George Cukor is one of the all-time great Hollywood filmmakers. In a career that spans from the dawn of the sound era all the way into the 70s and even the 80s, his films alternated between the most delightful comedies and the most compelling dramas, and his best ones always seemed to have great roles for women.
This point in particular holds significant meaning, even today. Earlier this month, at a ceremony honoring women in film, three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep, considered by many to be America's greatest living actress, castigated modern Hollywood for their continued marginalization of female-centric films, as well as for the under-representation of women behind the camera. Even though films like Bridesmaids, The Help, and Mamma Mia have been huge financial successes in recent years, the studios prefer to aggressively court the young male demographic to a disproportionate degree. Once upon a time, however, "women's pictures" were practically a genre all its own, and many of the industry's biggest female stars, at one time or another, appeared in a George Cukor film. Here are five notable examples:
|Cukor with Katharine Hepburn|
- Judy Holliday (Adam's Rib, Born Yesterday, The Marrying Kind, It Should Happen to You). According to legend, Hepburn, in Rib, urged Cukor to focus on Holliday more in their shared scenes because Hepburn was a fan (she built her up in the gossip columns) and hoped it would lead to Holliday getting to star in Born Yesterday, which Holliday originated on Broadway. Columbia head Harry Kohn wanted Rita Hayworth for Born, but she wasn't interested, and once he saw Holliday in Rib, he decided she was the right choice after all. Holliday would go on to win the Best Actress Oscar for Born. Kind was also written by Gordon & Kanin.
|Cukor with Marilyn Monroe|
- Greta Garbo (Camille, Two-Faced Woman). Camille was Garbo's favorite film that she made, and indeed, it garnered some of her best reviews ever. Woman was her last film, and it was condemned by the National Legion of Decency, the Roman Catholic Hollywood watchdog group, for its sexual content. Cukor, in talking about Garbo, praised her work ethic: "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."
|Cukor with Audrey Hepburn|
Cukor's homosexuality was known within Hollywood, though he never flaunted it. In fact, he was one of the leading lights of the industry's gay subculture, throwing lavish Sunday afternoon parties at his house which attracted big-name stars and directors, some of them closeted gays. Among his close friendships included that of writer W. Somerset Maugham, who wrote, among other works, Of Human Bondage, The Painted Veil, The Razor's Edge and The Letter, all of which were turned into films.
|Cukor with Ingrid Bergman|
Cukor was a five-time Oscar nominee for Best Director, winning for My Fair Lady (with Audrey Hepburn), a Best Picture winner, and he was nominated for Little Women, The Philadelphia Story, A Double Life (also written by Gordon & Kanin) and Born Yesterday. He also won an Emmy for his TV film Love Among the Ruins, with Katharine Hepburn.