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"Centennial Celebrations: Fred Astaire/George Cukor"
1999-07-02 until 1999-07-05
Museum of Modern Art
New York, NY, USA United States of America

Two major figures in American cinema whose centenaries fall in 1999 are Fred Astaire, the dancer/singer/actor born May 10, 1899, in Omaha, Nebraska, and George Cukor, the stage and screen director born July 7, 1899, in New York City. To mark these anniversaries the Department of Film and Video will present four films starring Astaire and seven films directed by Cukor as part of the program Centennial Celebrations. These tributes to Astaire and Cukor, two in an ongoing series that highlights the centennials of important motion picture artists, run from July 2 to 5 and July 11 to 24, respectively.

After achieving fame as a dancer on the vaudeville stage and Broadway, Fred Astaire made his film debut in 1933. Starring in a series of films from RKO that spotlighted his extraordinary dancing talent, Astaire quickly became one of Hollywoods most popular performers. He went on to appear in a wide variety of movie genres over the next forty years. The Museums program features four of Astaires musicals from MoMAs archives: The Gay Divorcee (Mark Sandrich, 1934) and Top Hat (Mark Sandrich, 1935), co-starring Astaires longtime partner Ginger Rogers; Damsel in Distress (George Stevens, 1937), in which Astaire plays opposite George Burns, Gracie Allen, and Joan Fontaine; and The Band Wagon (Vincente Minnelli, 1953), one of the last great Hollywood musicals.

George Cukor worked as a stage director in Rochester and New York City before making his first film in 1930. Over the next decade Cukor established himself as one of Hollywoods premier filmmakers, and his film career went on to span more than five decades. Among the films in MoMAs celebration of the director are four from the Museums archives: Our Betters (1933); the classic Greta Garbo drama Camille (1936); and Born Yesterday (1950) and It Should Happen to You (1953), both starring Judy Holliday. The series also includes Dinner at Eight (1933) and The Women (1939), two comedies with all-star casts that Cukor made at MGM, and the showbiz epic A Star Is Born (1954), with Judy Garland and James Mason.

Dinner at Eight, The Women, and A Star Is Born also inaugurate the Museums upcoming exhibition To Have and Have Not, a program of films that MoMA hopes to add to its 17,000-title collection, running from June 16 to September 14. The series features works that are significant to the development of cinema as a modern art, covering the range of film history and cinematic expression, but that are not yet part of the Museums archives.

Centennial Celebrations was organized by Laurence Kardish, curator and coordinator of film exhibitions, Department of Film and Video.

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