Filmmaker and critic Peter Bogdanovich dies at 82 | Culture


It was the bridge between the classic Hollywood and the New Hollywood, to which it belonged in its own right. Among his friends were Frank Capra, King Vidor, Cary Grant and John Ford, he idolized Buster Keaton and was the confidant of Orson Welles; of all of them he wrote. But by age, he also belonged to the New Hollywood, that movement that on the last embers of the empire of the studios breathed life into a papier-mâché cinema. The leader was Francis Ford Coppola, and among his hosts were Scorsese, Friedkin, Lucas, Cimino, De Palma and, obviously, Bogdanovich. This morning of Thursday, January 6, the filmmaker, movie fan and critic has died at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 82, as confirmed by his daughter Antonia to The Hollywood Reporter “By natural causes.”

With supernatural memory, fascinating talk, highly intelligent, trickster, conqueror of men (whom he involved in his adventures) and women (he even deceived those with whom he was most in love), owner of an immense ego, Peter Bogdanovich may not have been as great a director as he was, but on his resume there are a handful of splendid titles: Paper Moon, The Last Movie The What’s wrong with me, doctor? Of course, he leaves an extensive collection of writings in which he bore testimony of his love for cinema; he loved Hollywood, in fair correspondence, Hollywood revered him.

Bogdanovich was the first American film critic to follow the path of his French Nouvelle Vague peers, moving from writing to directing. He opted for the director-author concept, the author French, and thanks to him American directors began to take themselves seriously. Born in Kingston (New York) in 1939, Bogdanovich began directing films pushed, like many fellow generations, by Roger Corman. That is why he was the assistant director of The angels of hell (1966), before writing, directing and producing The hero is on the loose (1968). Considered an eccentric and a bookworm by his parents, a Serbian immigrant and the heiress of a wealthy Austrian Jewish family, at the age of 15 he had already gone to acting classes with Stella Adler and was dedicated to making index cards of all the films that he watched (when he abandoned the custom, when he turned 30, he had collected 5,316: “I have seen all the American films that are worth seeing,” he pontificated). At the age of 20 he was programming the New York Theater and there he saw Shades, from Cassavetes, the film that paved the way for authorship to Hollywood. According to Peter Biskind in the book Quiet bikers, wild bulls, “Bogdanovich was pathologically ambitious. […] He was concerned that his last name was too long for the canopies. ” Together with his first wife, the costume designer and movie buff Polly Platt, he fed almost exclusively by watching movies and wrote non-stop film essays until they moved to Los Angeles in 1964, where they suffered numerous hardships: he wore used Jerry suits Lewis, on Sundays they had breakfast invited by Fritz Lang. He entered the orbit of Corman’s production company and thus his fate was sealed.

'The Last Movie', directed by Peter Bogdanovich.  From left, Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, and Cybill Shepherd.
‘The Last Movie’, directed by Peter Bogdanovich. From left, Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, and Cybill Shepherd.

Platt, mother of her daughter Antonia, co-wrote and assisted in the creation of The hero is on the loose. The film was not worth much, although it showed that Bogdanovich knew what he was doing. He continued his socialization with the best creators in Hollywood, with directors as diverse as the aforementioned Ford and Welles, Jean Renoir, Howard Hawks, Don Siegel … The filmmaker began to receive proposals, and thus came the opportunity to The last movie (1971), a love song to movie theaters in small towns and villages, a monument to nostalgia and the passing of life, which also elevated a model who read Dostoevsky: Cybill Shepherd, discovered by Platt on the cover of the magazine Glamour. During filming, Bogdanovich fell madly in love with Shepherd and dynamited their marriage. That black and white cinephile elegy, very close in its essence to the Nouvelle Vague, achieved eight Oscar nominations, and launched its entire cast: in addition to Shepherd, Jeff Bridges, Ellen Burstyn and Randy Quaid.

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During that first half of the 1970s, Bogdanovich linked projects with great critical and box office success, such as ¿What’s wrong with me, doctor? (1972), with the two biggest stars of the moment, Ryan O’Neal and Barbra Streisand, and Paper moon (1973), and others more unsuccessful, such as A rebellious lady (1974); At last, the great love (1975) the This is how Hollywood began (1976), songs of love to the Mecca of cinema closer to the criteria of a scholar than that of a daring filmmaker. There his career as a director began to decline.

From left to right, John Huston, Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich on the set of 'The Other Side of the Wind'.
From left to right, John Huston, Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich on the set of ‘The Other Side of the Wind’.

His passion for Shepherd did not help his good judgment. Other loves also plunged him, both in the cinephile (he rolled with direct sound the lamentable musical numbers of At last, the great love) as in the sentimental; spent all his money in 1980 on finishing They all laughed —His favorite movie—, which he shot with Audrey Hepburn and a Miss Playboy, Dorothy Stratten, who became his lover until her husband murdered her when he found out she was leaving him for Bogdanovich. Nor did the 1990s give him a break. Although he continued working on films such as Mask (1985), Illegally yours (1988) the Texasville (1990), sequel to The last movie, and directing for television.

His last fiction films for the cinema were The cat’s meow (2001), which recreates another cinephile murder, that of director Thomas Ince by William Randolph Hearst, and Mess on Broadway another of love affairs. In his presentation at the Venice Film Festival in 2014, he said that the mcguffin of his new story, a fable with squirrels and walnuts, was drawn from The sin of Cluny Brown, by Ernst Lubitsch, a sign of his eternal passion for the classics. “I’ve been trying to get this script for years, since 1999, with my wife Louise. When we finally had the money, actor John Ritter, for whom it was written, died. I divorced. And I decided to stop the project. Now I have found two young producers who have supported me, even without having distribution for the first time in my life. In between I have made books, documentaries … For one they gave me a grammy. I don’t have the Oscar but I do have the Grammy. Curious”.

Actor and documentary filmmaker

Bogdanovich was always surrounded by bankruptcies, affairs and the occasional scandal. And intelligence mixed with ego. At the Italian festival he said: “I love those comedies from the fifties, not the current ones about colleagues or sexual nonsense. Comedy is much more difficult than drama, without a doubt. The great Tallulah Bankhead used to say: ‘An onion makes you cry. Show me a vegetable that will make you laugh. ‘ It was tremendous ”. And to the consequent question of what made him laugh, he replied: “My movie.”

John Ford (left) and Peter Bogdanovich, in 1971.
John Ford (left) and Peter Bogdanovich, in 1971.

To all these tasks he added that of an actor, thanks to his hieratic presence and his booming voice, much appreciated by his friend Quentin Tarantino. He was the psychiatrist of psychiatrists in The Sopranos; Welles himself hired him to On the other side of the wind the film that the genius filmed between 1970 and 1976 and that Bogdanovich helped to finish in 2018, ordering more than 100 hours of material; and his face has appeared in fifty episodes of series and films. His books on conversations with greats – and he chatted with everyone – are fascinating and remain brilliant thanks to his ability to get the best stories out of them. As a film documentary maker, his latest work premiered in 2019: The great Buster, his tribute to Buster Keaton: “He was a great comedy director, an aspect that I think is essential to vindicate. Welles, who knew and admired him, confessed to me that he considered him one of the great directors of all time ”.

In Venice, he confessed his frustration with today’s cinema: “When I started, most of the geniuses of the great era were still active. I asked John Ford a lot, who yelled at me to stop questioning him, although he would answer later. When I teach film classes I tell my students not to see anything shot after 1962. Those teachings have not grown with the new generations, but have been diluted. A shame ”.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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