George Dewey Cukor was an American film director. He mainly concentrated on comedies and literary adaptations. His career flourished at RKO and later MGM, where he directed What Price Hollywood?, A Bill of Divorcement, Dinner at Eight, Little Women, David Copperfield, Romeo and Juliet and Camille. He was replaced as the director of Gone with the Wind, but he went on to direct The Philadelphia Story, Adam’s Rib, Born Yesterday, A Star Is Born and My Fair Lady. He continued to work into the 1980s.
He was born on the Lower East Side of New York City, the younger child and only son of Hungarian Jewish immigrants Victor, an assistant district attorney, and Helen Ilona Cukor. His parents selected his middle name in honor of Spanish?American War hero George Dewey. The family was not particularly religious; Yiddish was not spoken in the home, pork was a staple on the dinner table, and when he started attending temple as a boy, Cukor learned Hebrew phonetically, with no real understanding of the meaning of the words or what they represented. As a result, he was ambivalent about his faith and dismissive of old world traditions from childhood, and as an adult he embraced Anglophilia to remove himself even further from his roots.
As a child, Cukor appeared in several amateur plays and took dance lessons, and at the age of seven he performed in a recital with David O. Selznick, who in later years would become a mentor and friend. As a teenager, Cukor frequently was taken to the New York Hippodrome by his uncle. Infatuated with theatre, he often cut classes at DeWitt Clinton High School to attend afternoon matinees. During his senior year, he worked as a supernumerary with the Metropolitan Opera, earning 50¢ per appearance, and $1 if he was required to perform in blackface.