I just am crazy for the scene in one of my favorite films- Gods & Monsters: director James Whale brings his hot gardener stud to a party at George Cukor's home, with Princess Margaret as a honored guest. So well filmed & telling, director Bill Condon claims he shot the budget wad on that scene, but it was worth it.
George Cukor's private life was well known in Hollywood. His Sunday afternoon pool parties were legendary in gay circles, having been described at lurid detail by some of the party guests, including writer John Rechy. His home, decorated by actor-turned interior designer William Haines, was the spot for Hollywood homosexuals to gather. The close knit group included Haines & his partner Jimmie Shields, Alan Ladd, Somerset Maugham, James Vincent, screenwriter Rowland Leigh, costume designers Orry-Kelly & Robert Le Maire, & actors John Darrow, Robert Walker, Anderson Lawler, Robert Seiter & Tom Douglas. Frank Horn- secretary to Cary Grant, was a frequent guest. Cukor & his sophisticated & artistic friends socialized with their boyfriends- often hustlers, rough trade, actor wannabes, or ambitious artists & writers who saw his parties as way into the exclusive Hollywood life.
My favorite anecdote: Hunky, young Forrest Tucker, who was straight, would show up at Cukor's Sunday afternoon parties & swim naked in the pool for the viewing pleasure of Cukor's famous gay guests: W. Somerset Maugham, Noel Coward, Cecil Beaton & other assorted influential gays in the art, literature, & movies. Tucker realized these men were important contacts & was one of many up & coming young studs who were willing to make a naked appearance for the sake of their careers. Among them was handsome, hunk, hairy Aldo Ray, whom Cukor seemed to like well enough to cast him in Pat & Mike & The Marrying Kind with Judy Holliday.
Cukor's personal reputation has suffered somewhat from these anecdotes. Rechy: “Cukor was a catty, sometimes cruel queen who was as gifted at separating his private & public personas as he was at making films.” Yet among his close friends, those important enough to him to have his home filled with their photographs: Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Joan Crawford, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Lauren Bacall & Humphrey Bogart, Claudette Colbert, Marlene Dietrich, Laurence Olivier & Vivien Leigh, Stanley Holloway, Judy Garland, Gene Tierney, Noël Coward, Cole Porter, James Whale, Edith Head, Norma Shearer, Irving Thalberg, Sinclair Lewis, Theodore Dreiser, Aldous Huxley, Ferenc Molnár, Christopher Isherwood & Don Bachardy, & close friend Somerset Maugham.
As a semi-closeted gay artist in Hollywood, one of Cukor's constant themes was how to reconcile a double life, an outsider or artist always at war with his or her own demons & the limits imposed by relationships & society. In other films, there is the meeting of 2 sides. For Cukor this seemed to represent true happiness. In Holiday (1938), Cary Grant rejects his rich, stuffy fiancée in favor of her spinster sister, played by Katharine Hepburn. who turns out to be a dreamer like himself.
Cukor is often given the title. “women’s director”, but he was the 1st to show Cary Grant as a romantic comedian in Sylvia Scarlett, & he launched the careers of Jack Lemmon, Aldo Ray, Tom Ewell & Anthony Perkins as well as Katharine Hepburn & Angela Lansbury. He directed W. C. Fields, Lew Ayres, Spencer Tracy & James Mason to performances that should have won Oscars, & James Stewart, Ronald Colman & Rex Harrison to performances that did. Plus: Max Carey in What Price Hollywood?, John Barrymore in Dinner at Eight, Cary Grant in Holiday & The Philadelphia Story, Ronald Colman in A Double Life, Spencer Tracy in Adam's Rib, & Laurence Olivier in Love Among The Ruins. All these actors discovered new dimensions to their screen personalities under Cukor's smart, shrewd & sympathetic direction.
Among his most personal films: Little Women, The Marrying Kind, Pat & Mike & A Star Is Born. None of them is glossy, & none of them started as theatre.
Cukor usually filmed from the viewpoint of his female main character. This is evident in his Katharine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy romantic comedy Pat & Mike & as it is in more obviously female-centered stories such as Little Women, & Gaslight . His concentration on strong women, along with Clark Gable's "ick factor"over Cukor's homosexuality, were the reasons for the director's firing from Gone With the Wind by producer David O. Selznick.
All of his life Cukor fought an inferiority complex based on his ugliness, weight & life in an anti-Semitic America. His biggest secret was his active homosexuality. Among the major directors of the golden years of Hollywood, only he & James Whale were, more or less, basically openly gay. He died in 1983, 2 years after his last film- Rich & Famous. Cukor is buried in an unmarked grave at Forest Lawn Memorial Cemetery.
My favorite Cukor Film: Philadelphia Story. My Favorite Cukor moment: Cary Grant's speech on kindness to haughty Katherine Hepburn as haughty Tracy Lord.
What is your favorite Cukor moment? I really want to know.