D.A. Ball
June 17, 1994 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Emanuel Levy (Morrow, $25) George Cukor called Katharine Hepburn ”straight as a knife and slippery as a snake” and cast her in her first movie. He once replaced Charles Laughton with W.C. Fields, let Ernst Lubitsch bully him out of a screen credit, got fired from Gone With the Wind — possibly for knowing too much about Clark Gable’s secret sex life — and directed 50 years of Hollywood’s best films, including My Fair Lady and the Judy Garland-James Mason A Star Is Born. Emanuel Levy, an Arizona State film and sociology professor, based his admiring but realistic biography, George Cukor: Master of Elegance: Hollywood’s Legendary Director and His Stars, on more than 100 interviews and twice that many written sources. His look at Garland’s work with Cukor is especially wrenching, and other tales of intriguing stars, films, writers, competitors, producers, failures, and triumphs round out this fascinating biography of one of Hollywood’s most respected directors. A-

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