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George Cukor

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George Cukor (7 July 1899 – 24 January 1983) was a major Hollywood director of the Golden Age. He was also the third director to work on the 1939 MGM film The Wizard of Oz.

Cukor was brought in as a stopgap after producer Mervyn LeRoy fired Richard Thorpe in late October 1938. Cukor was never intended as a permanent replacement for Thorpe, and in fact had little interest in the Oz project; he was biding his time until Gone With the Wind, which he was scheduled to direct, began filming in January 1939. The result was that Cukor worked on the Oz film for less than a week, from 26 to 31 October 1938.

Nonetheless, Cukor had a significant impact on the production. Given his reputation as a "woman's director," it is unsurprising that that impact centered on Judy Garland and her role as Dorothy Gale. Cukor jettisoned the blonde wig and heavy makeup of Thorpe's Dorothy; more importantly, he changed the interpretation of the character. Thorpe's Dorothy had been a fantasy figure among other fantasy figures; Cukor returned her to a much more naturalistic and down-to-earth persona, one who could serve as the emotional center and psychological anchor of the film.

Cukor also revised the look of the Scarecrow, and perhaps of the Wicked Witch of the West as well.

He would eventually direct Judy Garland in her Oscar-nominated performance in A Star is Born (1954). He had previously directed both Billie Burke and Clara Blandick in films of the early 1930s.

References

  • John Fricke, Jay Scarfone, William Stillman. The Wizard of Oz: The Official 50th Anniversary Pictorial History. Warner Books, 1989.

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