The great film historian and and director Peter Bogdanovich is 75 today. He is an interesting guy. He started off as an actor and then somehow ended up as the film programmer at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. From this position, he met and interviewed a number of notable people from the film industry including John Ford and, most important, Orson Welles with whom he had a friendship for the rest of the older director’s life. There’s no doubt he could have continued on in this vein for the rest of his life. He is a great analyst of film, although I always get the feeling reading him that he’s looking down on me: everything is obvious and shouldn’t you just be watching the films? I largely agree and so haven’t made it a point of reading much of his work.
It was inevitable given his knowledge, predisposition, and connections that he would direct films. He first became involved with Roger Corman, for whom he directed Targets and Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women in the late 1960s. In 1971, he made it to the big time when he wrote (based on the novel by Larry McMurtry) and directed The Last Picture Show. It’s a coming of age film that I admire but don’t much enjoy. He followed it up with the highly successful and funny What’s Up, Doc? And then, of course, there was one of my favorite films, Paper Moon.
The rest of his life has been a muddle. He’s made a number of good films since then. I’m a big fan of Noises Off myself. And there has always been his attraction to young actresses, most notably his relationship with Dorothy Stratten, which culminated in her murder (I’m not suggesting that Bogdanovich is in any way culpable). Currently, he is working on a film One Lucky Moon with Cybill Shepherd, with whom he was romantically involved when she was the age he seems to be most attracted to.
These days I look to him mostly for news about the status of Orson Welles’ last film, The Other Side of the Wind. If anyone ever gets the film released as it should be, it will be Bogdanovich. It isn’t just a matter of the legal issues (of which there have been many). There are missing bits that may require some second unit filming, narration, editing, and music. No one wants its release to be a repeat of Don Quixote. But I would like to see the film before I die. Anyway…
Happy birthday Peter Bogdanovich!