Sunday 8 October 2017

More on George Cukor - Reproducing a Facebook conversation between David Hare and Bruce Hodsdon

Editors Note: Bruce Hodsdon has written a fascinating series of essays about the relationship between Actors and Directors during Hollywoods classic period. You can find the essays if you click on the following links.

The following Facebook conversation occurred after Bruces piece on George Cukor q.v.     

David Hare‪ These posts from Bruce just keep giving so much. Terrific work. Quick correction for future collation by Geoffrey, Bhowani Junction definitely IS Cinemascope, not 1.85 (i.e. 1956 Bausch and Lomb lenses anamorphic 35mm Scope licensed from Fox). I checked the horse's mouth so to speak and checked the disc. By then the masking was 2.35 down from the earlier 4 track audio 2.45 or even 2.55 masks pre 1955. Continuing Cukor's "Scope" films chronologically, My Fair Lady was shot on 65mm for limited release 70mm prints at 2.20, 35mm reduction prints constituted the bulk of release, masked to 2.35. Let's Make Love was Scope 2.35; Justine was post Scope (and Bausch and Lomb mumps lenses) in Panavision 2.35. Travels With My Aunt was also Panavision 2.35. That was his last 2.35 Scope work.

Ava Gardner, Stewart Granger, Bhowani Junction
Bruce Hodsdon‪ Thanks for the compliment. I do see myself as trying to bring together other peoples' work in a more focused way, in this case particularly McGilligan, whose books contains so much information on how directors worked on the set. At the same time, it can be a bit dispiriting at times to read descriptions of what actually went on to the point of wondering how this can be reconciled with what we experience on the screen. A Star is Born and Nick Ray's films with Bronston for example. In the latter case you wonder how the films got made at all. I tend to feel at times there is some bias, an over-riding intent to de-mythify Hollywood.

Ava Gardner, Bhowani Junction
 Thanks David for correcting the errors on Scope which was careless ( given my special interest in the subject) because it is indicated in the credits I have for Cukor in the case of Bhowani Junction - probably partly reflects that I've never seen it. Widescreen is something I plan to return to if it's not outstaying the welcome. Cukor's mise-en-scène in Les Girls has been under appreciated something he seemed to encourage repeatedly speaking of himself as not a director of musicals when Les Girls comes up.

I think this lack of engagement with the genre meant that he devoted himself all the more to the non-musical sequences especially given those he had to work with both in front and especially behind the camera. I would like to think he had a big hand in the staging of the 'off stage' number in the apartment between Kelly and Kendall reminiscent in its inventiveness of Kelly-Donen in the Freed musicals.

Mitzi Gaynor, Kay Kendall, Taina Elg, Gene Kelly
Les Girls
David Hare‪ Cukor says (or I think he's ascribed it by Clarens) that he didn't want to make musicals, so his own work on A Star is Born, and Les Girls have musical numbers which are kept fully diegetic (more or less.) The long Richard Barstow Born in a Trunk Sequence I do to like very much and it's the only thing in that movie that really "fits" the musical genre. Les Girls is a masterpiece. Even more so than A Star is Born I think. And I sense you like Travels with My Aunt as much as I do. I cannot bear to imagine Kate in the part, even before the Parkinsons set in, and I love the way Cukor and his DP Doug Slocombe filmed Maggie so affectionately and beautifully at the various points of her growth as a "character" from teenager to old woman.

"Fonda's white dress and the big floppy white hat"The Chapman Report 
The artifice is complete and convincing and is enabled by a total dedication to suspension of disbelief through intensive naturalistic detail and performance. One interesting side note re outside references in a kind of movie insider reference - Orry Kelly's last gig for wardrobe at Warner (for which he came back in fact) was The Chapman Report. Jane Fonda's white dress and the big floppy white hat are one of the results of a fabulous film. The one film in which his enforced adoption of all that heavy Edwardian shit was less than ideal is the Cecil Beaton decor in My Fair Lady, which he tried to subvert with clever mise-en-scène, especially with Higgins' study which is positively colonic in browns and blacks.

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