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January 24: George Cukor

January 24, 2015

220px-George_Cukor_Allan_WarrenFilm director George Cukor, whose best-known works included The Philadelphia Story (1940), Gaslight (1944), Adam’s Rib (1949), A Star Is Born (1954) and My Fair Lady (1964), died at 83 on this date in 1983. He broke onto Broadway as director of six plays in the late 1920s, then took off for Hollywood as an actor and dialogue coach. Cukor worked with both Ernst Lubitsch and David O. Selznick before establishing himself as a director with a reputation for cultivating women actors, including Katherine Hepburn, Judy Holliday, Joan Crawford, Ingrid Bergman, and Vivian Leigh. Cukor was replaced as director for Gone with the Wind because Clark Gable demanded it: “I can’t go on with this picture,” Gable hollered on the movie set. “I won’t be directed by a fairy. I have to work with a real man.” Cukor later insisted that Gable had himself been a young male hustler and that Cukor, well known to be gay, had been one of Gable’s customers. “Cukor’s Sunday afternoon pool parties are legendary in queer circles,” writes Gary Morris at the GLBTQ Encyclopedia. “These events were studies in egalitarianism, with Cukor and his sophisticated friends socializing with their boyfriends, who were often hustlers, rough trade, would-be actors, or ambitious artists and writers who saw these parties as entries into the high life.”

“I work through the actors, and the more successful I am, the less my work is apparent.” —George Cukor