Nov 8, 2011

Cukor used his actors, quite blatantly, as his surrogates. “If I were very handsome, maybe I’d have been an actor”, he once said wistfully, in an interview. Almost every on-set photo of Cukor shows him shamelessly acting out with and egging on his actors. “I don’t weep or anything, but there’s always some part of me left bloody on the scene I’ve just directed”, he said. Early on, high-style Ina Claire and glittering, heartless Constance Bennett were ideal Cukor women. But his main creation was Katharine Hepburn.

In Hepburn, Cukor found a woman who exemplified everything he believed in and everything he wanted to be. Thus, a butch but vulnerable actress became the seminal artistic creation of a sensitive but thrillingly earthy gay man. There’s a 1940s photograph of the two of them with matching open-mouthed smiles: they have become each other, for a moment or more, and together they created the idea of Katharine Hepburn, a grand and ennobling and essentially solitary idea. George Cukor is Katharine Hepburn, and vice versa. They helped, long before it was fashionable, to de-stabilise the sexes, and they provided an example to lyrical loners everywhere.

Dan Callahan, “Great Directors: George Cukor" Senses of Cinema (October 2004)