Cukor, George: Hollywood’s Best Actor Director–Italian Stars

In addition to directing almost every major American star, Cukor also worked with international stars, such as Anna Magnani and Sophia Loren’s, two of the greatest personae of the Italian cinema.

Sophia Loren

Cukor worked with Sophia Loren in Heller in Pink Tights (1960), a spoof Western with some musical numbers.  There was also talk that he would direct her in Two Women, later made by Vittorio De Sica.

Because Loren was the second Italian star Cukor worked with (Anna Magnani in Wild Is the Wind was the first), comparisons between them were inevitable.  Cukor later said that Loren was “easier to work with,” because she was “very human and quite modest.”

Anna Magnani

However, under Cukor’s direction, Anna Magnani gave a powerful, passionate (Oscar-nominated) performance, which somehow made up for the difficulties in working with her.  “Magnani was a tough type,” said Cukor in an intervirew, “brought up in the streets of Rome, but she was also a wonderful talent.”  Cukor believed that Loren radiated erotic appeal on screen, whereas Magnani conveyed a strong emotional appeal.  Cukor also joked about the fact that both Loren and Magnani co-starred with the same actor in his films–Anthony Quinn.

Cukor convinced Fritzi Massary, a great musical and comic talent, to work with Sophia Loren on the scenes from Offenbach’s operetta La Belle Helene.  Cukor said that he was impressed with Sophia’s “no-nonsense workmanship.”

Producer Carlo Ponti, Sophia’s mentor and husband, was sure this would be the film to establish her as an international movie star because of the way Cukor used and photographed her.  He was wrong: It took another year and an Oscar Award (for Two Women) to achieve that effect.

Gina Lollobrigida

Cukor had also worked briefly with another Italian star, Gina Lollobrigida in Lady L.  MGM spent over one million dollars on pre-production costs, preparing elaborate cotumes and sets, before finally shelving the project.  There were creative differences between Cukor and the studio over the nature and quality of the script.

The film was later made in 1964 by Peter Ustinov, with Sophia Loren and Paul Newman in the leading roles, but it proved to be a flop on any level.