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George Dewey Cukor (July 7, 1899 – January 24, 1983) was an American film director. He mainly concentrated on comedies and literary adaptations. His discretion on his homosexuality seems to have resulted from his arrest as part of actor William Haines' gay entourage in Hollywood at the beginning of his career, although the incident was hushed up at the time. Nonetheless, Cukor was never dishonest about his sexuality. When one studio mogul asked him if he was, in fact, a homosexual, he answered, "Dedicated." Hollywood is an American drama web television miniseries about a group of aspiring actors and filmmakers during the Hollywood Golden Age in the post-World War II era trying to make their dreams come true. Daniel London as George Cukor is a fictionalized version of the director and producer known for his grand house infamous parties.
He scored a minor success with Tarnished Lady (1931), starring Tallulah Bankhead.
His career flourished at RKO when David O. Selznick, the studio's Head of Production, assigned Cukor to direct several of RKO's major films, including What Price Hollywood? (1932), A Bill of Divorcement (1932), Our Betters (1933), and Little Women (1933). When Selznick moved to MGM in 1933, Cukor followed and directed Dinner at Eight (1933) and David Copperfield (1935) for Selznick and Romeo and Juliet (1936) and Camille (1936) for Irving Thalberg.
He was replaced as the director of Gone with the Wind (1939), but he went on to direct The Philadelphia Story (1940), Gaslight (1944), Adam's Rib (1949), Born Yesterday (1950), A Star Is Born (1954), Bhowani Junction (1956), and My Fair Lady (1964). He continued to work into the 1980s.
It was an open secret in Hollywood that Cukor was gay, at a time when society was against it, although he was discreet about his sexual orientation and "never carried it as a pin on his lapel," as producer Joseph L. Mankiewicz put it. He was a celebrated bon vivant whose luxurious home was the site of weekly Sunday afternoon parties attended by closeted celebrities and the attractive young men they met in bars and gyms and brought with them. At least once, in the midst of his reign at MGM, he was arrested on vice charges, but studio executives managed to get the charges dropped and all records of it expunged, and the incident was never publicized by the press. In the late 1950s, Cukor became involved with a considerably younger man named George Towers. He financed his education at the Los Angeles State College of Applied Arts and Sciences and the University of Southern California, from which Towers graduated with a law degree in 1967. That fall Towers married a woman, and his relationship with Cukor evolved into one of father and son, and for the remainder of Cukor's life the two remained very close.
By the mid-1930s, Cukor was not only established as a prominent director but, socially, as an unofficial head of Hollywood's gay subculture. His home, redecorated in 1935 by gay actor-turned-interior designer William Haines with gardens designed by Florence Yoch & Lucile Council, was the scene of many gatherings for the industry's homosexuals. The close-knit group reputedly included Haines and his partner Jimmie Shields, writer Somerset Maugham, director James Vincent, screenwriter Rowland Leigh, costume designers Orry-Kelly and Robert Le Maire, and actors John Darrow, Anderson Lawler, Grady Sutton, Robert Seiter and Tom Douglas. Frank Horn, secretary to Cary Grant, was also a frequent guest.
Cukor's friends were of paramount importance to him and he kept his home filled with their photographs. Regular attendees at his famed soirées included Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, Joan Crawford and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart, Claudette Colbert, Marlene Dietrich, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, actor Richard Cromwell, Stanley Holloway, Judy Garland, Gene Tierney, Noël Coward, Cole Porter, director James Whale, costume designer Edith Head, and Norma Shearer, especially after the death of her first husband Irving Thalberg. He often entertained literary figures like Sinclair Lewis, Theodore Dreiser, Hugh Walpole, Aldous Huxley, Lesley Blanch, Ferenc Molnár, and close friend Somerset Maugham.
Frances Goldwyn, second wife of studio mogul Sam Goldwyn, long considered Cukor to be the love of her life, although their relationship remained platonic. According to biographer A. Scott Berg, Frances even arranged for Cukor's burial to be adjacent to her own plot at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.
The PBS series American Masters produced a comprehensive documentary about his life and work titled On Cukor directed by Robert Trachtenberg in 2000.
Cukor died of a heart attack on January 24, 1983, and was interred in Grave D, Little Garden of Constancy, Garden of Memory (private), Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale), California. Records in probate court indicated his net worth at the time of his death was $2,377,720.
In 2013, The Film Society of Lincoln Center presented a comprehensive weeks-long retrospective of his work entitled "The Discreet Charm of George Cukor."
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