Long patient takes fade into deep character studies, while honest portrayals shine through with a nostalgic voyeurism. There is a thoughtful romanticism behind Peter Bogdonavich, the film director, writer and producer. After studying acting under Stella Adler Bogdanovich became a film historian and critic before he was chosen by famed B-Movie maker Roger Corman to assist him on The Wild Angels (1967). It wasn’t long until Bogdanovich helped bring the Movie Brat generation to life, and simultaneously end the studio system that had so inspired him when he made The Last Picture Show in 1971.
The film, now more than 50 years old, is still perhaps the best high school movie ever made. It eschews showing audiences what they wish their high school was like for emotional honesty about the teenage psyche. The great success of the Oscar winning film was followed up with two smash hits, What’s up Doc (1972) and Paper Moon (1973). An incredible creative period and an amazing streak of films that lovingly looked back at a Hollywood he helped bring to an end. Ironically Bogdanovich was a bridge between Hollywood’s golden age and the New Hollywood of the late ’60 and ‘70s. His academic work allowed him to forge friendships with great directors such as Orson Wells, Alfred Hitchcock and John Ford.
Life dealt Bogdanovich a hand that itself reads like a Hollywood tragedy. Having left his wife and collaborator Polly Platt, who is now seen as the intellectual driving force behind his best work, for the young star of The Last Picture Show, Cybill Shepherd. Eventually leading him to make a number of flops with Shepherd in the lead rolls. After this affair ended and dwindling success at the box office, he set out to make the old-fashioned romantic comedy They All Laughed (1981). It flopped initially, but has gained cult status over the years. The director cast his then girlfriend the former Playboy model Dorothy Stratten in the picture. At the end of filming, Stratten was shot and killed by her low level pimp husband after he learned of the affair with Bogdanovich. In 1988, Bogdanovich married Stratten’s half-sister, Louise.
He experienced his greatest commercial success in 1985 with Mask. Powered by Cher’s strong performance as the drug-taking biker mother of a child with a rare bone disorder, the film gave the director the praise that had eluded him for so long. But for Deeper Movies it’s the Roger Corman producer Saint Jack (1979) that was a true return to form, a step forward artistically, and a sincere attempt to get away from Hollywood in two senses. Set in a world of pimps and prostitutes, it has an excellent sense of locale (the red-light district of Singapore). Among a cast headed by Ben Gazzara, the director himself played an American mobster.
Modern audience’s became familiar with Bodganovich again thanks to the role of Dr Elliot Kupferberg, Tony Soprano’s therapist’s therapist in the hit series The Sopranos. Peter Bogdanovich passed away in early 2022 at the grand age of 82, still acting, still in love with cinema.