For investing movies with an image of style and glamour George Cukor (1899--1983) is considered one of the founding fathers of the Golden Age of Hollywood. The roll call of the great films he made and the stars he directed validates his rank as one of cinema's greatest moviemakers.
"The only really important thing I have to say about George Cukor," Katharine Hepburn proclaimed, "is that all the other directors I have worked with starred themselves. But George 'starred' the actor. He didn't want people to say, 'this great director.' He wanted them to say 'this great actor.' "
Along with introducing Hepburn and Greta Garbo to American audiences, he worked with many of the most acclaimed movie actresses of his day, including Vivien Leigh, Olivia de Havilland, Jean Harlow, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Crawford, Ingrid Bergman, Ava Gardner, Claudette Colbert, Angela Lansbury, Judy Holliday, Audrey Hepburn, and Marilyn Monroe.
These interviews are a pleasure to read because Cukor is so immersed in his subject and so forthright in his observations. He comes to life immediately with disarming candor and infectious enthusiasm for cinema and the people who make it.
In addition to discussing his romantic comedies, Cukor talks about his famous screen adaptations of classic novels and plays, including Little Women (1933) and David Copperfield (1935). His experience of being fired by producer David O. Selznick partway through the shooting of Gone With the Wind (1939) surfaces in nearly every interview. Instead of having his career derailed by this dismissal, however, he continued his rise as one of America's premier directors. In his cornucopia of films are Holiday (1938), The Philadelphia Story (1940), Adam's Rib (1949), Born Yesterday (1950), A Star Is Born (1954), Let's Make Love (1960), and My Fair Lady (1964).
Cukor was a man of myriad dimensions. In his last years he opened up about his private life and his previously undisclosed homosexuality. He was ardent in his friendships and single-minded in his devotion to making quality movies for a popular audience.
Robert Emmet Long, a literature and film scholar and writer living in Fulton, New York, is the author or editor of more than forty books, including John Huston: Interviews (University Press of Mississippi).