GEORGE CUKOR Biography - Theater, Opera and Movie personalities


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Name: George Dewey Cukor                                                                       
Born: 7 July 1899 New York City, New York, U.S.                                               
Died: 24 January 1983 Los Angeles, California, U.S.                                           
George Dewey Cukor (July 7, 1899 – January 24, 1983) was an American film                   
director. Cukor's career flourished at RKO Studios where he directed a string of               
impressive films including What Price Hollywood? (1932), A Bill of Divorcement (1932),         
Dinner at Eight (1933), Little Women (1933), David Copperfield (1935), Romeo and               
Juliet (1936), and Camille (1937).                                                             
Cukor was born in New York City to Hungarian Jewish immigrants, Victor F. and                 
Helen (Gross) Cukor. As a teenager, he was infatuated with theater and often cut               
classes to attend afternoon matinees. Following his graduation from De Witt                   
Clinton High School in 1916, he spent a year with the Students Army Training                   
Corps. He then obtained a job as an assistant stage manager for a Chicago                     
theater company. After gaining three years of experience, he formed his own                   
stock company in Rochester, New York in 1920, and worked there for seven years.               
He then returned to Broadway where he worked with such formidable actresses as                 
Ethel Barrymore, Dorothy Gish, Estelle Winwood, and Jeanne Eagels.                             
When Hollywood began to recruit New York theater talent for sound films, Cukor                 
answered their call and moved there in 1929. His first job was as a dialog                     
director at Paramount Pictures for the film River of Romance (1929), followed by               
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) at Universal Pictures. He then co-directed               
three films at Paramount before making his solo debut directing Tallulah                       
Bankhead in Tarnished Lady (1931). Cukor left Paramount after a legal dispute                 
resulting from his dismissal from an earlier Paramount film, One Hour With You (1932),         
and went to work with David O. Selznick at RKO Studios.                                       
Cukor's career flourished at RKO where he directed a string of impressive films               
including What Price Hollywood? (1932), A Bill of Divorcement (1932), Dinner at               
Eight (1933), Little Women (1933), David Copperfield (1935), Romeo and Juliet (1936),         
and Camille (1937).                                                                           
By this time, Cukor had established a reputation as a director who could coax                 
great performances from actresses and he became known as a "woman's director," a               
title which he resented. One of Cukor's first ingenues was actress Katharine                   
Hepburn, who debuted in A Bill of Divorcement and whose looks and personality                 
left RKO officials at a loss as to how to use her. Cukor ended up directing her               
in her most successful films and they became close friends off the set.                       
Cukor was hired to direct Gone with the Wind by David O. Selznick in 1937 and he               
spent two years with pre-production duties as well as spending long hours                     
coaching Vivien Leigh and Olivia de Havilland, the film's stars. Cukor was                     
replaced after less than three weeks of shooting, but continued to coach Leigh                 
and De Havilland off the set.                                                                 
Following the Gone with the Wind debacle, Cukor directed The Women (1939), a                   
popular film notable for its all female cast and The Philadelphia Story (1940)                 
starring Katharine Hepburn. He also directed another of his favorite actresses,               
Greta Garbo, in Two Faced Woman (1941), her last film before she retired from                 
the screen.                                                                                   
The 1940s was a decade of hits and misses for Cukor. He was off track with Two                 
Faced Woman as well as Her Cardboard Lover (1942) starring Norma Shearer.                     
However, he did achieve more success with films such as A Woman's Face (1941)                 
with Joan Crawford, Gaslight (1944) with Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer, and                 
Adam's Rib (1949) with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.                                   
Cukor's reputation as an actor's director continued as he helped several actors               
win Academy Awards. James Stewart won a Best Actor Oscar for The Philadelphia                 
Story, Ronald Colman won a Best Actor Oscar for A Double Life (1947) and Judy                 
Holliday won for Best Actress for Born Yesterday (1950}. In 1954, Cukor made his               
first film in color, A Star Is Born which featured an impressive come-back                     
performance by Judy Garland. He directed the ill-fated Something's Got to Give                 
in 1962. Progress on the film was arduous throughout, and Cukor's relationship                 
with the film's star, Marilyn Monroe, was consistently difficult and he was                   
openly hostile towards her. Monroe was found dead in her Los Angeles home                     
several months after the production began and the film was never completed. Two               
years later, Cukor won an Academy Award himself, for Best Director, for My Fair               
Lady (1964), for which Rex Harrison also won a Best Actor Oscar.                               
He continued to work into his 80s and directed his last film, Rich And Famous (1981)           
with Jacqueline Bisset and Candice Bergen.                                                     
It was an "open secret" in Hollywood that Cukor was homosexual. Cukor was also a               
celebrated bon vivant; during the heyday of Hollywood his home was the site of                 
weekly Sunday parties and his guests knew that they would always find                         
interesting company, good food, and a beautiful atmosphere when they visited.                 
Cukor's friends were of paramount importance to him and he kept his home filled               
with their photographs. Regular attendees at his soirées included Katharine                   
Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, Joan Crawford and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. , Lauren                   
Bacall and Humphrey Bogart, Claudette Colbert, Marlene Dietrich, Laurence                     
Olivier and Vivien Leigh, Richard Cromwell, Judy Garland, Gene Tierney, Noel                   
Coward, Cole Porter, James Whale, Edith Head, and Norma Shearer, especially                   
after the death of her first husband, Irving Thalberg.                                         
George Cukor died on January 24, 1983 at the age of 83. He was interred in the                 
Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.