During the early Hollywood sound era, studio director George Cukor produced nearly fifty films in as many years, famously winning the Best Director Oscar at the 1964 Academy Awards for My Fair Lady. His collaborations with so-called difficult actresses such as Katharine Hepburn, Judy Garland, and Marilyn Monroe unsettled producers even as his ticket sales lined their pockets. Fired from Gone with the Wind for giving Vivien Leigh more screen time than Clark Gable, Cukor quickly earned a double-sided reputation as a "woman's director." While the label celebrated his ability to help actresses deliver their best performances, the epithet also branded the gay director as suitable only for work on female-centered movies such as melodramas and romantic comedies. Desperate for success after a failed drag film nearly ended his career, Cukor swore to work within Hollywood's constraints.
Nevertheless, What Price Hollywood? Gender and Sex in the Films of George Cukor finds that Cukor continued to explore gender and sexuality on-screen. Drawing on a broad array of theoretical lenses, Elyce Rae Helford examines how Cukor's award-winning films -- titles including My Fair Lady and The Philadelphia Story -- as well as his lesser-known films engage Hollywood masculinity and gender performativity through camp, drag, and mixed genres. Blending biography with critical analysis of more than twenty-five films, What Price Hollywood? tells the story of a once-in-a-generation director who produced some of the best films in history.
"One would think little could be added to the vast literature on George Cukor, but Helford manages to add more than a little in this wide-ranging, rigorous, and highly readable analysis of one of Hollywood's most intriguing and endearing directors." -- Vincent Brook, lecturer, University of California, Los Angeles, and coeditor of From Shtetl to Stardom: Jews and Hollywood
"Helford presents a series of critical case studies of George Cukor's films through the lens of queer, feminist, and intersectional theory, making a significant and fresh contribution to scholarship. Deeply researched, yet clear and accessible, What Price Hollywood? appeals to nonspecialist readers as well as students of media, American, and Jewish studies." -- Nathan Abrams, author of Eyes Wide Shut: Stanley Kubrick and the Making of His Final Film
"Helford's study of George Cukor is a major addition to criticism on one of classic Hollywood's most prolific and successful directors. Though the book delivers on its promise to examine how Cukor handled issues surrounding sex and gender, What Price Hollywood? ranges widely through the oeuvre, boasting rich readings of Cukor's films and engaging with many of the theoretical topics that have fruitfully occupied film scholars in recent years." -- R. Barton Palmer, coeditor of George Cukor: Hollywood Master