But he would be the first to defend the old studio system, telling The San Diego Union in that the legendary moguls of Hollywood were showmen who ran tight ships. It was a young buccaneering time and all the movies that we talk about came out of that system. I think everyone is too damn noble these days. But when I see the results I think to myself, Christ Almighty, what was all this highfalutin talk about? Big messages and grand intentions, and none of it there on the screen.
If you talk too much you let the magic out. By the same token, Cukor appears not much impressed with his own canon.
The Celebrity Masks of George Cukor
The book is filled with his views on actors great and small. Predictably, the somewhat irascible director reserves some of his most pronounced scorn for movie reviewers. Roger Ailes, the late Fox News chief and one of the most consequential figures in the history of media, saw and used two seemingly incompatible sides of television. In a country that should probably think about renaming itself the American Entertainment State, fan culture now produces an obsessive level of pop scholasticism, one that can parse the rules and details of movies and TV shows as if they were fine points of law.
In a review of a horror movie, I once called [ The fluid narrative plays out against the backdrop of a Jerusalem riven by multiple conflicts as two dysfunctional families separately arrive at an understanding [ June Leigh Naomi Watts perches on the window sill of the [ Official statistics imply that violent crime is close to an all-time low across China today, but you would hardly guess as much from the glut of commercial-leaning crime and gangster movies that the Middle Kingdom is producing and, as often as not, given the accessibility of the genre and the historical pedigree of Asian action [ Nearly every song is its own [ In a interview, Cukor said, "I was very lucky because, when I was young, I didn't know what the hell a director was and I wanted to be a director.
Kaleidoscope - George Cukor - BBC Archive
I'm a great believer in work and character and all that, but unless you have the gift, it's a sad thing. In , when the motion picture industry entered the sound age, Cukor relocated to Hollywood. Cukor co-directed three films for Paramount Pictures before making his solo debut in with The Tarnished Lady, a melodrama which featured British theatrical star Tallulah Bankhead.
That was followed the same year by Girls About Town, a comedy about women looking for men with money who find true love instead. That year, Cukor did most of the actual directing, but was not so credited, on One Hour with You. The film's official director was Ernst Lubitsch, whose sophisticated dramatic style had a profound influence on Cukor's film career.
It was the first of nine films Cukor would make with the legendary actress, including some of his most stylish social comedies.
Audiences and critics loved the lavish, homespun drama. The film earned Cukor another Oscar nomination but also garnered criticism from reviewers who felt he had merely filmed a play. Other reviewers, however, appreciated the economy of his straight-ahead style. Henri Colip noted, "Cukor is static, he leans on dialogue and acting. But the admirable continuity of his films, their smoothness, makes for excellent cinema.
His films are carefully done, consciously artistic, literary, poetic to the point of being effeminate. When Cukor wanted Maureen O'Sullivan to produce real tears for a deathbed scene, he twisted her feet to make her cry. New York Times critic Andre Sennwald called the film "a gorgeous photoplay which encompasses the rich and kindly humanity of the original so brilliantly that it becomes a screen masterpiece in its own right … the most profoundly satisfying screen manipulation of a great novel that the camera has ever given us.
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In , Cukor tackled Shakespeare with a new film version of Romeo and Juliet. It was not as well-received as his previous literary adaptations. Critic Alberto Cavalcanti said it was out-of-date: "It is impossible to realize how bad this film was unless you reflect upon how good it might have been.
In , Cukor directed the legendary Greta Garbo in a version of the Alexander Dumas drama, Camille, a nineteenth-century French theatrical staple about a dying courtesan who falls for an innocent young man. It was a pairing of a screen goddess at the pinnacle of her popularity with a director who had a special gift for working with actresses. Cukor was the original director of the classic Gone with the Wind, but lead actor Clark Gable got him removed because he complained that Cukor paid too much attention to the female roles.
Cukor, replaced by Victor Fleming, received no credit on the final cut of the box-office behemoth. Yet the film's stars, Vivian Leigh and Olivia DeHavilland, continued to get instruction from Cukor by visiting his home during filming.
Cukor had established a reputation for being able to handle the most temperamental actresses. Cukor was careful never to call any of them to the set first, making sure they were treated equally, to the point that he would dispatch several assistants to knock on their trailer doors simultaneously. Halliwell's Film Guide calls it "Hollywood's most wise and sparkling comedy, with a script which is even an improvement on the original play. Cukor's direction is so discreet you can hardly sense it, and all the performances are just perfect.
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Cukor always allowed his actors to play to their strengths, giving them the freedom they needed to thrive. Film critic, Andrew Sarris, noted: "W. Fields is pure ham in David Copperfield, and Katherine Hepburn is pure ego in The Philadelphia Story, and Cukor is equally sympathetic to the absurdities of both … Cukor is committed to the dreamer, if not to the content of the dream.
He is a genuine artist. In a conversation, Hepburn told Cukor, "You are a very generous director because you let the actor put his mark on what he's doing and you don't have to have a big sign on your back saying 'This is a George Cukor Film. You never had to put a label on the bottle, it was unmistakable.
Your interest was in character. You didn't get wedded to material, you got wedded to people. Throughout his career, Cukor had his share of flops. In , a second matchup with Garbo on the disastrous Two-Faced Woman so infuriated Garbo that it prompted her to retire. But Cukor continued to coax amazing performances out of his leading ladies, including an Academy Award for Ingrid Bergman in the thriller, Gaslight.
Of Adam's Rib, a courtroom comedy about husband-and-wife lawyers on opposite sides of a trial, the film review magazine BFI Bulletin noted, "Cukor has directed with a deliberate, polished theatricality which emphasizes the artificiality of the piece.
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