Cukor. Even without any credit for gone with the wind cukor’s filmography alone is deserving of about the 80th slot on this list by my tally. He’s not a style-plus director and his contribution to gone with the wind is of much debate (it’s clear he directed some of the best scenes but how much was actually directed by Selznick and how much was directed by fleming is still relatively unclear) but he did give us 18 archiveable films over a period of 32 years. Cukor was not just at the helm for some great Hollywood films- there is a real consistency in his work both with the gorgeous Technicolor musicals of 2 of his top 3 films (my fair lady and a star is born) and the tremendous work with actors, particularly female actors. Cukor was well known for making women’s pictures or female-centered pictures (so he’s unlike hawks in this regard who is also known for strong female characters) and making strong women and strong roles for women.
best film: my fair lady. I have no idea why this film doesn’t have a better critical reputation. Perhaps it’s the timing of the release. In 1964 most of the critics were rightly busy being wowed by European art cinema and the french new wave. Critics were getting sick of big budget epics and musicals and were already getting ready for the American new wave in 1967-69 to start. I think they were tired of the overblown Hollywood musical and somehow lumped this film in, partly, with like doctor dolittle (another rex harrison 1960’s big budget musical). It’s unfair. Harrison and Audrey Hepburn are brilliant here and visually the production design and mise-en-scene is the best of cukor’s career.
most overrated: 3 of the 4 films in the TSPDT top 1000 (same as my top 4 but not in order) are rated just about perfectly and one (my fair lady is underrated)
most underrated: #957 for my fair lady on TSPDT is like 700 spots to low.
gem I want to spotlight: the philadelphia story. It’s not visually spectacular but you have Hepburn, cary grant and jimmy stewart doing some of their best work in a brilliantly written comedy. I’ve seen the film 6-7 times and could watch it again right now and enjoy the writing, actors, and yes, cukor behind the wheel.
stylistic innovations/traits: Cukor was at the helm for some of the best performances by audrey hepburn, judy garland, jean harlow, joan crawford, greta garbo, ava gardner. However, it’s his work with Katharine Hepburn, perhaps the greatest actress in film history, that is perhaps his greatest legacy. Seven of cukor’s eighteen archiveable films star Katharine Hepburn. Cukor claims he was “not an auteur” and someone who wanted this 99th slot for someone else (there will be many deserving left off my top 100) may produce that quote but I’ve read it and its context and cukor was really talking about not being a writer/director which is how many viewed the term in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Beyond his work with actors and work in technicolor musicals cukor was mainly known for his un-showy sophistication and in intelligent comedies of which the philadelphia story may be the best example. The bottom half of his archives are filled with adaptations of classic literary works like romeo and Juliet and david copperfield- both of which have been adapted many many times and although they are not great films, they are among the best of the adaptations of those works and stand up today which is another testament to cukor the director.
- my fair lady
- the philadelphia story
- a star is born
- born yesterday
- adam’s rib
- the women
- pat and mike
- dinner at eight
Top 100 directors running list
100) Fuller– 3 must-see, 1 HR, 12 archiveable films
99) Cukor– 1 masterpiece, 2 must-see, 1 HR, 18 archiveable