“You can’t have any successes unless you accept failure.”
George Cukor was the Academy Award-winning film director of classics such as “My Fair Lady” and “A Star is Born.”
George Cukor was an Academy Award-winning film director best known for his comedies and literary adaptations for the screen. His film classics include “The Philadelphia Story,” “A Star is Born” and “My Fair Lady.” During his career, he directed more Oscar-winning performances than anyone else.
Cukor was born to Hungarian Jewish immigrants on New York City’s Lower East Side. As a child, he showed an interest in theater, appearing in plays and taking dance lessons. He would often cut classes to watch matinees.
Though Cukor was expected to become a lawyer, he left school and enlisted in the Signal Corps during World War II. After the war, he became a stage manager for a traveling acting troupe. He also worked in summer stock theater and made his Broadway debut as an actor.
Cukor first captured critical attention as director of the stage production of “The Great Gatsby.” He directed six Broadway shows before leaving for Hollywood in 1929.
Cukor signed with Paramount Pictures and began working as a speech coach and subsequently as a dialogue director. He made his directorial debut with the 1931 film, “Tarnished Lady,” starring Tallulah Bankhead. Cukor helped launch the careers of many stars, including Katherine Hepburn. Hepburn and Cukor became lifelong friends.
Rumors regarding Cukor’s personal life circulated in Hollywood. Writer Gore Vidal alleged that Clark Gable refused to work with Cukor because of his homosexuality. Soon after, Cukor was fired from directing “Gone with the Wind.”
Though Cukor never came out publicly, his sexuality was well known among industry insiders. He hosted extravagant parties attended by closeted celebrities, and his home became a refuge for gay and lesbian actors. During his time at MGM, Cukor was arrested on vice charges, which were dismissed due to industry pressure.
Cukor earned a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in 1960. He was nominated for three Golden Globes and five Academy Awards, winning the Oscar in 1965 for “My Fair Lady.” In 1976 he received the George Eastman Award for distinguished contribution to film.
In 2000 PBS broadcast “On Cukor,” as part of its American Masters series. In 2013 the Film Society of Lincoln Center presented a retrospective titled, “The Discreet Charm of George Cukor.”
LGBT History Month articles are a Project of Equality Forum and are presented with permission.