Peter Bogdanovich, director of such classic films as The Last Picture Show (for which he rightly received an Oscar nomination for best director), What’s Up Doc and Paper Moon has died at the age of eighty-two.
Peter Bogdanovich was born in Kingston, New York on July 30, 1939 to proud parents Herma and Borislav. The future “New Hollywood” director jumped into the world of movies while still in his twenties where he made a name for himself during the early 1960s as a film programmer for the distinguished Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Priding himself in viewing at least four hundred films annually, Bogdanovich put the spotlight on such lauded filmmakers as Howard Hawks and Orson Welles during his tenure at the museum. How much did this man love cinema? Word round our particular campfire has it that Bogdanovich actually maintained a file of cards of every single film he ever took in between the years 1952 and 1970. Not content with that feat, the film fanatic also had complete reviews of all of those films which he wrote onto said card files. Is it any surprise that he would eventually take the plunge into the world of filmmaking?
A string of films and documentaries fell under Bogdanovich’s purview in the years leading up to 1971 – The Great Professional: Howard Hawks, Targets, Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women– but it was with his efforts in the ’71 masterpiece The Last Picture Show that he finally broke through and received his most acclaim as a director.
Throughout the years, Peter Bogdanovich experienced a rocky personal life, with the murder of his girlfriend (and one of the stars of his film They All Laughed) Dorothy Stratten. Bankruptcy followed on the heels of that devastating news, yet somehow Bogdanovich endured, his love of movies and his passion for passing on the history of the film medium to others driving him ever forward.
I’m embarrassed to admit that the first film by this great maestro I saw was not The Last Picture Show (though I knew of it, of course) but rather a stale programmer entitled The Thing Called Love. I checked this one out on by virtue of the fact that I was a huge fan of one of its stars, River Phoenix. I might have showed up for Phoenix, but I wound up staying long-term for Bogdanovich whose earlier work I eventually began checking out. I knew that River had taken on this film because of his infatuation with The Last Picture Show, so that was good enough for me. Finally checking that classic out for myself, I was quickly won over and became a lifelong admirer of Peter Bogdanovich, his films and – most importantly – his writings and discussions on movies. I never paid a plug nickel for film school; why would I? With Peter’s authoritative words on Hitchcock, Ford and Allan Dwan and Who the Hell’s in It, his book of essays about his encounters with Hollywood icons such as Jimmy Stewart (and my personal Bible), I had a ready-made crash course on cinema delivered right to my doorstep by one of the kindest and smartest professors I could have ever hoped for.
Rest well, Mr. Bogdanovich; you will not be forgotten.