Cukor. Even without any credit for Gone With the Wind George Cukor’s filmography alone is deserving of this slot. 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 Victor Fleming is still relatively unclear) but he did give us 19 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 (his top 2 films) 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 but in world’s dominated by men) 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—Antonioni, Fellini 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 Doolittle (another Rex Harrison 1960’s big budget musical). It’s unfair. Harrison and Audrey Hepburn are brilliant here and visually the production design is the best of Cukor’s career. It is an absolute triumph of 65mm—and my admiration of the film has grown in the decades as we’ve gone from VHS, to DVD and now to Bluray.
total archiveable films: 19
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 3 (My Fair Lady, A Star Is Born, The Philadelphia Story)
top 100 films of the decade: 4 (My Fair Lady, A Star Is Born, The Philadelphia Story, Holiday)
most overrated: It kills me to say it but The Philadelphia Story is slightly overrated. The TSPDT consensus has it at #304 and I’m at #430. But still- it is magnificent. It’s not visually spectacular but you have Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart doing some of their best work in a radiantly 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.
most underrated: My Fair Lady is somehownot in top 1000 on TSPDT. That’s ridiculous. I went on about it above enough—I’m at #243 on my all-time list.
gem I want to spotlight: A Star is Born has been made and remade so many times. The latest version from 2018 is a great film—but it doesn’t compare to Cukor’s work here in Cinemascope.
stylistic innovations/traits: Cukor’s work with large format musicals (A Star is Born in the 1950’s in Cinemascope and My Fair Lady in the 1960’s in 65mm are the main reason he’s here along with the consistency of themes and the sheer amount of archiveable films. 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 that is perhaps his greatest legacy in terms of working with actors. Seven of Cukor’s 19 archiveable films star Katharine Hepburn. Cukor claims he was “not an auteur” and someone reading this page may show quote that as evidence—( there will be many deserving directors behind Cukor) 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
- A Star is Born
- The Philadelphia Story
- Born Yesterday
- Adam’s Rib
- The Women
- Pat and Mike
- What Price Hollywood?
By year and grades
|1932- A Bill of Divorcement|
|1932- What Price Hollywood?||R|
|1933- Dinner at Eight||R|
|1933- Little Women||R|
|1935- David Copperfield||R|
|1935- Sylvia Scarlett||R|
|1936- Romeo and Juliet||R|
|1939- The Women||R|
|1940- The Philadelphia Story||MS|
|1947- A Double Life|
|1949- Adam’s Rib||R|
|1950- Born Yesterday||R|
|1952- Pat and Mike||R|
|1954- A Star Is Born||MS|
|1956- Bhowani Junction||R|
|1964- My Fair Lady||MP|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives