Peter Bogdanovich, director of ‘Paper Moon,’ dies aged 82

Bogdanovich 'was right there at the crossroads of the Old Hollywood and the New,' says Martin Scorsese

Peter Bogdanovich, the acclaimed New Hollywood director of 'The Last Picture Show,' has died at the age of 82, his agent said on January 6. AFP
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Peter Bogdanovich, the ascot-wearing cinephile and director of 1970s black-and-white classics such as The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon, has died. He was 82.

Bogdanovich died early on Thursday morning at his home in Los Angeles, said his daughter, Antonia. She said he died of natural causes.

Considered part of a generation of young “New Hollywood” directors, Bogdanovich was heralded as an auteur from the start, with the chilling lone shooter film Targets and soon after The Last Picture Show, from 1971. His evocative and melancholic portrait of teenage angst and middle-aged loneliness in a small, dying town earned eight Oscar nominations, won two (for Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman) and catapulted him to stardom at the age of 32. He followed The Last Picture Show with the screwball comedy What’s Up, Doc?, starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal, and then the Depression-era road trip film Paper Moon, which won a 10-year-old Tatum O’Neal an Oscar as well.

Bogdanovich's turbulent personal life was also often in the spotlight, from his well-known affair with Cybill Shepherd that began during the making of The Last Picture Show, while he was married to his close collaborator Polly Platt, to the murder of his Playboy Playmate girlfriend Dorothy Stratten and his subsequent marriage to her younger sister, Louise, who was 29 years his junior.

Reacting to Bogdanovich's death, Streisand wrote on Twitter, “Peter always made me laugh! He’ll keep making them laugh up there, too.” Francis Ford Coppola wrote in an email, “May he sleep in bliss for eternity, enjoying the thrill of our applause for ever.” c wrote in an email that Bogdanovich "was right there at the crossroads of the Old Hollywood and the New".

Born in Kingston, New York, in 1939, Bogdanovich started out as an actor, a film journalist and critic, working as a film programmer at the Museum of Modern Art, where through a series of retrospectives and monographs, he endeared himself to a host of old-guard filmmakers including Orson Welles, Howard Hawks and John Ford. He regaled them with his knowledge of their films, took lessons for his own and kept their conversations for future books.

Peter Bogdanovich, John Huston in Orson Wells' "The Other Side Of The Wind". Courtesy Netflix

Bogdanovich’s relationship with Shepherd led to the end of his marriage to Platt, with whom he shared daughters Antonia and Sashy, and a fruitful creative partnership. The 1984 film Irreconcilable Differences was loosely based on the scandal. He later disputed the idea that Platt, who died in 2011, was an integral part of the success of his early films.

He would go on to make two more films with Shepherd, an adaptation of Henry James’s Daisy Miller and the musical At Long Last Love, neither of which was particularly well-received by critics or audiences.

Headlines would continue to follow Bogdanovich for things other than his movies. He began an affair with Dorothy Stratten while directing her in They All Laughed, a romantic comedy with Audrey Hepburn and Ben Gazzara, in the spring and summer of 1980. Stratten's husband, Paul Snider, murdered her that August. Bogdanovich, in a 1984 book titled The Killing of the Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten, 1960-1980, criticised Hugh Hefner’s Playboy empire for its alleged role in events he said ended in Stratten’s death. Then, nine years later, at aged 49, he married her younger sister, Louise Stratten, who was just 20 at the time. They divorced in 2001, but continued living together, with her mother in Los Angeles.

In an interview with the AP in 2020, Bogdanovich acknowledged that his relationships had an impact on his career. “The whole thing about my personal life got in the way of people’s understanding of the movies,” he said. “That’s something that has plagued me since the first couple of pictures.”

Despite some flops along the way, Bogdanovich’s output remained prolific in the 1980s and 1990s, including a sequel to The Last Picture Show called Texasville (1990), the country music romantic drama The Thing Called Love (1993) – one of River Phoenix’s last films – and, in 2001, The Cat’s Meow, about a party on William Randolph Hearst’s yacht, starring Kirsten Dunst as Marion Davies. His last narrative film, She’s Funny that Way, a screwball comedy starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston that he co-wrote with Louise Stratten, debuted to mixed reviews in 2014.

Over the years he wrote several books about movies, including Peter Bogdanovich’s Movie of the Week, as well as Who the Devil Made It: Conversations with Legendary Film Directors and Who the Hell’s in It: Conversations with Hollywood’s Legendary Actors.

He acted somewhat frequently, too, sometimes playing himself (in 1985 film Moonlighting and a 2010 episode of TV show How I Met Your Mother) and sometimes other people, such as Dr Elliot Kupferberg in TV series The Sopranos. He also inspired a new generation of filmmakers, from Wes Anderson to Noah Baumbach.

Updated: January 07, 2022, 7:17 AM