The ultimate ‘actor’s director’, a label he acquired for his exceptional rapport with his actors and actresses, George Cukor was perhaps never given the full credit he deserved. History was good to him, however, since he was voted quite recently as the 18th Greatest Director of All Time.
He was a women’s director. Whether he liked the expression or not. The Women (1939) and the 10 films he made with Katharine Hepburn are perhaps the greatest examples of this. He knew how to direct a so-called woman’s picture and he knew how to get a good performance out of his actresses. Everybody in Hollywood knew this. So much so, that Vivien Leigh and Olivia De Havilland often had lessons with him during the making of Gone With the Wind (1939), after he was fired from it.
He directed a total of 20 actors in Oscar-nominated performances, 5 of whom won: Jimmy Stewart in The Philadelphia Story (1940), Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight (1944), Ronald Colman in A Double Life (1947), Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday (1950) and Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady (1964), for which Cukor himself won a Best Director Oscar.
Also – and this might not be as relevant, although it is one of the many reasons I’d like to build a time machine – he supposedly threw the best parties in Hollywood. If there is a Heaven, the good folks of Old Hollywood are no doubt having a swell time with him today.