By the mid-1970s, Peter Bogdanovich was flying high in Hollywood with a string of critically acclaimed films and living in a mansion with Cybill Shepherd, whom he had made a star of on The Last Picture Show.
In the next decade everything was gone. His new films largely flopped and his personal life was in tatters – turned upside down by the assassination of Dorothy Stratten, his Playboy Playmate-turned-actress, and then ostracized when he married her younger sister. Broke, he declared bankruptcy and fell out of Bel-Air.
But Hollywood loves second acts, and Bogdanovich retires with a string of well-received films, two acclaimed books, and a recurring role on The Sopranos as Elliot Kupferberg, the therapist to Tony Soprano’s overworked psychiatrist.
“Life has been a lot of ups and downs,” he told the Times on the eve of the release of his final feature film, She’s Funny That Way.
Adored as the director of touchstone films of the 1970s like The Last Picture Show, What’s Up, Doc? and Paper Moon, Bogdanovich died Thursday at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 82. Oren Segal, manager of the two-time Oscar nominee, confirmed Bogdanovich’s death from natural causes.
“Movies used to be something powerful,” Bogdanovich told The Times in 2015. “Now it’s a bit ruined. I don’t know if we can get it back – I think so. But it has lost its innocence. The interesting stuff has moved to TV, and movies have become more like, “What can I blow up next?” Behind it is a terrible cancer.”
“The Last Picture Show” received two Oscar nominations in 1972 for Bogdanovich, for directing, and for writing a screenplay based on a different medium, which he shared with writer Larry McMurtry. The film also garnered two trophies — supporting actor and supporting actress — for Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman, respectively, plus another four nods. Among them was a nomination for best picture.
“My heart is broken – my dear friend Peter is no longer with us in physical form,” said actor Jeff Bridges, who starred in The Last Picture Show and Texasville. wrote Thursday on social media. “I loved him and will miss him. What a wonderful artist. He left us his incredible films and insights into the filmmakers he so admired. I love you Peter.”
“Peter always made me laugh!” Barbra Streisand, star of What’s Up, Doc? wrote Thursday. “He’ll always make her laugh up there, too. Rest in peace.”
Bogdanovich was born on July 30, 1939 in Kingston, NY to immigrant parents from Austria and Serbia. During his childhood, he watched hundreds of films a year and diligently wrote down his opinions on each one on a note card. He began acting professionally in summer theater at the age of 15, and by the age of 20 he was directing his first off-Broadway play.
He began his career in the film business, programming films for New York’s Museum of Modern Art and writing about films for Esquire before moving to Los Angeles in the late 1960s with his first wife, Polly Platt, and really getting into the industry.
Patrick Goldstein, a former Times contributor, wrote in a 2004 article that Bogdanovich frequented the Whiskey-A-Go-Go in the mid-’60s when the place was so hip he saw beatniks and surfer girls at one end of the crowded space and Shelley Winters, Sal Mineo and Dean Martin on the other side.
Bogdanovich, who was writing at the time, hung around directors’ homes. John Ford and Howard Hawks would let him visit their sets where he received invaluable directing advice. Jerry Lewis got so tired of seeing Bogdanovich’s old race car that he gave him a new Ford Mustang as a gift.
He let his acting career slip for a while, telling the Times in 2013 while teaching at the University of North Carolina’s School of the Arts, “I like acting. I regret that I did not pursue acting as a part of my career for many years. I just let it go and I regret that. I would have had more influence.”
After rising to fame in the ’70s with The Last Picture Show, What’s Up, Doc? and Paper Moon — all imbued with a reverence for Hollywood’s past — Bogdanovich was looking for a row later in the decade collapse his career from flops.
Martin Scorsese noted in a statement to the Associated Press that Bogdanovich was “right there at the crossroads of old Hollywood and new.”
“Like many of us, he found his way into film directing through Roger Corman, and he and Francis Coppola broke into the system early: Peter’s debut ‘Targets’ remains one of his very best films,” Scorsese said Thursday. “With ‘The Last Picture Show’ he made a film that seems to look backwards and forwards at the same time.”
Bogdanovich’s marriage to Platt was broken during filming of The Last Picture Show, when he left his wife, the film’s production designer, for its star, a then 21-year-old Shepherd. But he and Platt continued to work together and finalized their divorce in 1973.
He and Shepherd remained a couple through the late 1970s, and he cast her in the films Daisy Miller and At Long Last Love. But they broke up after he cheated on her with Ben Gazzara while filming Saint Jack.
Next, the director recorded Stratten, who later starred in his 1981 film They All Laughed, a romantic comedy starring Gazzara, Audrey Hepburn and John Ritter. Tragedy struck shortly after filming wrapped, when Stratten was killed by her estranged husband.
The hard phase continued. Bogdanovich had funded the distribution of They All Laughed – reportedly spending over $4 million on the rights – and blamed it when he filed for bankruptcy and was evicted from his Bel Air estate in 1985. Then, in late 1988, he faced public scandal when he married Stratten’s younger sister, Louise, who was 29 years his junior.
Acting opportunities arose in the 1970s and 1980s, but he turned down major film roles, including roles in Samuel Fuller’s The Big Red One and Sydney Pollack’s Electric Horseman and Tootsie. He eventually racked up nearly 60 acting credits, including his recurring role on The Sopranos.
Bogdanovich filed for bankruptcy a second time in 1997, less than 24 hours after a Los Angeles Superior Court jury awarded him a $4.2 million verdict in a real estate dispute.
At the time he was also promoting Who the Devil Made It, a book compilation featuring interviews with famous directors. It was one of more than a dozen titles to his name, including 1992’s This Is Orson Welles.
“He was a dear friend and a champion of cinema. He produced masterpieces as a director and was a person of great genius. He has single-handedly interviewed and anchored the life and work of more classic filmmakers than almost anyone of his generation.” wrote Thursday on social media.
A few years after he directed Cher and Eric Stoltz in Mask, Bogdanovich released his 1990 Last Picture Show sequel Texasville, after bringing back Shepherd, Bridges and all surviving members of the original film. “Noises Off…” followed in 1992, then “The Thing Called Love” in 1993.
In 1997 he moved back to New York City but eventually returned to the West Coast. And he spent the rest of the 1990s slaving away on television before returning to the big screen with the 2001 indie film The Cat’s Meow.
“I am deeply saddened by the passing of one of my oldest friends, legendary director and film historian Peter Bogdanovich,” Cat’s Meow actor Cary Elwes said on social media. “Aside from being extraordinarily talented, he was a gentle soul with an enormous heart.”
Still, Bogdanovich would never return to the peak of Hollywood royalty he achieved with his trio of early films in the 1970s.
Bogdanovich was behind the camera well into the 1970s. He released the disappointing She’s Funny That Way in 2015 – a project he began writing with Louise Stratten in 2000, a year before their divorce – and has also continued to star in projects such as It: Chapter Two and TV -Series “Get Shorti.”
“The Maestro has left us,” tweeted Illeana Douglas, who starred in “She’s Funny That Way” with Imogen Poots. “A great director, a great actor, our greatest film historian. His writings and interviews with Hollywood legends pragmatically defined motion pictures as America’s greatest art form. Peter Bogdanovich was our last connection to a golden era of cinema.”
The filmmaker is survived by two daughters, Sashy and Antonia, from his marriage to Platt.
Times editor Josh Rottenberg and former editor Patrick Goldstein contributed to this report.
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2022-01-06/peter-bogdanovich-dead-obituary Peter Bogdanovich dead: Streisand, Jeff Bridges pay tribute