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On This Gay Day | Film director George Cukor was born in 1899

Film director George Cukor was born on this day

American film director George Cukor was born on this day in 1899. He made his mark as a director in Hollywood in the 1930s and continued to make films through to the early 1980s.

Among his many successful films are A Bill of Divorcement (1932) which starred John Barrymore and a young Katherine Hepburn. He worked again with Hepburn on Little Women the following year, going on to make Romeo and Juliet, The Women, The Philadelphia Story and A Star is Born.

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A low point of Cukor’s career came in 1939 when he was fired from the film Gone With The Wind. Cukor had spent over two years in pre-production and oversaw the casting of the main roles. He was replaced just a few weeks into shooting.

At the Academy Awards in 1964 Cukor took home the Best Director statuette for his film adaptation of the musical My Fair Lady.

Winning the Best Director Award was a case of ‘fifth time’s a charm’ for Cukor. He’d previously been nominated in 1932 for Little Women, in 1940 for The Philadelphia Story but lost to Rebecca, his third nomination in 1947 was for the film A Double Life and he returned to the Oscars for a fourth time in 1950 with Born Yesterday.

It was an open secret in Hollywood that Cukor was gay and his Sunday afternoon parties were legendary and he was seen as the head of Los Angeles’ gay sub-culture. In the Netflix mini-series Hollywood, Daniel London played a fictionalised version of Cukor.

He continued making films through the 1970s, his last film was 1981’s Rich and Famous which starred Jacqueline Bisset and Candice Bergen. Over his career he collaborated with many top actors including Jane Fonda, Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor, Maggie Smith, Laurence Olivier, Dirk Bogarde, Michael York, Cyd Charise, Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren, Gene Kelly, Lana Turner, Judy Holliday and many others.

Cukor died in 1983 after suffering a heart attack. He was 83 years old.

Composer Gian Carlo Menotti was born in Cadegliano-Viconago on this day in 1911

Menotti was born in Italy and began his musical training there, his mother later sent him to America where he enrolled in the Philadelphia Curtis Institute of Music. Among his fellow students were Leonard Bernstein and Samuel Barber.

Menotti and Barber became a couple and often worked together. After they graduated they bought a house together in My Kisco, New York. They named their house Capricorn, and it was their artistic retreat for over 40 years. Barber is best known for his 1936 work Adagio for Strings, as well as many operas and classical music pieces.

Menotti wrote operas and ballets, symphonies and concertos. A prolific composer his works include the operas The TelephoneAmelia Goes to the Ball, The Island God and The Last Savage. Two of his works received the Pulitzer Prize, The Consul and The Saint of Bleeker Street. 

In 1970 he ended his long relationship with Barber, as Barber battled depression and alcoholism. They remained friends until Barber’s death in 1981.

In 1958 Menotti established a festival in Spoleto, Italy that aimed to bring opera to the masses, a sister festival was created in the USA in 1974. Menotti came to Australia in 1986 where he set up the Melbourne Spoleto Festival. He withdrew after three years and retained the naming rights, the festival is now the Melbourne International Arts Festival.

In 1974 Menotti adopted 36-year-old figure skater Francis ‘Chip’ Phelan as his son, he had known Phelan since the 1960s. Phelan took on Menotti’s name.

The Telephone was first performed in 1947 in a double bill with another of Menotti’s works. Menotti passed away in 2007 aged 95.

This post was first published in 2021.

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