George Cukor


(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

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George Cukor nacque nel 1899 a Broadway da genitori ebrei di origine magiara; avviato agli studi di legge perchè possa continuare la carriera dei genitori (entrambi avvocati), il giovane Cukor preferisce però il mondo dello spettacolo che è di casa nel suo quartiere; diventa assiduo frequentatore di teatri e, alla fine della guerra, non ancora ventenne, decide di seguire la propria vocazione; in breve passa da assistente di teatro secondari a regista di testi importanti all'Empire Theatre di Broadway. La massiccia migrazione di "voci" da Broadway a Hollywood che seguì l'invenzione del sonoro coinvolse anche il giovane e già apprezzato regista, che nel 1929 entrava ufficialmente nel mondo del cinema con mansioni di assistente e dialoghista. Nel giro di un anno impara il mestiere e dal 1930 la Paramount gli affida la versione cinematografica di alcune commedie di successo. Nel 1931 lavorava alle dipendenze di Lubitsch, il dominatore della commedia brillante.

A questo punto la formazione di Cukor era completa. La dipendenza dal teatro, i soggetti leggeri, lo sfarzo delle scenografie, l'attenta caratterizzazione dei personaggi femminili, che aveva appreso da Broadway e da Lubitsch, formavano una felice sintesi cinematografica della commedia teatrale.

Cukor rappresenta un caso unico di fusione fra arte del palcoscenico e arte dello schermo. Le esperienze teatrale gli hanno insegnato a come districarsi nella direzione degli attori senza bisogni di ricorrere a effetti particolari, nonchè a sfruttare nel modo più efficace i dialoghi, piegando eventualmente la macchina da presa alle necessità verbali del film, tutto pur di non perdere un grammo di verve della recitazione teatrale. Le esperienze scenografiche si traducono in minuziose ricostruzioni di ambienti, che da sole sanno creare l'atmosfera fine ed elegante, di buon gusto e di grazia, supporto naturale delle sue storie.

Di suo Cukor portò un'eccezionale sensibilità psicologica, che fece risaltare sopratutto nei ritratti femminili, guadagnandosi l'appellativo di maggior regista di attrici (su tutte Hepburn).

What Price hollywood (1932) è la prova generale di uno dei temi più cari a Cukor: il mondo dello spettacolo; l'amarezza, per i compromessi e le rinunce che bisogna accettare sulla via del successo, e l'entusiasmo che deriva dalla fama formano un impasto di sentimenti unico.

Mary, an ambitious waitress in a Hollywood restaurant, who one night waits on a famous director. The director, Max, is so drunk that, for a laugh, invites her to go to a film opening on an old dusty car. When they arrive, the crowd is amused, but she steals the show and the following morning the gossip columns talk about the mysterious lady. The director doesn't remember anything but Mary is smart to take her chance and make an impression the director's boss, a foreign-born producer who decides to turn her into a star. At the same time the producer warns the director that his passion for alcohol is beginning to take a toll on the quality of his movies. Both predictions turn out true. To start with, Mary becomes a famous actress. While watching a game of polo, Mary meets the aristocratic millionaire Lonny, to whom she is soon married (after a bout of ferocious quarreling) with much pomp and publicity. On the set Max spars with Lonny, who is interfering with the shooting of the film. Their lifestyles and their friends are too different, and they keep arguing. One night Max shows up drunk in their bedroom, and Lonny has had enough. Lonny divorces Mary, who is pregnant, while the drunkard Max fades into obscurity.
Years later the only man who is still around her is the good producer. Max's attorney calls that Max has been arrested. Mary rescues him, indifferent to the fact that this will increase the gossip. She even brings him home, hoping to restore his mental health, but instead he grabs a gun and shoots himself. The scandal kills her career as well. She has to move abroad for the sake of protecting her child. Lonny finds her and begs her for forgiveness. At the same time the producer wants her back to restart her career.
It's a sloppy film with a stereotyped plot.

Lo stesso anno Cukor scopre il più grande talento di attrice di Hollywood, una novellina di nome Katharine Hepburn, e le affida la parte principale di Bill of Divorcement (1932), adapted from Clemence Dane's play (1921): l'umanità del regista e i capricci dell'attrice avrebbero formato uno dei sodalizi più fruttuosi di Hollywood. Hepburn, valente recitatrice e non soltanto figurino da vetrina, era l'attrice ideale che un intenditore come Cukor non poteva lasciarsi sfuggire. La commedia teatrale era fitta di momenti patetici: Hepburn vive con la madre, che sta per risposarsi, ma si vede piombare in casa il padre, evaso dal manicomio in cui è ricoverato, e si sacrifica per consolarlo e accudirlo, vivendo col terrore di essere anche lei affetta dalla follia.

During a Christmas party at the mansion of a wealthy family, the owner, Meg is planning to marry her suitor, Gray, after having divorced her husband, Hilary (John Barrymore), while her lively daughter Sydney (Katherine Hepburn) is getting engaged with her boyfriend Kit. Hilary's sister Hester, who lives in the house with Meg and Sydney, disapproves of both marriages. It turns out that Hilary has been hospitalized in a mental asylum for many years. Sydney is alone at home when suddenly the asylum calls that Hilary has escaped after weeks of improvements in his conditions; and minutes later he enters the house. Sydney tries to explain to him that a lot of things have changed. When Meg returns home, it's a shock. Hilary behaves as if nothing has changed in all those years, and the women can't muster the courage to tell him. When Meg finally breaks the news to Hilary that she has divorced him, he goes mad again. The family's doctor convinces him to return to the asylum. But the doctor also has to admit to the perspicacious Sydney that there is madness in their family (she always thought that her father had been just shell-shocked during the war), and that it might resurface in her children, if she ever has any. Hilary seems to accept that he is simply not wanted back in his family, but then he breaks down and begs Meg to let him stay. He is afraid of the loneliness. He is willing to be just her dog. Seeing him cry, she can't resist and accepts him back into her life. In the meantime Sydney breaks the news to Kit that she should never marry and loses him forever.
Meg tells Gray that their wedding is over, but Gary insists. It is Sydney who convinces her to take off with Gray: Sydney volunteers to spend the rest of her life taking care of her father, and she knows that she can do a better job than Meg would do. Hilary accepts Meg's departure, because he loves her and wants her to be happy. Kit is calling her from outside, but Sydney closes the curtains of the window.
It's a (very) mediocre adaptation of what was, to start with, a verbose play.

Dopo il mondo dello spettacolo, la terza molla del cinema di Cukor è la depressione, che fa la sua comparsa fra le righe di Dinner at Eight (1933, from the play by George Kaufman and Edna Ferber), tragi-commedia che si presta anche come critica sociale. Il film descrive semplicemente i preparativi per una cena fra grassi borghesi, ciascuno colto nel suo ambiente, formalmente integro ma in realtà dilaniato da una crisi acutissima; è una sfilata di miserie, fisiche e morali, nascoste sotto il decoro dei vestiti e dei sorrisi; volgarità, falsità bruttura, amoralità, sono accoppiate in un intreccio grottesco quasi pornografico; le maschere del perbenismo sono squarciate, una società decadente è colta mentre rovina nel baratro della stupidità. Il caos del ridicolo è concepito per far ridere, ma ogni risata è un'infelicità morbosa, un fallimento, una condanna a morte, un suicidio. I dialoghi fra marito e moglie, o fra amanti, svelano tutta la grettezza e la meschinità dei loro caratteri.
Il groviglio è inestricabile: l'anziana attrice è l'amante del padrone di casa, che è appena stato rovinato dall'uomo d'affari, la cui moglie è l'amante del medico, ed è ricattata da una squallida cameriera, mentre la figlia del padrone di casa è innamorata dell'attore, alcoolizzato e presto suicida; la padrona di casa è un'oca egoista che non si rende conto di nulla e pensa unicamente alla riuscita del pranzo. Il sipario cala quando i convitati siedono a tavola e un cameriere chiude la porta della sala da pranzo: là dentro si consuma un rito orrendo, che la macchina da presa non ha il coraggio di seguire. Il dualismo "Pirandelliano" dei personaggi che recitano all'infinito la propria parte viene storpiato da Cukor nel modo più crudele, per ridere di loro, delle loro vite fallite; l'ironia della tragedia è una prassi da teatro greco, qui tradotta in gag che sembrano soltanto spiritose e sono invece umilianti.

The vain socialite Millicent is organizing a dinner for the high society. She tells her husband Oliver (Lionel Barrymore), a wealthy business man, that a lord and a lady will attend. Their daughter Paula seems indifferent to the imminent return of her fiance Ernest from Europe, and simply announces that she is going to a concert. Millicent phones her friend Lucie that the aristocrats have accepted her invitation. At his office Oliver chats with his employees about the mysterious entity that has been trying to buy the stock of his shipping line. He receives the visit of Carlotta, an old woman who used to be a star of the theater. Oliver used to be in love with her (he even proposed to her, but she rejected him), and she is still single. She confesses that she is broke and needs help. But Oliver has his own financial problems and cannot help her. Another business man, Dan, interrupts them. Dan is more vulgar than any of them. He got rich with mining. Oliver asks him for help with his shipping business. Dan pretends to be indifferent, but offers to take a look at his proposal just out of friendship. Oliver's trusted assistant tells him that he doesn't trust Dan at all. Oliver, who was holding a hand on his heart, feels weak and has to sit down. Just then Millicent phones, worried that she cannot find a single man to balance Carlotta. Oliver asks her the favor of inviting Dan and his wife to the dinner, hoping that it will help close the deal. Just then their cousin Hattie walks into Millicent's room and overhears of the dinner, but Millicent, a bit embarrassed, tells her that it's just a small affair (clearly she wants to invite nobility and celebrities, not undistinguished relatives). Millicent phones Dan's wife Kitty (Jean Harlow), a dumb blonde who is excited to be invited to a party of the refined society. She is no less vulgar than her husband. She is lying in bed all day, pretending to be sick and eagerly waiting for the doctor. When Dan arrives, he tells her that in reality he's very excited about acquiring Oliver's shipping line, although not on Oliver's terms but using other, less honorable financial methods. He calls Oliver a "sucker" and scorns the dinner. Kitty protests that he is ruining her social life (probably non-existent). Then she casually mentions that the lord and lady are also invited, and that changes the mind of the scheming Dan. His wife is no less scheming: she's having an affair with the doctor, Wayne, who walks in the moment Dan walks out.
Millicent, still looking for a single man for her dinner, phones Larry (John Barrymore), an old movie star. What she cannot see is that her teenager daughter Paula is with him in his hotel room, and both are wearing pajamas. Larry would rather decline the invitation, but Paula insists and he accepts. Larry, an old philadering alcoholic (who has been married three times), realizes that he is an embarrassing situation and advises Paula to go back to her fiance Ernest. But Paula simply does not love Ernest. They are interrupted by Larry's agent Max. Paula leaves leaves Larry's room just when Carlotta is passing by.
When they are alone, Max tells Larry that a deal has fallen apart. He was supposed to be the lead actor in a stage play, but the producer has changed, and the new producer wants another lead actor. Larry can only get a minor role in the play. Larry has no choice but to accept. He is ruined. When Max leaves, Larry gets drunk. He calls the bellboy and orders food, but the boy has received orders from the hotel not to give him any more credit. Larry frantically packages some of his valuables to sell them and get some money.
At Wayne's office a nurse is holding Oliver's health card. Dan's wife Kitty phones, and Wayne's gentle wife Lucy overhears their conversation. She knows of his infidelity, but she is also understanding and willing to forgive. Just then Oliver needs Wayne's attention because of his chest pain. Wayne tells him it's nothing to worry, but Oliver replies that he knows: the illness is serious, and Oliver doesn't have long to live.
At Oliver's home his wife is desperate. The day of the dinner has come, but one disaster follows the other. There was a fight between two servants, and one stabbed the other. Now one is in the hospital and the other one is in jail. During the fight the cook dropped the aspic on the floor. Carlotta walks in and she is in a bad mood, and clearly not excited about the evening's plan. She came to tell him that she sold the stock she owned in his shipping line. Oliver senses trouble. Millicent receives a phone call that the lady and the lord have left town and therefore will not attend her dinner. Millicent is hysterical. Paula walks in and tries to tell her mother about Larry, but Millicent doesn't let her talk. And Millicent gets even angrier when Oliver tries to tell her that he needs to rest. She thinks that all the trouble of the world is that her dinner is ruined. She is totally unaware of what was going on in the real world.
Dan is singing in the bathroom, happy that he is about to achieve his goal of buying Oliver's shipping line. His wife manages to upset him. They have a heated argument. She reminds her of the joint she came from. Kitty shouts at him that she has been cheating on him (he is too dumb to understand that it's the doctor, the only man who has visited her). He shouts back that he'll divorce her. She shouts back that she can blackmail him because she knows what means he has used to try and acquire Oliver's shipping line. The scandal could ruin his political ambitions. She wants to be treated like a lady by the high society, and doesn't want her husband's shadowy dealings to endanger her first chance. Her maid, in turn, blackmails her to keep her mouth shut about the doctor.
At Larry's hotel room Larry's agent Max introduces Larry to new producer Jo. Larry, drunk as usual, insults the producer and loses the job. Max confronts him: he is just a failed actor. After Max leaves, he begs the bellboy to find him some liquor. Even the bellboy is not willing to lend him money. The hotel manager finds an excuse to ask him to leave. Larry breaks down in tears, then kills himself with the gas.
The action kept moving from one domestic place to another, slowly creating a fresco of life in the high society during the Great Depression.
Now the time for the dinner has come. The string orchestra is playing sweet melodies. Millicent was so desperate that she had to invite their cousins Hattie and Ed. Dan and Kitty arrive. Dan is disappointed to learn that the lord and the lady won't attend: it was his only reason to come. Wayne shakes hands with Dan, who is still clueless. Paula takes Ernest in a separate room and is about to disclose the truth when Carlotta barges in. She asks to be left alone with Paula. Carlotta confronts Paula about her affair with Larry and breaks the news of the suicide to her. Paula breaks down but Carlotta (probably having learned from her own experience) advises her to forget the whole affair and stick to her fiance. Oliver collapses, and Wayne tells Millicent the truth. Millicent finally understands how selfish and blind she has been all the time, and begs Oliver for forgiveness. The guests are finally shuffled towards the dining table. Forced by Kitty, Dan announces to Oliver that he has prevented the takeover of the shipping line, pretending that he had nothing to do with it.
The film is an acrobatic show of dialogues, but credit goes to the playwrights, not to the director.

Dal 1933 al 1936 Cukor abbandonò la commedia sofisticata per dedicarsi a quella di costume. Si comincia con Little women, adattamento dal celebre romanzo ottocentesco per signorine di sapore vittoriano; ricostruito con perizia di scenografia e di costumi l'ambiente puritano della provincia, Cukor vi lancia a briglia sciolta Hepburn, nei panni della sorella più esuberante affezionatissima alle altre tre con le quali vive nel loro nido raccolte attorno attorno alla madre. Dopo David Copperfield, altro melodrammatico adattamento vittoriano e altro colossale successo di cassetta.

Sylvia Scarlett (1935) was the least refined comedy of the period, with an improbable plot and acted in a clumsy vaudevillian style, but also one of the boldest.

Sylvia (Katherine Hepburn) is the only daughter of a good man who lost money playing cards in Marseilles and needs to leave France. She gives him the money that her mother left her when she died, and only asks to go with him. In order to avoid the police search, she decides to dress like a boy and to become Sylvester. They plan to smuggle some expensive lace into England and make a lot of money out of it. On the boat they meet the handsome adventurer Jimmy (Cary Grant), and the old man makes the mistake of telling him their little scheme. It turns out that Jimmy is smuggling something himself and, to divert attention, he turns Sylvia's father in to the customs officials. Nonetheless in London the trio joins forces to carry out little scams, with Sylvia still maintaining she is a boy (and she behaves very much like a rascal, arguing all the time with Jimmy). Sylvia/Sylvester, her father, Jimmy and a servant who is an old friend of Jimmy (and almost helped them rob her masters) set out as itinerant comedians, using the maid's savings. During a performance they meet a painter who is captivated by Sylvester's tough attitude and invites them over to the villa. Sylvia falls in love with him, but then can't help wreaking havoc as usual when the painter's snobbish Russian girlfriend offends them, and in any case she is still a boy for everybody. Frustrated that she can't reveal her good looks to the artist, she steals women's clothes at the beach and then surprises the artist. He is amused but does not fall in love. In fact, when the Russian girlfriend shows up, and she understands that Sylvia is in love with the painter, he makes fun of the whole idea, Sylvia being just a child. And he kisses the Russian girl in front of Sylvia. Sylvia is heartbroken and goes back to her folks, mocked by Jimmy. Her father is also the victim of heartbreak when the maid, with whom he fell in love, leaves him. He ventures outside in a storm looking for her and falls to his death from a cliff. Now Jimmy turns out to be her only friend. Next Sylvia saves the life of the Russian girl, who tries to drown herself. She is generous enough that she wants the painter to repent for making the woman unhappy, while Jimmy thinks that she is wasted with the spoiled artist. While Sylvia brings the news to the painter, Jimmy takes off with the Russian girl, who is still unconscious. Sylvia and the painter chase them, but lose their trail. On the other hand, a woman recognizes Sylvia's dress as her own, and minutes later Sylvia is back into her male outfit. As she is driving like a maniac, a police officer stops her and, thinking they are a couple of violent young men, arrests both of them. When they are released, they get on a train, where the other couple also happens to be, except that the Russian girl is yelling all the time at Jimmy, while Sylvia and the painter get along more than well. In the end, the painter and Sylvia pretend they didn't see the other couple, get out of the train and kiss, while Jimmy, seeing them from the window, continues his journey with the Russian girl. A Marsiglia Sylvia, orfana di madre, segue il padre che, ricercato dalla polizia per i suoi imbrogli, deve fuggire dalla Francia. A Londra si mettono in società con un giovane saltimbanco che vive di espedienti (Cary Grant) e che li crede entrambi maschi, poichè lei si è tagliata i capelli e veste da ragazzo. Assume di nuovo le sembianze femminili quando i tre capitano alla villa di un distinto pittore, fra le braccia del quale va a cadere, provocando il tentato suicidio dell'ex-fidanzata russa e infine un doppio accoppiamento: lei e il pittore, il saltimbanco e la contessa. Il film è tutto una trasgressione delle regole della commedia di costume: tanto per cominciare il costume è falso (gli abiti da maschio per la spumeggiante ragazzina), poi la trama è maliziosa se non ambigua (la piccante promiscuità del terzetto di avventurieri, con impulsi incestuosi fra padre e figlia e impulsi omosessuali fra il saltimbanco e il "ragazzo"; e una miriade di indizi: dallo scambio dei patner al bacio che la contessa dà a Hepburne sia pure in abiti maschili), infine l'apertura e la chiusura entrambe all'insegna della morte (la madre al principio, ilpadre alla fine).

Non insensibile al fascino della commedia più lirica di Shakespeare,Twelfth night,anch'essa giocata sull'ambiguità di un travestimento, Cukor rappresenta un capolavoro metafisico sull'amore e sull'arte. L'amore in tutte le sue manifestazioni (l'amore filiale per la madre morta e per il padre imbroglione, amore adolescenziale per il pittore, amicizia fra il "ragazzo" e il saltimbanco, amore passionale della contessa russa per il pittore e amore di sconforto della stessa per il "ragazzo") presiede tanto all'inoltrarsi nel labirinto delle gag quanto alla produzione di piacere e di dolore, entrambi questi sentimenti trasfusi dagli occhi luminosi di un'adolescente tenera e vivace. L'inseguimento nel labirinto vede Sylvia inseguire il pittore, il saltimbanco inseguire Sylvia, il pittore la contessa, la contessa Sylvia, il saltimbanco la contessa e infine il pittore Sylvia, che chiude il cerchio e fa svanire il labirinto. La molteplice crisi sentimentale di Sylvia (pietosa nei confronti del padre, maliziosa col saltimbanco, calda con il poeta, fredda con la contessa) procura i sorrisi e le lacrime che illuminano il film.

L'arte come finzione è alla base di tutta l'architettura: Hepburn interpreta Sylvia, che si traveste da ragazzo, che fa il saltimbanco e che finge di essere stato derubato; ma ogni personaggio della quadriglia è un travestimento, un clown: il pittore, il saltimbanco,la contessa sono come maschere della commedia dell'arte, tant'è che si accoppiano in barba allle più elementari regole etniche e sociali; ciascuno di loro si maschera poi in altro modo a seconda delle circostanze.

Il succo della commedia sta certamente nella squisita interpretazione della Hepburn, che conia un personaggio di trama femminile alternativo a quello di Chaplin: altrettanto commosso dalla vita, tenero e poetico, ma più fragile e per nulla anarchico, amante anzi dell'ordine più rigido, quello domestico. Il suo sincero pianto d'amore, e il suo sincero divertimento quando imbroglia il prossimo ne fanno un personaggio al tempo stesso profondamente umano e un po' soprannaturale, angelo folletto fantasma.

Dopo Romeo and Juliet, nel solco Shakespeariano, Cukor diresse Camille (1937), affidando la parte della Signora delle Camelie a Greta Garbo ed esagerando in eleganza e sontuosità.

Nel 1938 Cukor torna al teatro e alla coppia Hepburn-Grant con Holiday, adattamento di una commedia di Philip Barry.

John (Grant) e` un umile venditore di noccioline che si e` innamorato follemente di una ragazza senza saper nulla del suo passato. Si reca a casa sua e scopre che si tratta di un palazzo principesco con tanto di servitu`. Scopre cosi` che Julia e` la figlia viziata e capricciosa di un miliardario e fa la conoscenza del fratello ubriacone, mancato musicista, e della sorella matta Linda (Hepburn). Dopo la morte della madre, la famiglia si trascina all'insegna della volgarità e dell'ipocrisia. Linda e` completamente diversa dai fratelli e dal padre: ricorda con tenerezza la madre, si rifugia in una stanza dove conserva tutti i suoi giocattoli, e sogna l'amore. E` del tutto estranea alla società degli snob, alle convenzioni mondane, ai valori della borghesia ricca.
Linda e` divertita dall'idea che uno squattrinato sposi una ricca ereditiera ed e` felice quando Julia riesce a ottenere il permesso del padre. La notte di capodanno, pero`, al gigantesco party di fidanzamento, i conoscenti spettegolano sulle povere finanze del ragazzo. Linda, disgustata dallo sfarzo, si barrica in camera dove la raggiungono i due amici di John, anche loro imbarazzati dalla folla di riccastri altezzosi, e poi il fratello musicista. Julia manda John a convincere Linda a unirsi al party perche' gli invitati cominciano a mormorare. Ma invece John si unisce all'allegro party improvvisato nella camera di Linda. Arrivano Julia e il padre in persona a persuadere Linda e John a unirsi con gli altri invitati. Per salvare le apparenze, il padre di Julia ha deciso di fabbricargli una carriera a Wall Street. Il giovane è un anti-conformista che non crede nel dio-denaro e rifiuta il posto. Julia e il padre sono shockati e l'unica a rimanergli al fianco e` Linda. John e` sul punto di baciarla, ma Linda lo manda da Julia a salvare il loro fidanzamento. I convitati festeggiano il nuovo anno e il padre annuncia ufficialmente il fidanzamento. Ma Julia e` ancora in lacrime per il comportamento di John e Linda si decide finalmente a scendere e unirsi alla festa con l'obiettivo di rimettere in sesto le cose. Troppo tardi: John ha lasciato il party, rifiutando di fatto le sontuose nozze che il padre sta progettando. Il giorno dopo John propone a Julia una fuga romantica, che lei rifiuta scandalizzata. Linda tenta invano di convincere la sorella a seguire l'istinto romantico, ma John non ha speranze in quell'ambiente ipocrita. John e Linda, entrambi malati di romanticismo cronico, fuggono insieme.

La satira dei ricchi non viene sfruttata come in Dinner at Eight perchè Cukor è più interessato a studiare i palpiti del cuore di quest'altra adolescente, e a far trionfare l'immaginario sul reale. La caratterizzazione del vecchio arido e ipocrita, del fratello cinico e dissoluto, della sorella fatua e scema, sono potenti; ma il nucleo del film è quella camera, zeppa di sentimenti ingenui, che stacca la ragazza dal turpe mondo dei suoi e la libra in un mondo più leggero, etereo. Ancora un angelo folletto che ride e piange in mezzo agli uomini.

La tendenza all'introspezione dell'animo femminile manifestata in Sylvia Scarlet e Holiday giunge al culmine con Women (1936), dalla commedia di Clare Boothe, un film interpretato (e sceneggiato) da donne.

Wives of wealthy men spend all their time gossiping about each other, and particularly about Mary, whose husband Steve has been is cheating on her with Crystal, a scheming girl who works as a simple clerk at a perfume shop. Mary learns about it by accident and is devastated. Her mother gives her old-fashioned advice, but Mary believes that women are equal to men, not slaves. Her nosiest friend, Sylvia, visits Crystal's shop just to see the culprit. When Mary and Crystal are in the same place at the same time, Sylvia advises her to confront Crystal. Mary does it in a ladylike manner, but Crystal challenges her. And wins: Steve (who never appears in the film) and Mary separate.
Mary goes to live in the mountains, and meets other single women, including the pretty Miriam. Sylvia can't resist and visits her. It turns out that Crystal has also been betrayed by her husband, and she meets her rival, Miriam, right there. A big fight ensues, that exposes Sylvia as a very unhappy woman. The truth is that Sylvia gossips so much because she rejoyces in seeing another woman in her own condition.
Miriam accuses Mary of not having fought for her husband, of having "deserted" him. Just when Mary is mustering the strength to counterattack, Steve calls to tell her that he married Crystal. Crystal has definitely won.
It turns out that Sylvia has been behaving like best friend to Crystal. Crystal also finds her intolerable, but has been using her, just like she has been using Steve. Steve is not happy at all, and the word gets to Mary via their daughter. Mary decides it is time to fight her rival head on. She confronts Sylvia with a popular gossip, claiming that she heard it from Crystal. That's enough to have Sylvia tell everybody what Crystal has been up to: cheating Steve with an even richer married man. Crystal arrives in time to see the gossipers (that now include Mary) smile that they now have something to nail her. But Crystal is not afraid of losing Steve: she's sure of getting the richer man. Except that that man's wife is part of the "women" and reveals that her husband has no money. Crystal takes it philosophically: she's heading back to the perfume shop. Steve is outside calling on Mary, who is ready to forgive him.
It is a virtuoso script in that it omits the male parts and focuses on women scheming against each other and against men.

La trama è piuttosto scarna. Una borghese scopre dopo dieci anni di matrimonio che il marito la tradisce con una commessa e, seguendo i consigli delle amiche, finisce per perderlo. Divorzio e un nuovo matrimonio del marito non la scoraggiano: comincia la sua battaglia per sconfiggere la rivale, anche se i consigli delle amiche la gettano spesso fuori strada. La commedia è vivacizzata però dalle continue interferenze di queste petulanti comari, che hanno sempre effetti deleteri sui piani della moglie tradita; fra le righe si legge anche lo squallore delle loro vite e la gioia che provano nel vedere un'altra negli stessi guai. Il film è corale proprio perchè tutte e sette le donne contribuiscono allo svolgimento; temibile l'esercito delle amiche (Cukor è maestro nel reclutare gruppi assortiti in modo bizzarro: un'ingenua, una pettegola fatua ed eccentrica, una contessa pluri-divorziata, una ballerina ebrea reduce da troppe avventure, un'intrigante giornalista mondana. La rivale (Joan Crawford) è la tipica gatta ammaliatrice, mentre la vittima è un personaggio più umano, conteso fra un'apparenza di donna come le altre e una realtà di moglie affezionata in piena crisi.

La direzione di Cukor è maniacale (persino cani, gatti e uccelli sono femminili), a tratti degenera nel burlesque, a tratti nel melodrammone; esplora tutto ciò che ha a che vedere con la donna, dai figli al sesso. La critica sociale di altri film sembra in certi momenti degenerare in misoginia bella e buona, con le donne ridotte ad oche pettegole e a iene depravate, a bestie stupide e chiassose, prive di dignità. In altri momenti si passa all'apologia della donna incompresa, della donna sfruttata, che sopporta e risorge, buona bella e furba.

Il film è in realtà il solito gioco delle parti: ognuna recita una personalità, mentre nell'intimo è tutt'altro (in meglio o in peggio). A questa finzione implicita si aggiunge quella esplicita del filmino e della sfilata di moda, due show dentro lo show.

After a mediocre adaptation of Rachel Crothers's play Susan And God (1940),

Philadelphia Story (1940) ripropone l'alleanza Cukor-Barry e la coppia Hepburn-Grant; il personaggio di Hepburn è capovolto rispetto a Holiday.

The first scene shows Dexter (Gary Grant) moving out of the mansion he has been sharing with his wife Tracy (Katherine Hepburn) in a rather unfriendly manner. Two years later the newspapers announce the wedding of the wealthy socialite Tracy with George, to be celebrated at the mansion of Tracy's mother. Her father Seth doesn't live with her mother anymore: she dumped him because of his philandering reputation. Her sister Dinah is the only one who misses Dexter and hopes that something happens to disrupt the wedding. Dinah heard rumours that Dexter was driven to drinking by Tracy's cold and puritanical behavior. In the meantime reporter Mike (James Stewart) and photographer Liz are summoned by publisher Sidney. Sidney who wants them to write an article on the wedding, and Mike is furious because he deems it degrading. The publisher has an ace up his sleeve: the whole plan has been architected by Dexter. Dexter shows up uninvited at Tracy's residence and quickly shows his motif. He tells Tracy that Sidney's tabloid is ready to publish a story about her father's erotic adventures unless she allows a reporter and a photographer to document her wedding for the masses. Dexter knows that this will be a humiliation for the haugthy and aristocratic Tracy. Tracy has no choice but to accept. The first meeting between the princess and the reporters doesn't go exactly as planned. It's Tracy who questions the journalists. She keeps inquiring about their relationship, and they are embarrassed to answer. Tracy guesses that Liz was married before, something that she never told Mike. It's Tracy who puts them on the defensive, rather than the other way around.
George is a mediocre politician who briefly appears but is mostly ignored in the film.
Tracy is curious about a book that Mike read, and Mike finds her in the public library reading it. The cold Tracy is fascinated by Mike's writing (implying that maybe her frigidity is caused by the men who surround her).
Back home Mike witnesses an argument between Tracy and Dexter in which Dexter describes her as a frigid and pretentious bore, a virgin goddess. In return she tells him how unattractive she found him. Nonetheless it sounds like Dexter is jealous of George and is bitter about being dumped by her.
George worships her "purity". After having read Mike's book, Tracy is uneasy, intrigued by love, real love. And George sounds terribly like she was: cold.
Tracy's father Seth shows up unexpectedly, and her mother doesn't resist his charm. The father does not have kind words for Tracy. He accuses her of being cold hearted. He almost blames her lack of affection for his own escapades. And he definitely blames her for her failed marriage, calling her a "perennial spinster" no matter how many marriages.
She is distressed. Everybody suddenly looks so strange. She is torn between her fiancee, her ex-husband and the reporter. Incapable of dealing with this new emotion, at the party she gets drunk. She keeps dancing with George until George gets bored and goes home. Mike is also drunk and visits Dexter in the middle of the night. He talks too much and eventually tells Dexter something about the publisher that would ruin him. Dexter realizes that he can blackmail the publisher into dropping the blackmail against Tracy. Mike, who never liked the publisher, gets furious upon realizing that he is there only because of blackmail (he didn't know why Tracy accepted to have the reporters around the house) and is happy to cooperate for the downfall of his cynical boss. Basically, a sober Dexter and a drunk Mike get together to save the reputation of Tracy's family.
Later Tracy and Mike, both drunk, dance together in the garden and play like children. Now Tracy has a crisis of self-confidence and self-esteem, and Mike heals her by telling her how magnificent she is, and he kisses her passionately, probably the first time ever that she kisses with passion. In the meantime Dexter has told Liz what is going on with the blackmail of the blackmailer, and shown her the article that Mike just wrote on the publisher. Liz is clearly fascinated by Dexter but still cares for Mike's future.
George arrives worried that he can't find Tracy. Dexter is worried too. Just then Mike enters the house carrying Tracy: they are both half dressed, having just taken a swim. Both George and Dexter are jealous. George knows that nothing seriously happened, but intimates at George that something serious may have indeed happened.
The following morning Mike wakes up in love but Tracy is confused. She is ashamed of what she did. Ironically, the little adventure with Mike has made her realize how horrible she was to Dexter. Nonetheless she wants to go ahead with the wedding and, mostly, she is terrified by what George might think of her. She is right: George sends her a nasty letter. And shows up just when she is reading it aloud. She continues reading it in front of everybody. Obviously George thinks that she cheated on him with Mike. Mike tells George that nothing happened that night while Tracy was drunk. Tracy, who feared otherwise, is upset that Mike did not try more. George is now willing to forgive her, but now she lost any interest in him. She breaks the engagement. Dexter listens quietly, as if he already knew that all of this was going to happen.
Tracy, still obsessed with appearances like all the people of her class, is embarrassed that so many guests have arrived to attend the wedding. She cannot disappoint them. Mike gentlemanly offers to marry her. She is moved but declines. The sarcastic Dexter is now ready to help her get out of trouble: he offers to marry her again. She smiles. And her father is finally proud of her. And her sister Dinah is happy.
The first hour is excruciatingly slow. The plot is intriguing in that it complicates the traditional triangle by introducing so many subplots (she is torn between three men, not two, one of which is engaged and another one was her husband). But the way it is told is neither funny nor exciting. It is only in the second half that the film's pace picks up speed. But even at its best the film is never truly a screwball comedy, or a comedy at all. It is more of a psychological tragedy.

L'immacolata ma arida Hepburn (vista come un'eterna zitella dal padre, come una dea vergine dal marito) deve smettere le sue arie di superiorità morale per scoprire il piacere di vivere. Sullo sfondo si gode il panorama del clan dell'aristocrazia di Philadelphia, preso di mira come sempre da Cukor.

Sul tema della doppia personalità della donna Cukor ricama due film diametralmente opposti.

Woman's Face (1941) is a remake of Molander's film En Kvinnas Ansikte, and inferior to the original. Cukor used an expressionist technique, with lots of chiaroscuro and disturbing close-ups, although the actors play with the attitude of Hollywood comedians.

The story is told by the witnesses who are called at a trial (the first scene shows the characters entering the court and swearing to tell the truth). First off is a fearful waiter who tells the story of how his master, a woman with a disfigured face, Anna, first met a classy dandy, Torsten: the man had just ordered a fancy dinner at their restaurant to entertain a group of friends, but didn't have the money to pay, and the lady accepted to give him credit after he paid a compliment to her eyes. At the end of the testimony the waiter admits that the restaurant was only the storefront for a criminal endeavor.
The next witness, the lady's main assistant, continues the story. The three servants worked for the irascible lady, fully aware of her criminal plans (mostly blackmailing). They were puzzled by Torsten's romantic visits to Anna. This witness describes how they were blackmailing a woman who was a frequent guest of her restaurant, clearly cheating on her husband.
The next witness is the victim herself, a beautiful but vain woman. She tells how Anna came to visit her at home, asking for money and talking to her in a hatred-filled, contemptous tone, as if she was taking revenge on the whole world. Her husband Gustaf, a platic surgeon, came home unexpectedly. Anna tried to hide but he caught her. Thinking she was a thief, he was ready to call the police, but his wife convinced him to let her go. He did more: he offered to fix her face.
Gustaf the surgeon should be the next witness, but the judges istead call Anna herself to the bench. She tells the story of how, as a child, she had her face disfigured by her drunk father. Ridiculed by the world, she decided to take her revenge by devoting herself to crime. But one day the charming gentleman, Torsten, entered her life, and made her desire to be normal again. She accepted the surgeon's offer. She was returned to life by Gustaf.
The surgeon is Frankenstein, the lover is Faust. We still don't know why there is a trial, and it is hard to understand how all these private matters can be related to a criminal investigation.
Anna went back to her lover, who, rather unexcited by her new look, revealed his true interest in her: she wanted her to help him kill someone, a child. He talked her into becoming the governess in a mountain village for the purpose of killing a child, his nephew, who lived with his grandfather the consul of the village. This would make Torsten the heir to the family's title and fortune. Totally dominated by the man, she can't say no. The surgeon, who is vacationing in that village, is pleased to find her again, but can see that something is not right. He follows her and suspects that she is about to harm the boy, but cannot intervene. She is about to carry out the murder but at the last minute she can't find the strength.
The next witness is Gustaf the surgeon, who testifies in her favor, and even admits of being in love with her after having found out about his wife's infidelity. Tosrsten managed to kidnap the child, but Gustaf and Anna chased him. Anna eventually killed him. She was determined to take her own life, and had left a final note for the consul warning him against Torsten. Unfortunately, the consul never received that letter because someone took it.
The judges still don't believe her story and are leaning towards condemning her. But the consul's old servant admits that she stole the letter out of jealousy. The judges read the letter in which she announces her suicide and warns the consul against Torsten. This proves her innocence. Now that she is free, Anna can tell Gustaf that she loves him too.

Two-faced Woman è invece una farsa condotta da una spiritosa Greta Garbo nei panni di una modesta casalinga che, per riaccendere l'amore del marito, finge di avere una sorella gemella spregiudicata, e s'immedesima nella parte esibendo costumi da bagno, scollature e vestaglie al limite della censura.

La coppia per eccellenza sarà di lì a poco rappresentata da Spencer Tracy e Katharine Hepburn. Prova generale dei due è Keeper of the Flame (1942).

Hepburn e` la moglie di un uomo politico morto misteriosamente al quale guardavano i patrioti come a un nuovo Lincoln; lui è un giornalista ficcanaso che riesce a penetrare nella villa della vedova reticente e a scoprire la verità: l'uomo era un pericoloso fascista, capo di un'organizzazione eversiva; la donna, che aveva scoperto i suoi intrighi, non fece nulla per avvertirlo, mentre stava correndo in auto verso un ponte crollato, e, dopo la sua morte volle che la sua memoria non fosse sporcata dalla verità. Giallo, melodramma e propaganda anti-fascista testimoniano l'influenza della guerra: i film sono insolitamente cupi e abbondano di riferimenti a demoni del male.

Her Cardboard Lover (1942) is a comedy in which a girl hires a gigolo to make her fiance jealous.

Cukor presta anche servizio per un breve periodo, ma nel 1944 è di nuovo a Hollywood a dirigere Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight, tratto da una commedia inglese, altro film della serie "europea" e altro giallo, questa volta addirittura di marca hitchcockiana (interpreti e sceneggiatori sono in gran parte europei: ungheresi, austriaci, svedesi, tedeschi e inglesi).
Gaslight (1945), a remake of Thorold Dickinson's Gaslight (1940), which was in turn ad adaptation of Patrick Hamilton's play Gaslight (1938), is a superb psychological thriller. We understand early on who is the villain and who is the victim, but we don't know the motive and what crime exactly he intends to commit.

The story is set in the 19th century. Paula (Ingrid Bergman), an orphan, was raised by her aunt in London, but left the house after her aunt (a famous diva) was mysteriously murdered. She has never recovered from the shock. She meets a good-looking pianist, Gregory, while she is taking singing lessons, and he seduces her. After a brief vacation in Italy, he convinces her to move back to the house that has been empty for ten years. She trusts him even if she knows very little about his past. When they arrive, they meet a kind old lady who was on the train with Paula and who happens to live across the street. Paula is still haunted by the memory of the murder. Her husband behaves in a strange way: he is upset by a letter that she finds, addressed to her aunt a few days before she died, and signed Sergius. He makes her believe that she is forgetful. She hears footsteps from the ceiling. She is guarded so closely by the old deaf cook and especially by the young housemaid whom he hired. A man thinks he recognizes the dead woman when he sees Paula. He waits in front of her house, and hears from the talkative neighbor that Paula never leaves the house. In fact, Paula is psychologically a prisoner: her husband convinces her that she is not well enough to leave the house, and the housemaid makes her feel uncomfortable the only time that she tries. The gentleman who used to know her aunt, Brian, is a detective. Brian digs up the old case and finds out that the case was closed but never solved. Furthermore, some jewels given to the diva by a highly-placed figure were never found. Paula's husband pretends to be a caring and kind husband, but in reality he hampers all her attempts to socialize (he even sends away the old neighbor when she shows up with her "nephew", i.e. the detective) and convinces her that she is imagining things (for example that the maid is hostile, when in fact the maid is very hostile and he is doing everything he can to make her even more hostile towards Paula). He proves to her, in front of the servants, that she is a kleptomaniac. All the while, he flirts with the young housemaid. Then he goes out, leaving the poor woman miserable and alone. And she hears the footsteps and sees the lights flickering. Finally, one evening she insists that they go together to a party. He tries to dissuade her but this time has to give in. Then, at the party, he convinces her that she again committed a kleptomaniac act (stole his watch). She starts crying and they leave, proving to everybody that she is indeed sick. At home, he tells her that she is insane, that he first noticed when she found the letter: it was a blank letter. He tells her that her mother died in a mental asylum. At night, she still hears footsteps. She calls for help, but the old cook is deaf and doesn't hear a thing.
The only one who suspects something is Brian, who has not even talked to her or been in the house. Brian has made sure that a trusted policeman be assigned to that neighborhood. This policeman sees Gregory leave the house every night, and disappear in an alley. He also chats with the maid, and learns that the lady may go away for a long period of time. Brian decides to walk into the house while Gregory is out on his evening walk. He finds a very scared Paula, who first doesn't even want to see him. But she is ecstatic when Brian also sees the lights flicker and hears the footsteps. She was not imagining things. They also find the letter, that Gregory claimed it was blank: not only is it a real letter, but Brian proves that it is the same writing as her husband's. Brian has solved the puzzle: Gregory was her aunt's lover, he killed her, and is now searching the attic every night for the jewels that he couldn't find. He had to marry the heiress in order to get access to the house again. He is trying to put her away for life in a mental asylum so he would not be hampered in his search anymore. That very night, while they are talking, Gregory finds the jewels. Brian leaves the house, and Gregory returns. Brian finds the way through the alley to the attic, and reenters the house in time to confront Gregory in front of Paula. Paula asks to be left alone with her husband, and enjoys torturing psychologically the man who was her torturer.
La suspense, il clima fumoso della Londra vittoriana, sono secondari rispetto all'analisi della psicologia di quest'anima candida, inerme nelle mani del suo persecutore, che giunge alla soglia della schizofrenia, che sopporta con dignità la propria umiliante condizione di incipiente pazza, che agogna i cinque minuti al mese di aria aperta che il marito le concede ed è radiosa quando lui l'accompagna in società, salvo poi crollare miseramente in cui le rinfaccia qualche (falso) sintomo della follia; e sopratutto commuove la sua fede nel marito, che rappresenta la sua unica protezione, l'unica ancora di salvezza, l'unico appiglio: ed è invece un perfido sadico tiranno; e commovente è il momento in cui apprende dall'investigatore di essere sana, che i rumori si sentono davvero, gli oggetti rubati sono nascosti nello scrittoio del marito, insieme con le sue presunte allucinazioni.

Allo splendido ritratto femminile fa da contrasto come al solito la critica dell'aristocrazia. di cui ella medesima è una stupida rappresentante, prigioniera del proprio pudore e vittima della propria fedeltà al matrimonio.

Dopo un po' di film ancora incerti nel tono funereo, Cukor incontra gli sceneggiatori newyorkesi Garion e Ruth Kanin, coi quali produce un altro film sul doppio, A Double Life, storia di un attore che finisce per credersi realmente Otello, strangola per gelosia una cameriera e si suicida; ma questo film rappresenta anche il ritorno al mondo dello spettacolo e, tutto sommato, al registro comico, poiché l'abile sceneggiatura fa sì che tutto proceda secondo versi celebri di tragedie celebri e l'effetto di una tragedia costruita tagliuzzando tragedie è alquanto grottesco.

Le coppie Tracy-Hepburn e Kanin-Kanin precipitano lo scapolo Cukor nel tema finora soltanto lambito: il matrimonio; e dato il caratterino delle due donne il tema non può che tingersi di femminismo.

Adam's Rib (1943), sceneggiato da Ruth Gordon e Garson Kanin, è un verboso esercizio di pungenti schermaglie fra marito e moglie, entrambi avvocati, che si trovano a dover sostenere lui la causa di un uomo che la moglie ha tentato di uccidere, lei la difesa della donna (Judy Holliday) che ha agito (goffamente: per sparare ha dovuto prima leggere le istruzioni) per legittima gelosia; il concetto tradizionale del matrimonio (Tracy) e quello femminista (Hepburn) si scontrano prima in tribunale e poi a casa; gli antagonisti finiscono per riconciliarsi, dopo una sequela di colti e arguti battibecchi. Ognuno dei due personaggi è sdoppiato in sè e nel suo cliente.

An ordinary woman is following an ordinary business man through the crowded streets of the big city. When someone hits her and she drops her bag, we see that it contains a revolver. She follows him into a building. When he walks into an apartment, she pulls out the revolver and the instructions. She reads the instructions, breaks into the apartment and starts shooting at the man while keeping her eyes closed. Needless to say, she mostly misses her target and only manages to wound him.
The following morning the newspaper report the story of the jealous woman. Doris (Judy Holliday), who tried to kill her unfaithful husband Warren in the presence of his lover.
Adam (Spencer Tracy) and Amanda (Katherine Hepburn) wake up in their bedroom. They are both lawyers. He is the district attorney who will have to prosecute the case. While she gives her a ride to the office, she lectures him about the fact that men and women are still treated differently by society, and therefore this woman had to take the law into her hands. Adam is under pressure to deliver a quick conviction. Amanda, furious in hearing that the poor woman has already been declared guilty before the trial even started, decides to take up her defense. Adam visits the man at the hospital and finds his girlfriend there. In the meantime Amanda interrogates Doris in prison. Doris tells her the story of a stereotypical middle-class family, with three children, except that the man abused her and cheated on her. Adam and Amanda cannot argue freely at home because they have guests for dinner: Kip and Emerald, who write songs for Broadway shows. But the conversation provides more ammunition for friction between the lawyers. When the guests are gone, they yell at each other. The following day they are in court for the first day of the trial. That starts a routine: they argue in court, sometimes harshly, but then they are tender lovers at home. But eventually rage boils over. His wife breaks down in tears. His paternalistic attitude towards her tears further infuriates her. In court she is ever more determined to turn the trial into a feminist platform. She even calls as witnesses three women who have nothing to do with the case, but simply serve the cause of proving that women can be successful in all disciplines. Adam is clearly ticked by Amanda's behavior in court. At night Adam walks out of the house. On the last day of the trial, Amanda begs the jury to judge the woman the same way they would judge a man. Her manners get on Adam's nerves, who loses his temper during the final haringue The jury finds Doris not guilty. Doris breaks down in tears, then she is reunited with her children, and the press takes pictures of her, her husband and the lover as if it were the cast of a soap opera.
Adam is humiliated and hardly talks to Amanda. At home Amanda is seduced by Kip. Adam sees it from the window. He walks upstairs, opens the door and finds her in his arms. Adam pulls out a revolver. Now he is in the same situation as Doris. Amanda screams. Amanda begs him. Amanda tells him that nobody has the right to take the law into his hands. That's what Adam wanted to hear: that was precisely his argument at the trial. He smiles, turns the gun to himself and... eats it. It's a candy. Furious, she throws him out.
Each of the two protagonists has a doppelganger in her/his client. The film, with its study of sex roles, looks like a sarcastic commentary on the whole "screwball" genre, and the characters who carry out such as study are the typical protagonists of the screwball comedy, except that now they are analysing themselves through the objects of their tasks. That analysis leads to a proto-feminist affirmation of a woman's right to equality. After all, throughout the golden age of the screwball comedy, the woman had always been presented as smarter than the man.

Desire Me (1947)

Edward, My Son (1949) is a "dark" film, both in the way it is shot and in the tone of the story. This vehement apologue equates obsessive love and cynicism. We never see the protagonist of the film, Edward.

A man (Arnold) walks into a dark room and towards the camera. He introduces himself as a British lord, owner of several large businesses. He wants the audience's opinion on what happened to his son, Edward, who died. The film is therefore a long flashback.
Arnold is a middle-class man, married to a sweet woman. They have a child whom they worshipped. Unfortunately he was born with a physical defect. The family's doctor, Larry, tells Arnold that a surgeon could operate the child bt that requires a huge sum of money. To make matters worse, Arnold has partnered in a business venture with Henry that is failing. They are broke. Arnold comes up with an illegal scheme to raise the sum he needs for his child: he sets fire to the building and collects the insurance.
Years later, Edward is a normal teenager enrolled in one of the most exclusive colleges. Arnold has become a tycoon and a candidate for lordship. Unfortunately, Edward is also a rebel. The college would like to expel him, but Arnold acquires the rights on the college's debts and blackmails the headmaster into keeping Edward. If Arnold spoils him, his mother is getting woried that the child seems to have no morality. She calls Larry, their oldest friend who never married, asking for advice. Larry confesses that he has always been in love with her, and she admits that she has always known. Larry tries to tell Arnold that his amorality has lost him all his friends, but Arnold does not even listen to him.
Edward and his mother go on vacation. Arnold has caused Henry to end up in jail. When he is released, Henry goes to see Arnold and asks for help. He is not so much bitter of having been betrayed and that the traitor has been rewarded by society, but desperate to start a new life. Unfortunately, Arnold does not want to get associated with a former convict because it would hurt his good name and his chances to become a lord. Henry walks out of his office and jumps from the roof to his death. Arnold's reacion is not compassion or guilt, but fear that the scandal may hurt his chances to become a lord. Luckily, Arnold's cunning secretary backs his story and becomes an accomplice in the extended lie that is his business empire. They become lovers.
One night they realize that someone is watching them in the apartment where they meet. It is an enemy of Arnold, set to destroy his reputation. Arnold does not hesitate one second: he fires the faithful secretary and says goodbye.
In the meantime his wife has decided to divorce him because she thinks he is a bad influence on Edward. The only way to save Edward before it is too late is to take him away from his father. But Arnold does not hesitate to use his dirty methods also with his own wife. Knowing that Larry is in love with her and that she has feelings for Larry, Arnold threatens to ruin Larry's career (the career of his best friend). One more time Arnold wins and destroys a human being.
On the eve of World War II, Edward is engaged to get married. Larry learns that Arnold's former secretary has committed suicide and sees that Arnold's wife has become an alcoholic. He witnesses the meeting of Arnold with a girl who is pregnant of Edward and sees how Arnold tries to buy her silence. (She is too proud and simply walks out of the house).
Edward dies in war in a stupid manner. His mother drinks herself to insanity. After the war, Arnold finds out that the pregnant girl gave birth to a child and Larry was his doctor. Arnold tries to extort information about the child, but Larry refuses to help him, afraid that Arnold's obsessive love would destroy the child's life the same way he destroyed Edward's. Arnold walks out determined to find out his own way. But this time the law stops him. The investigation caught up with him and he is finally sent to jail for burning a furniture store. When he comes out of jail, he is talking to the camera (the first scene).

A Life Of Her Own (1950), loosely based on Rebecca West's novel "The Abiding Vision", is a melodrama that does not quite match the mood and themes of Cukor's comedies. The topic is the loneliness of the single woman. It is almost as if Cukor gave us a glimpse of the other side of the female universe. Unfortunately, the tension never quite reaches the required level. Cukor is still Cukor: even in tragedy, he can't help being light and elegant. Thus the apologue feels somewhat inconclusive.

An attractive provincial girl, Lily, comes to New York looking for a career as a model (the actress who plays this girl is not young at all, but the "girl" is supposed to be young). She is befriended by a seasoned model (who is supposed to be much older, although the actress looks about the same age). This older model, Mary, introduces her to the decadent lifestyle of models. They go out with two men, and Mary gets drunk and angry. On the way back home, Mary cries that her life has been a failure. Her last hope is the wealthy man who was flirting with Lily. Lily promises she has no intention of stealing him from her. The following day Lily learns that Mary committed suicide jumping from the window of her apartment. Lily visits her apartment and finds Mary's lover in it. Without wasting any time, the man tries to seduce Lily the same way he once seduced Mary, but Lily tells him (and herself) she has no intention of going down the same route. Lily begins her modeling career and soon becomes a respected model. Her friend Jim, an attorney, introduces her to one of her customers, a wealthy middle-aged married man, Steve, from out of town. Steve and Lily have a wonderful time together, and Lily falls in love with him. Steve has to go back to his business and leaves her a gift: Lily is offended, because it feels like he is paying her for her company. They don't speak for a while, but then Steve decides to move to New York, and they start seeing each other again. He convinces her to take a bigger, nicer apartment with his help. They become lovers. She accepts his presents. She is doing what she swore she would never do.
One day Steve announces that his wife is coming to visit him. She is a sick woman, condemned to a wheelchair. It's Steve's birthday, and Lily has thrown a party for him. He shows up when the party is almost over. Lily realizes that her happiness depends on him, and that she may never find another man. She is now as desperate as Mary was... Lily is determined to fight for Steve, whom she perceives as her only chance for happiness. Thus she decides to confront Steve's wife. But Lily can't go through with it when she realizes how much the woman loves her husband. Lily tells Steve that they have to break up. He had just reached the same conclusion. She walks back into her apartment alone. Depressed, she walks into a lounge, where she meets Mary's old lover, the one she yelled to once. After meeting that cynical man, she stares at the window of her apartment. But then she finds the strength to go on living.

Film minore, Born Yesterday (1950), tratto dalla commedia di Garson Kanin, è una parabola ancora più spinta sulla donna-oggetto che si ribella al maschio sfruttatore.

A middle-aged business man of rather sloppy manners, Harry, takes a room at a luxury hotel in Washington with his fiance, a sexy blonde of even less sophisticated manners, Billy (Judy Holliday). Harry is on a mission to bribe a few politicians. His lawyer Jim advised him to grant a respectable journalist an interview, as a way to get into Washington's politics. The journalist, Paul, turns out to be an educated, mild-mannered, polite fellow. Jim talks Harry into giving Billy some of his assets to cheat the government, and into marrying her to avoid that she could some day be used as a witness against him. Harry is not excited at the idea of marrying her because he finds her too primitive (he doesn't realize that he is even worse) and he is embarrassed to present her in society. Harry comes up with an idea: he hires Paul to educate Billy. When they start, Billy is completely dumb. AS they tour Washington together and she absorbs more and more of his knowledge, she also begins to fall in love with Paul. When she refuses to sign the papers because she now realizes that they are crooked, Harry forces her. She leaves him and runs to Paul. They steal the documents that she was forced to sign, and then they blackmail Harry and Jim. There is nothing the crooks can do when Paul refuses to be bribed and Billy refuses to be intimidated. Billy and Paul take off and get married. La commedia era tre volte critica: verso la solita ipocrita società dei ricchi, verso la società maschilista e verso la corruzione politica (non è il primo film "civile" di Cukor: Keeper of the flame). La stessa mantenuta rappresenta una società decadente, facile preda di chi sa esercitare il potere.

The Marrying Kind (1952) è un dramma intimista, la dissertazione più seria e completa di Cukor sulla coppia, degna di un Bergman, attenta agli atti di tutti i giorni, di per sé inoffensivi, che inanellati uno dietro l'altro possono portare addirittura all'odio.

The judge who has to examine the case of a young couple takes them into a private room and asks them why they want to divorce. Flashbacks show how they started dating, how they got married, how the first misunderstandings began. He worked hard at the post office, she took good care of the house. He made her jealous when he danced all night sexy dances with another woman (in front of all their relatives). Then he had a nightmare (the best part of the film) of his work and his marriage. They got excited when he came up with a million-dollar idea. But their rich relatives were not willing to fund it, and someone else came up with it before they could market it. The disappointment caused their first marriage crisis. They had two children and it was fun raising them, but one died in a tragic incident during a picnic. He was so devasted that he was run over by a car while crossing a street. It took him a while to recover, and she decided to go back to work, an idea that he opposed. The day he returned home she received some inheritance money from her old boss that made him jealous. One loud argument followed the other. Eventually they decided to divorce. The judge has listened patiently. She leaves the room convinced that they will get back together. And, in fact, left alone, they pledge to each other that they will remain the same imperfect people but they are willing to try a bit longer. Pat and Mike (1952), scritto da Garson Kanin e Ruth Gordon, e` un film molto minore, ma divenne la commedia matrimoniale canonica. Hepburn è una professoressa di ginnastica, una donna aristocratica e indipendente. Tracy e` un promoter che fa soldi sugli atleti celebri, e ha l'atteggiamento di un gangster. Inizialmente lei rifiuta le sue proposte di business, ma, dopo aver perso la finale di golf, ci ripensa: lascia l'opprimente fidanzato e ingaggia Tracy. Tracy e` stupefatto dalle sue doti atletiche: eccelle non solo a golf, ma anche a tennis, tiro a segno e lotta. Tracy si prende cura della sua carriera e della sua salute, controllando ogni minuto della sua vita privata. La fiducia di Tracy e` il contraltare allo scetticismo dell'ex fidanzato: questa volta Hepburn vince la finale di golf. I due sembrano diametralmente opposti, invece alla fine risultano perfettamente complementari.

The Actress (1953) è la storia di una giovane provinciale che vuole recarsi a New York per fare l'attrice, ma il padre non ha i mezzi per pagarle il viaggio; Cukor ritrae la "piccola donna" fra le pareti domestiche, una ragazza d'oro che vuole un gran bebe ai suoi, ma che al tempo stesso intende affermare la propria personalità; come Marrying kind aveva esplorato il rapporto fra due coniugi qualsiasi, così The actress studia il rapporto fra figli e genitori, sondando l'animo semplice e complesso al tempo stesso di una ragezza che si apre al mondo.

Le sceneggiature dei Kanin sono senza dubbio molto accurate e intelligenti, ma a volte troppo pesanti (tanto nell'assunto quanto nel dialogo) per un cinema lieve e fine come quello di Cukor; se non intervengono la prodigiosa arte comica di Hepburn o la stolta petulante Judy Holliday il film rischia di rallentare, schiacciato da un peso sproporzionato per una commedia.

Felice eccezione It Should Happen To You (1954), che oltre a riproporre i temi favoriti della coppia, della donna-oggetto, dello sdoppiamento donna-oggetto/brava ragazza, e dello spettacolo, s'inserisce nel filone dei film sul potere dei mass media tipo The big carnival di Wilder.

It's a hot summer in New York. Gladys (Judy Holliday) is a simpleton from provincial America who walks barefoot in the park. Pete (Jack Lemmon), an amateur cameraman who collects shots for documentaries, is intrigued by her character when she enters by chance the visual field of his camera. Gladys is in New York in search for fame, but she has had no luck. Inspired by something Pete says, suddenly she has an idea when she sees a giant billboard that is available. She walks into the office of the advertising company and, using up all her savings, rents the space... just to have her name written on it. It turns out that a soap company wanted to rent that billboard. She is offered money to surrender the space, but, confused, she refuses. On the way out, she meets Pete again: they happen to live in the same building. Pete asks Gladys out on a date, but the owner of the soap company calls her and invites her too. Gladys dumps the good-hearted but poor documentarian and has dinner with the wealthy entrepreneur. The latter is only trying to seduce her as a way to get her billboard. Eventually, she accepts to trade that giant billboard for six smaller billboards spread all over the city. In the meantime, Pete has found out about her folly and got mad at her for wasting her money. Nonetheless, Pete is getting more and more attached to the silly naive woman. He doesn't understand her craving for publicity: he wants the exact opposite, a private life, a traditional family. But she is too happy about her sudden popularity, and he can't spoil her happiness. In a store she is approached by ordinary shoppers who want an autograph. The hysteria is contagious, and soon dozens of people crowd around her. She is nobody, but a nobody who is known all over town. Even television talks about her. They invite her on a tv show and exhibit her as an ridiculous oddball. Pete is ashamed, and the producers think it's a disaster: instead, she is a success. With the money she earns, she rents more billboards. She is made fun all over tv for her stupidity, but her stupidity sells. She becomes more and more famous. Even the soap company hires her for their commercials.
She neglects Pete to the point that Pete leaves her. She can't resist the invitations of the entrepreneur, but she begins to have doubts when he makes a pass on her. Then she gets tired of memorizing the stereotyped lines written by her producer. One day, she simply tells the truth on radio, and her career is finished. Now she realizes that Pete was the real thing. Pete is at the zoo shooting a documentary from inside a cage about how people stare at wild animals. That's when he sees in sky a plane writing a message for him from Gladys. He stares at the sky while the crowd stares at him. (The film began with the woman entering the visual field of his camera, and ends with an audience staring at him while he is staring at the sky). They get back together and drive away from the city.
Il film si può quindi leggere su diversi piani. L'analisi dei mass-media è plateale: possono dare cavar notizia perfino dalla più assoluta nullità della Terra, ed è impressionante cone la notizia si propaghi, rimbalzando da un cartellone a uno studio televisivo, e poi viceversa, in un gioco di rimandi all'infinito. Ma il film è anche un esame spietato della folla, passiva divoratrice di miti, diventata cronica mito-dipendente per dimenticare la propria squallida esistenza, questa folla che ha sempre bisogno di un nome qualsiasi da idolatrare (questi pagani che hanno sempre bisogno di un dio qualsiasi in cui credere). Ed è un'analisi altrettanto spietata della alienazione e della solitudine nella metropoli: lui e lei sono esseri fondamentalmente soli, fragili barche in balia di un oceano che può farli naufragare o mandarli alla deriva. Infine la critica al sistema, al capitale senza scrupoli che manipola la personalità della ragazza pur di cavarle dei soldi; critica della donna-oggetto; critica del mito del successo, il mito americano per eccellenza, che dimostra qui il rovescio della medaglia. E riflessione sullo spettacolo, sul rapporto fra artista e fornitore, sull'attore e sul pubblico: Lemmon in gabbia fa spettacolo ma contemporaneamente ritrae lo spettacolo costituito dal pubblico stesso, il quale a sua volta è pubblico, ma è al tempo stesso attore di uno spettacolo. L'assunto del film è appunto che lo spettacolo del pubblico è più interessante dello spettacolo dell'attore.

L'ambiguità dello spettacolo, il tema che Cukor ha inseguito fin da What Price Hollywood, attraverso Dinner at Eight, Sylvia Scarlet, Double Life,It Should Happen To You, culmina con A Star Is Born (1954), un remake del film di Wellman del 1936, primo musical di Cukor (primo a colori, primo in cinemascope) che deriva proprio dal primo film della serie. Si tratta infatti di un melodramma ambientato nella comunità di Hollywood, che segue lo stesso andamento dell'originale di ventidue anni prima, ma che sotto forma di tragedia musicale trascende a commossa meditazione sul gioco delle parti, sul dualismo realtà/finzione che dal palcoscenico si perpetua poi nella vita quotidiana, e sull'amaro destino dell'artista che dopo i fasti del successo deve saper accettare anche l'oblio.

Un attore in declino lancia una giovane cantante e la sposa; ma le due carriere volgono in direzioni opposte e al marito non resta che darsi all'alcool. Provoca uno scandalo proprio la notte in cui alla moglie viene assegnato l'oscar. L'attrice decide di sacrificare la propria carriera, ma così facendo induce il marito al suicidio. Rendendosi conto che egli si è ucciso per non esserle d'impaccio, decide di ritornare sulle scene. Judy Garland festeggia se stessa (come prima Judy Holliday); la grande star bambina dei musical era reduce da due divorzi, una cura disintossicante, diversi tentativi di suicidio e quattro anni di assenza dagli schermi; all'inizio della lavorazione è un relitto incapace di intendere, alla fine verrà salutata come la più grande attrice, cantante, mima e ballerina della storia del musical. Il suo tour de force non ha pause: è sempre in scena e sempre in movimento, e il pathos dell sua recitazione è più che commovente. Judy Garland è un capolavoro di Cukor dentro il capolavoro, la prima vertiginosa rifessione sul mondo dello spettacolo "è" l'attrice stessa. Che sullo schermo interpreta una ragazza quelsiasi che a un certo punto cambia nome e si mette a interpretare la diva la quale nei diversi numeri interpreta qualcun altro e persino se stessa. Garland in realtà sta dalla parte di lui, dell'attore finito, alcoolizzato e suicida; mentre il marito della Garland era nella realtà il produttore; l'inversione delle parti conferisce alla commedia un tocco di cinismo.
Al di là della solita critica dello star system, dei mass-media, del mito americano del successo, dello spettacolo (televisione, cinema, varietà), del mondo dei ricchi ( i rituali orgiastici di Hollywood, miseria e nobiltà dell'aristocrazia del cinema), il musical è pervaso da un'atmosfera funerea, che ne rallenta il ritmo e conferisce un senso onirico a tutti gli sketch; l'apoteosi di questa tensione drammatica si ha al funerale, quando si ripetono dinanzi al feretro gli stessi riti della notte degli oscar (flash dei fotografi, delirio della folla); e quest'opera di profanazione (non tanto del morto, quanto della donna che lo sta piangendo ) è il senso ultimo del film.

Dopo un kolossal, Bhowani Junction (1956), sugli ultimi giorni della dominazione britannica in India.

Victoria (Ava Gardner), a beautiful half-caste nurse of the British army in India at the end of the colonial era, is treated like an inferior being by the British and molested by the Indians. Her boyfriend Patrick, also a bi-racial working for the British, is subjected to the same kind of racism. A moderate politician brings news that a terrorist, Darvay, is in town, trying to turn the fight against British colonialism into a bloodbath. Patrick thinks that India needs the British, Victoria favors full independence. They eventually break up. She is almost raped by a British officer. Then she dates a traditional Indian, Ranjit, and becomes a militant, dressing in traditional Indian attire. She sides with Darvay's extremists until she witnesses the carnage caused by one of his attacks, and until she is told that the British officere has been brutally murdered. She can't seem to decide who she is and which side she's on. During a religious ceremony with Ranjit, she suddenly runs out on him. She is arrested for the murder of the British officer who tried to rape her. She decides to trust the British justice and confesses to the murder as self defense. She is released. Her next romance is with a British colonel, Rodney, who loves her tenderly. She is kidnapped by Durvay on a train and the colonel and Patrick come to her rescue. She saw that Durvay had dynamite and they venture into a tunnel to find him. Patrick gives his life to defuse the dynamite. The colonel kills Durvay. Minutes later a train rides through the tunnel, carrying Gandhi in person. Rodney proposes to her when he is called back to Britain. But she fears that she would be treated like an inferior being in Britain and decides to remain in India. Rodney tells her that he will return to live in India with her when he retired from the army, and in the last scene his superior promises to speed that up.

Cukor torna al musical con Les Girls (1957). E' un musical costruito in modo inconsueto: nell'aula di un tribunale gli ex-membri di una compagnia raccontano la stessa verità da quattro angolazioni diverse e tramite i corrispondenti flash-back rivivono la tournée in Europa della compagnia; una delle tre soubrettes ha scritto nelle sue memorie che una collega s'innamorò fino a tentare il suicidio del capocomico, ed è stata querelata per diffamazione.

A Parigi una compagnia di music-hall comprende il ballerino Barry (Gene Kelly) e tre belle ragazze, amiche ma segretamente tutte innamorate di lui. Il film inizia anni dopo, quando una delle tre, felicemente sposata, ha intentato un processo per calunnia a un'altra delle tre, anche questa felicemente sposata, rea di aver pubblicato un libro su quel periodo che rischia di danneggiare la reputazione della querelante e quindi il suo matrimonio. Al processo entrambe raccontano la storia di quella compagnia, ma da due punti di vista opposti: l'una dipingendo l'altra come cinica avventuriera a caccia di marito dopo essere stata sedotta da Kelly e tentato il suicidio.
Per stabilire la verità il giudice chiama a testimoniare Barry, il quale racconta un'altra versione. Un giorno lui pretese di essere afflitto da una malattia mortale. Poi disse la verita` alla sola Joy, la piu` pudica, sensata, generosa e onesta. Poi trovo` le altre due nel loro appartamento gia` tramortite dal gas, e le salvo`. Il giudice capisce pertanto che entrambe cercarono di suicidarsi. Invece, per non comprometterle, Barry aggiunge un lieto fine alla sua testimonianza: non si tratto` di tentato suicidio, ma semplicemente di un incidente (l'apparecchiatura del gas era difettosa) ma quando le ragazze rinvennero in ospedale ciascuna penso` che fosse stata l'altra ad aprire il gas. In tal modo Barry fa credere al giudice e al pubblico che nessuna delle due abbia tentato il suicidio. Il processo assolve tutti. I due matrimoni sono salvi, le accerrime rivali si abbracciano fra le lacrime, Kelly se ne va con sua moglie, la terza ragazza, anche lei incerta su cosa realmente accadde. La verità restera` un mistero.

Il musical è quindi sia un rassegna di sketch, sia la cronaca di come allestisce uno spettacolo, sia la storia dell'idillio fra la ballerina e il capocomico. L'accorgimento di far testimoniare attori, cioé uomini che mentono per professione, crea la solita confusione fra realtà e finzione. Pirandello volto in ridere.

Cukor dimostra una padronanza assoluta dei mezzi tecnici. I suoi film, lievi e raffinati per natura, indugiano nella squisita ricercatezza figurativa, nell'uso pittorico e dinamico del colore, nell'effettismo delle scenografie e dei costumi. Se ciò consente di astrarre ancor più le commedie al livello di f.?.erie, d'altro canto minaccia la spigliata e pungente malizia delle più spontanee commedie degli anni trenta. Ed è anche distratto da grette esigenze economiche, che lo spingono ad accettare film inadatti, come Wild Is the Wind, melodramma rurale per Anna Magnani.

Il ritorno al mondo dei guitti, quel mondo di stravaganze e avventure che nobilitò già Sylvia Scarlett, risolleva le sue sorti. Heller in Pink Lights (1959), sceneggiato da Dudley Nichols ispirandosi a Louis L'Amour's novel "Heller with a Gun", vive sul contrasto fra l'ambiente duro, virile e puritano della Frontiera e l'ambiente ilare ed estroso di una compagnia di girovaghi. Questi, fanfaroni e squattrinati, dominano tanto prodi pistoleri, rozzi e primitivi, quanto i selvaggi pellerossa: i primi lanciando Sofia Loren in calzamaglia a cavallo fra gli spettatori, i secondi offrendo loro i cimeli dei loro spettacoli, parrucche e cosutmi che i truci querrieri indossano pavoneggiandosi. Gli infiniti compromessi dell'arte per sopravvivere alle avversità e alle barbarie sono poi personificate nell'attrice-diavolo interpretata dalla Loren, pronta all'imbroglio e alla seduzione quando è necessario salvare la compagnia.

During the days of the Wild West an itinerant troupe runs away from creditors. Tom (Anthony Quinn) is the passionate owner, and the sexy Angela (Sofia Loren) is his chief actress. They had to leave town in a hurry because Angela went into one of her usual spending sprees without having money to pay. But he has already forgotten her, and they pompously move into a new town. They arrive just after a shootout. Professional gunslinger Clint has just killed two people who refused to sell their rights to a rich man, and all the sheriff can do is seize his gun. The owner of the theater, Sam, welcomes the troupe, while Clint observes amused. Angela overhears an argument between Clint and a man: the man, the only surviving owner of the title that Clint has been sent to obtain, fears for his life and offers money to Clint, but Clint slaps him in the face.
The troupe's performance is met with a standing ovation. Both Sam and Clint fall in love with Angela, just when Tom has proposed to her. The old creditors find them and demand immediate payment. Angela flirts with Sam until Sam accepts to take over the debt. But Tom is far from happy: this is a town where people don't think twice about killing. While Tom is readying the wagons to flee town right away, Angela plays a round of poker at the saloon. Initially she wins but at the end she loses to Clint who demands payment in sexual favors. She is saved by the man who fears for his life. He walks in drunk, branding a gun, and Clint kills him. This gives her time to disappear. Both Clint and the theater owner go look for her and find her room empty. Clint jumps on his horse and starts chasing the troupe, that is heading towards his boss' town. Unbeknownst to Clint, his boss (the rich man) has told him men to kill Clint before he can reach town, because he has no intention of paying Clint now that Clint has accomplished his mission of killing the three men who stood in his (the rich man's) way.
Clint catches up with the wagons and offers to ride along. Tom welcomes an extra gun, despite Angela's protestations (he doesn't know that Angela owes Clint money). Clint proves to be useful when "Indians" kill their drivers. The troupe has to abandon the wagons and ride away as fast as they can, while the Indians have fun with their costumes before setting fire to the wagons. Clint takes the troupe through the mountains, where they are caught in a snowstorm. Eventually Angela has to tell Tom the truth about her debt to Clint. One of the men sent to kill Clint shows up but instead wounds Tom, and Clint learns about the rich man's plot to having him killed. Clint leads the troupe to a nearby mission, where the wounded Tom can get medical assistance. Clint offers a deal to Angela. He sends her to town to collect the money from the rich man who is trying to assassinate him. Clint knows that the rich man will listen to a woman, although he won't let her leave town. In the meantime a young ambitious actress, Della, nurses the convalescing Tom, clearly intending to replace Angela as the main attraction of the troupe.
Angela goes to town, talks to the rich man, collects the money. The rich man tells his men to follow her so they can find out where Clint hides. But instead Angela buys a theater for Tom. When Tom enters town, he sees his name on a building. He reluctantly accepts to stage a play. During the play, Clint shows up demanding the money from Angela. Angela candidly replies that she has spent it. Clint is furious, and Tom has to knock him unconscious to allow Angela to continue the play (Angela is pleasantly surprised that Tom is actually stronger than Clint). Clint would kill Tom but he realizes that the rich man's helpers have him surrounded in the theater. It is Tom who saves his life instead. All of this while the play is still going on (Tom's main concern is that Clint would not ruin his show). The show is a success, but Tom is not happy: Angela is gone, presumably to pay her debt to Clint. He is wrong: Angela shows up with the news that she got a loan from the bank and paid off Clint. And that she's willing to become his wife.

Allo stesso mondo avventuroso, ma trasportato nel music-hall del Greenwich Village, si ispira il terzo musical di Cukor, Let's Make Love (1960); un miliardario (Montand), innamorato di una ballerina (Monroe), si fa passare per attore e , a forza di bazzicare il teatro, riesce ad ottenere una parte a fianco dell'amata; il sotterfugio serve di pretesto per snocciolare una sequela di canzoni e per dare uno sguardo furtivo dietro le quinte; lì bivaccano i tipi più buffi e più simpatici del mondo, al cui confronto gli uomini d'affari che li disprezzano sembrano ben più volgari e insipidi.

The Chapman Report (1962), dopo molti progetti falliti, si presenta come un audace studio sulla sessualità, ed espone i casi esemplari di quattro borghesi californiane: una provinciale delusa dal marito e caduta fra le braccia di un mediocre, una svampita snob alle prese con uno sportivo, una vedova frustrata (Jane Fonda), una ninfomane che si suicida per la vergogna (Claire Bloom).

Si tratta quasi di una versione crudamente realista di Women, che sviscera dal di dentro l'universo femminile. Quattro adulteri, quattro vergogne, che si sublimano nella verginità restaurata di Jane Fonda e nell'episodio di violenza che Claire Bloom subisce per metà sconvolta a per metà consenziente. Il film, sgradevole e morboso, irrita Hollywood e la censura, che lo massacrano.

In questo periodo Cukor è invischiato in una ben più sgradevole vicenda: ricevuto l'incarico di resuscitare una disfatta Marylin Monroe come aveva fatto, otto anni prima con la Garland, Cukor assiste invece al suo suicidio.

My Fair Lady (1964), un musical del librettista Alan Jay Lerner e del musicista Frederick Loewe ispirato al "Pygmalion" di Shaw, nasconde comunque le vergogne di Hollywood dietro la faccia da educanda di Andrey Hepburn, qui nella parte della fioraia che pigmalione vuol istruire per farne una signora. Il musical, da tempo un successo di Hollywood fu affidato a Cukor anche perchè il tema gli era caro (Born yesterday); Cukor ci mette poco di suo, essendo il piatto già pronto e solo da servire: giusto la splendida figurazione, il gioco dei colori, un'ironia sfumata nei confronti dell'aristocrazia.

Cinque anni dopo Cukor mise mano a Justine, riduzione cinematografica dalla tetralogia di Laurence Durrel, un'impresa inadatta al suo stile. Il risultato è un film esotico e barocco, quasi da Sternberg, pullulante di sesso in tutte le salse (prostituzione, adulterio, omosessualità, incesto) e di morti (un pugnalato nel bel mezzo di un ballo mascherato, un suicida); l'eroina (cospiratrice in Egitto per la causa degli ebrei palestinesi) non ha certo lo spessore delle sue predecessori.

Travels With My Aunt (1972), una diligente riduzione dal romanzo di Graham Greene, è finalmente una commedia brillante, come Cukor non ne faceva da un decennio e più.

An odd old lady shows up uninvited at a cremation. There are very few people. The mechanism that controls the casket gets stuck for a few embarrassing seconds. The old lady runs to a phone booth and makes a phone call, offering to pay half of the money she is asked as ransom for a man's freedom. The closest relative of the dead one is her son, Henry, a rather mediocre inconspicuous and unmarried middle-aged man. In the graveyard she introduces herself as his "aunt" Augusta, long believed to have been lost at sea, she inquires about his profession (assistant bank manager) and possessions, and she bluntly informs him that his mother was only his stepmother, his real mother having been a naughty girl. The aunt then takes Henry to her flat, that she shares with a black fortune teller, Zachary, half her age. While she is entertaining Henry and testing his willingness to rob the bank (none), someone delivers a box for her: there's a finger inside. Later someone calls her outside. A man hands them a box with a lot of money that needs to be carried to Paris. She has accepted the job because she is desperate for money. When Henry leaves (a bit confused by his aunt's odd lifestyle but truly touched that she is now his closest relative), the aunt and the black fortune teller argue: he thinks that the man who is in trouble is in worth her love, while she is willing to do anything to save his life. Back home, the police comes to see Henry and asks to check the urn that contains his mother's ashes: Zachary is a well-known drug dealer and may have replaced the ashes with drugs. The aunt shows up unapologetic and simply asks Henry to go to Paris with her in order to avoid the embarrassing investigation. For Henry, who has never traveled abroad, this is like a revelation: he leaves his flowers (his only occupation outside of work) and follows his reckless aunt. Henry is puzzled that they fly first class and stay in a luxury hotel. During the journey she tells him a bit about her unstable youth, hinting that she was a prostitute (but of course Henry does not get the hint), and mentions that Mr Visconti (the man who has been kidnapped) is the only man she ever loved (and the one who rescued her from prostitution). Henry, the impeccable honest bank employee quickly realizes that her trip to Paris was motivated by a money-laundering operation. Henry meets Zachary again, who now works in a brothel, and he tells him that, in order to raise money, Augusta has accepted to work for a dangerous crook, laundering money all over Europe. Zachary asks Henry to look over her. Back at the hotel, Augusta tells him to pack because they are leaving for Istanbul. At the railway station Zachary tries to warm them about some danger while the train is leaving. On the train they meet a young woman from the USA, Tooley, on her way to Nepal, who initiates him to marijuana and to sex.
At a railway station they are welcomed by an Italian man who calls her "mom": he is Visconti's son Mario. THey are both desperate about the kidnapped man. (She speaks fluent Italian just like she spoke fluent French in Paris). During the train journey, the romance between Henry and Tooley escalates (he finally realizes that she is making him smoke pot). Just before they reach Istanbul a custom official, who is on the case, finds the money. They are deported back to Paris, and she loses her last hope to raise the ransom money. Henry gives her the idea to take advantage of an old flame of her, a French gentleman. Alas, he dies of a heart attack in her arms. Augusta tries to blackmail his widow, but the widow is indifferent to the scandal. Then Augusta simply steals a precious painting that the dead man had stolen himself, knowing that the widow cannot report the theft to the police. The respectable Henry is fed up with this circus of blackmail, prostitution and theft. But Augusta has one last ace up her sleeve: Visconti is his real father. Henry accepts to help her one more time raise the money. The trio (Augusta, Henry and Zachary) travels to Spain to meet the crook who will buy the painting. The meeting is arranged by Mario, Visconti's son. They set out on a yacht to Africa to deliver the money and rescue Visconti. Black body guards push Visconti in a wheelchair. He looks wounded and weak. Augusta runs to him and gives him the money. Visconti takes the money, gives it to his body guards (they obviously obey his orders), gets up from the wheelchair, undoes the bandage (all body parts are intact) and thanks the old faithful lover. He needed the money and she got it for him. Then he walks away with a smile and even takes their boat. He has fooled the old woman. What he doesn't know is that his son has fooled him: Henry and Zachary have hidden the money in their clothes and given Visconti a pile of worthless paper. The old woman (who is really Henry's mother) celebrates. But Henry still has doubt about keeping that dirty money. In the desert of Africa they toss a coin to decide whether Augusta will adapt to Henry's lifestyle or he will adapt to her lifestyle. The film end with the coin still in the air.
La "zia" è una vecchietta che incontra un onesto e timorato bancario al funerale di quella che egli crede fosse sua madre e se lo porta a casa, svelando una vita tutt'altro che da pensionata. Tra l'altro convive con un mago africano, uno spacciatore di droga che sostituisce le ceneri della defunta con una partita di marijuana. Lo convince (attratta dalle sue mansioni di impiegato di banca) a seguirla nei suoi viaggi, su e giù per l'Europa, lo scopo dei quali è in realtà pagare il riscatto per un matricolato imbroglione italiano a cui l'attempata criminale sembra sentimentalmente legata. Il distinto perbenista londinese diventa suo malgrado contrabbandiere di valuta, complice del furto di un Modigliani e truffatore. Alla fine scoprono che il ricattatore è il rapito stesso, bisognoso di denaro, ma il bamboccio si è ormai adeguato ai metodi della scellerta e sventa il suo piano. Poi la vecchietta si rivela sua madre, e l'italiano suo padre. Madre e figlio rimangono in possesso dell'ingente somma, lui ormai definitivamente traviato. La vicenda rocambolesca è fitta di flashback che descrivono il glorioso passato della vecchia: è il trionfo della vita, rappresentata per assurdo da una vispa settantenne, sulla morte, per assurdo di un giovane impiegato chiuso nelle quattro pareti del suo ufficio; sorvolando sui peccati e sugli scopi, Cukor proclama l'importanza di essere fieri comunque della propria vita.

Ancora una storia senile è Love among the ruins (75). con i due mostri sacri Laurence Olivier e Katarine Hepburn, antichi amanti che si incontrano da vecchi e decidono di unire finalmente i loro destini.

The Blue Bird (1976), super-co-produzione sovietico-americana, è una fiaba per bambini tratta dall'"uccello azzurro" di Maeterlinck: due ragazzi, figli di un boscaiolo, la vigilia di Natale vogliono rendere felice una bambina malata e vanno in sogno alla ricerca del magico volatile. Il paese dei ricordi, il castello della notte, il regno dei piaceri, la terra del futuro, che i bambini incontrano sul loro cammino, permettono a Cukor di dispiegare tutta la sua abilità figurativa, nonchè un cast d'eccezione che annovera fianco a fianco Elisabeth Taylor, Jane Fonda, Ava Gardner, i ballerini sovietici e il clown Oleg Popov. Alla fine la morale:i bambini scoprono che l'uccello azzurro si trova nella loro umile capanna. Il virtuosismo stilistico di quest'opera-balletto per l'infanzia s'inserisce bene nel cinema senile dell'ultimo Cukor, fa da giusto contrasto esaltando al tempo stesso le componenti basilari della sua opera: la fantasia e i buoni sentimenti.

The Corn Is Green (1980)

Il feuilleton del 1982, Riche and famous (da John Van Bruten), storia fine e intelligente dell'amicizia di due donne di successo, dal college alla maturità, ricalca gli schemi di Women, dipingendo con classe la giornalista affamata di uomini e la scrittrice di cinema, mettendo alla berlina riccastri, attori di Hollywood e intellettuali di New York.

Cukor mori` nel gennaio 1983.

La carriera utile di Cukor consta di cinque periodi: la commedia di costume (dal 1933 al 1936), incentrata sul ritratto delle "piccole donne"; le commedie sulla donna e sul doppio (dal 1938 al 1941), dedicate all'animo femminile; il film nero (dal 1942 al 1948), sotto l'influsso della tragedia mondiale; la commedia sulla coppia (dal 1949 al 1953), ispirati dai coniugi Kanin; il musical (dal 1954 al 1964), concepito come pretesto per penetrare il mondo dello spettacolo.

Molti i motivi comuni a tutte le fasi: l'ambiguità dello spettacolo, la psicologia della donna (e il suo sdoppiamento in angelo folletto), i rapporti fra la coppia, la critica della società. Ognuno di essi significa qualcos'altro: il dualismo realtà/finzione e il gioco delle parti; il ruolo della sessualità nella società maschilista; la tragedia della folla (depressione nei 30, guerra nei 40, alienazione nei 50) che fa da sfondo alle commedie più acute.

La società che compare nei film di Cukor è una trasposizione della comunità cinematografica di Hollywood; lo scapolo Cukor ha sposato Hollywood; accettandone tutte le regole, e con lei si comporta proprio come un consorte bonario e brontolone: sviscera con ironia gli splendori e le miserie delle corti locali, senza mai rinnegare nulla. Cukor è stato il maggiore dei registi ortodossi di Hollywood, di quei registi cioè che hanno accettato di inserirsi nell'ingranaggio del cinema d'equipe; all'interno dell'equipe il ruolo del regista è di coordinamento: la sceneggiatura è una storia solida e di provata efficacia, un romanzo, una commedia, o un testo scritto appositamente da scrittori di calibro, il produttore (cioè il marketing) condiziona e a volte decide il tema del film, il protagonista apporta i ritocchi del caso al suo personaggio (classica l'equipe composta da Rko, Cukor, Kanin, Hepburn).

Il punto più alto di fusione dei temi cukoriani si ha quando l'attrice (Hepburn, Holliday o Garland) è il personaggio che deve interpretare. Allora l'ambiguità dello spettacolo e l'ambiguità della donna diventano cosa unica, tanto più se la storia coinvolge anche l'ambiguità di Hollywood.

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