And so we continue our look at the George Cukor movies that I saw 1952-1970 and kept a record of in my card-file for those years. For more from me on Cukor, please see the relevant chapter in my 1997 collection of interviews, Who the Devil Made It, also now available as an e-book.
SUSAN AND GOD (1940; d: George Cukor).
1963: Excellent- (Vivid and brilliantly directed and acted high comedy-drama about a society lady who becomes devoted to religion and almost destroys the last remaining shreds of her marriage; beautiful work by Cukor, as always smooth and stunningly achieved; exquisite acting from Fredric March, Joan Crawford and, as always with Cukor, everyone in the cast.)
THE ACTRESS (1953; d: George Cukor).1964: Excellent (Spencer Tracy, Jean Simmons, Teresa Wright are superb in this charming, beautifully directed and written piece about a young girl who yearns to be an actress in the early 1900’s; done with a flawless sense of period and timing, evocative photography and subtle, graceful camerawork. Truly a poignant and lovely little masterpiece of character and mood.)
Added 1966: (Virtually a perfect movie, and a most affecting one; with a magnificently simple performance by Tracy — and Cukor’s impeccable taste.)
Added 2014: This is based on the brilliant Ruth Gordon’s autobiographical stage play, Years Ago, and features a very young and charming Anthony Perkins in his first screen role. Though it is a virtually unknown movie, it’s also definitely one of Cukor’s most representative works.
PAT AND MIKE (1952; d: George Cukor).
1964: Very good* (Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Aldo Ray are hilarious and brilliant in this sharp, witty comedy about a tough Irish sports promoter and a lady athlete — excelling in tennis, golf, what-have-you — a delightful, sophisticated, excellently written, beautifully directed Cukor film.)
Added 1965: (Not as fine as the Cukor-[Ruth Gordon-Garson]Kanins’ The Marrying Kind or Adam’s Rib, but nonetheless superior comedy, lovingly conceived and executed.)
Added 2014: The rating should be Excellent* because this is one of my favorite Cukor pictures, with a brilliant script by the authors of Adam’s Rib and other Cukor classics. And Tracy and Hepburn are absolutely terrific—among their very best together.
A BILL OF DIVORCEMENT (1932; d: George Cukor).
1964: Good (An early Cukor, smooth but somewhat less than personal, with Katharine Hepburn in her first film performance, still a little stagey but unmistakably a star. John Barrymore gives a beautiful, pitiable, minor-key portrayal of a shell-shock victim returning home after fifteen years in an asylum.)
Added 1969: (Typically impressive invisible Cukor direction, and a memorable performance by Barrymore, together with Hepburn’s eccentric presence distinguish the work; Billie Burke is weak and the play is dated, but it has a definite archaic charm.)
THE MODEL AND THE MARRIAGE BROKER (1952; d: George Cukor).
1964: Excellent- (Thelma Ritter is superb as the marriage broker in this splendid, human Cukor comedy about a woman whose husband left her years ago and who has spent the rest of her life making matches for money and, sometimes, for nothing. Scott Brady and Jeanne Crain are likeable and Michael O’Shea is excellent, the script is honest and just a shade less effective than [Ruth Gordon and Garson] Kanin’s scripts for Cukor’s other rather serious comedies, in particular The Marrying Kind. This is a lovely film that shows again how well Cukor understands people.)
SYLVIA SCARLETT (1935; d: George Cukor).
1964: Very good (Delightful little Cukor comedy about a trio of rascally crooks and what happens when they all fall in love with honest folk. Charming performances by Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Edmund Gwenn, Brian Aherne.)
MY FAIR LADY (1964; d: George Cukor).
1964: Excellent- (Except for the fact that Bigness interferes in any project, no matter how fine, this is very good Cukor, if not Cukor at his best. It is superbly filmed and nicely played by [Audrey] Hepburn, [Stanley] Holloway, [Wilfred] Hyde-White, though a bit too stridently done by [Rex] Harrison. [Cecil] Beaton’s sets and costumes tend to overawe the piece and often get in the way of things, but they are generally splendid nonetheless. I prefer the intimate Cukor of Holiday, Les Girls or The Marrying Kind, but as Events go, he has fashioned a tasteful, colorful and entertaining one.)
A LIFE OF HER OWN (1965; d: George Cukor).
1965: Fair (Elegantly made soap opera, story of a Kansas girl from the wrong side of the tracks who comes to New York to win fame and fortune as a glamorous model, does, and then falls madly in love with a handsome millionaire who is married, she discovers, to a crippled wife. All rather sappy, but done with taste and grace, and rather nicely played by Lana Turner, Ray Milland, Tom Ewell, Louis Calhern; Cukor’s best contribution is the false quality and the superficial chic of the New York sophisticates.)
TARNISHED LADY (1931; d: George Cukor).
1965: Good- (Tallulah Bankhead is superb in this well directed, sometimes dated melodrama about a New York lady who marries for money and falls in love with her husband, too late. Clive Brook is the man and he takes her back at the end. Cukor handles the story with his usual exquisite taste and subtlety; the writing has its shortcomings, but the director and his star remain untarnished.)
Added 1966: (It is a dated piece, without doubt, but it has its charms, and a certain sensitivity that is Cukor’s, a certain brittle humor and urbanity that is typically his.)
GIRLS ABOUT TOWN (1931; d: George Cukor).
1965: Good- (Well directed and tastefully done story of two high-priced New York call-girls and one’s discovery of true love. Particularly well acted by Kay Francis, Joel McCrea, Lilyan Tashman, Eugene Pallette, the script may be a bit dated and is decidedly not a true picture of this girl’s kind of life, but Cukor has done it with conviction and a light touch, and it is an exceedingly likeable work.)