate. When looking at the list of films directed by George Cukor, I was reminded that he had directed many of my favorites including Holiday, Gaslight, and the film that originally helped me discover my love of old movies, The Philadelphia Story.

George Cukor with Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn on the set of The Philadelphia Story

If the only criteria for choosing a favorite was the number of movies that I have really enjoyed, Hitchcock would win the title hands down, but if the impact that his movies have had on me is taken into consideration, George Cukor would rank right up there with him.  So instead of writing about Capra or Hitchcock, I decided to learn a bit more about Mr. Cukor.  I discovered a few interesting facts about him that many people may not know:

  • He was the original director for Gone With the Wind, but was let go due to repeated disagreements with producer David O. Selznick.  However, some believe it was because Clark Gable didn’t want to work with a ‘woman’s director’, which was a label often applied to Cukor.  Whether the Gable rumor is true or not, it was a label that Cukor resented.  If you look at his diverse body of work with a variety of male and female actors, it’s easy to understand why.
  • He also worked for a brief time on the set of another popular movie, The Wizard of Oz. He never directed any scenes but was instrumental in making changes to Dorothy’s appearance by eliminating Judy Garland’s blonde wig and adjusting her costumes.
  • He directed more Academy Award winners for Best Actor than any other director: James Stewart in The Philadelphia Story, Ronald Colman in A Double Life, and Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady.  Overall, he directed 20 different actors in Oscar-nominated performances.
  • He became close friends with a favorite actress of mine, Katharine Hepburn, and made several movies with her throughout her career including two made for tv movies.  When she won the Academy Award for Best Actress in the film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), he accepted the award on her behalf when she did not attend the ceremony.

Many people feel that Cukor never got the recognition that he deserved, and if my previous lack of understanding of what a truly great director he was is any indication, that very well may be the case.  There are still a few of his movies that I really want to watch including A Star is Born (it’s next in my queue on Netflix!), A Bill of Divorcement, and Two-Faced Woman starring Greta Garbo, the last movie she appeared in.  I would encourage anyone who enjoys the work of a good director to check out the films directed by George Cukor.

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  1. […] director, screenwriter and cast. She chose Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart for the two male leads, and George Cukor, who she made several other movies with was chosen to […]