Monday, 18 May 2009

On Cukor

On Saturday, while walking around London and visiting a couple of bookshops I stumbled across a book about George Cukor. It was discounted and I was expecting a coffee table book full of pretty photographs of "My Fair Lady", Judy Holliday and Katharine Hepburn. What I found was a 2000 revised edition of an interview book from the 1970s, in a similar vein of those made by Truffaut and Cameron Crowe on Hitchcock and Billy Wilder. I never even knew such thing existed. Of course, it is now in my shelves, and of the large chunks I have read, it’s brilliant. I strongly recommend it, but beware it’s officially OOP.

George Cukor (1899-1983) was one of the first directors I knew by name, along with Hitchcock and Vincente Minnelli. I was terribly disappointed to miss in 1997 a retrospective of his work at the Portuguese Cinematheque, simply because I was living quite far off and transport links made it nearly impossible to go. I remember I was particularly sad to miss “The Philadelphia Story”. For a while, he was my favourite director. Funnily enough, it was that film that made me change my mind. It never really lived to the hype.

Before “The Philadelphia Story”, I had seen “Camille” (which is absolutely wonderful and probably my favourite of his films) and probably “My Fair Lady”, “Adam’s Rib”, “What Price Hollywood?” (which to this day I regret not having recorded), “Gaslight” and “A Double Life”. All of which I had liked very much, especially the first three. But I don’t know why the bitter disappointment of the Katharine Hepburn vehicle was too much. And then for a while all the films I saw, including some already on DVD were disappointments (“The Women”, “Sylvia Scarlett”, “A Star is Born” and most significantly, most things with Judy Holliday).

But I have changed my opinion of him a bit in the passing years. Especially when I finally got to see a retrospective of his work, this time in London, shortly I moved here in late 2004. And what first stroke me was how underrated his “minor” films were. Up to that point, pretty much all of the titles I had seen of his were his “major” works. And suddenly, here I was in love with “Keeper of the Flame”, “Edward, my son”, “Bhowani Junction”, “Our Betters”. More than that, “Susan and God” and especially “A Woman’s Face” really introduced me to Joan Crawford, just before several of her films made it into DVD. It made me more aware that Time, while usually a good judge, may occasionally let a few things slip through the cracks.

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