Cukor, George: Director of Mass, Intelligent Entertainment–too long, deconstruct

May 12, 2021–too long–divide into sections

For director George Cukor, the first and foremost function of movies was to entertain the lay public: “The primary purpose of movie making is to capture audiences and not to try to be arty and pretentious.”

Sensing his respect for them, moviegoers have been extremely loyal, enthusiastically embracing his work.  Cukor is one of the few directors to have made consistently sophisticated, highly intelligent films, which were also commercially successful, some smash box-office hits.

For example, Little Women, Dinner at Eight, Camille, The Philadelphia Story, Born Yesterday, and A Star Is Born were all top-grossing films in their respective years.  Only one director of his generation, Hitchcock, the master of suspense, had managed to produce high quality films which also commanded mass audiences.

Though vastly different in philosophy and style, Cukor and Hitchcock shared some similarities in common.  They were both born in 1899, and both cultivated careers that spanned over five decades, with an output of over 50 features.

Many of Cukor’s films have acquired cult status, particularly Dinner at Eight, The Women, and The Philadelphia Story.  These films are repeatedly shown in revival houses and on television.  Many moviegoers are familiar with the texts as well as the subtexts of these movies; some of their scenes are so familiar (the last sequence of Dinner at Eight, for example) that movie fans can recite them line by line.  The public screenings of these movies often became sort of audience-participation shows.

Cukor said he would like to believe that his films had some influence on their viewers, which is why he was extremely sensitive to their opinions.  “You must never underestimate the audience,” he told an interviewer in 1966, “the audience is, after all, always right.”  But unlike other directors who have stated it, Cukor meant his motto and put it to practice in his oeuvre.  “You must interpret their reactions calmly and correctly,” he reasoned, “you must know cause and effect.”  “You must be detached and look at your children from a distance…you must be patient and loving.”