Director and actor Peter Bogdanovich died on January 6 at the age of 82. He was nominated for the Oscar for Best Director for The Last Session (1971), a tribute to his favorite filmmaker and friend, Orson Welles.
Born in New York to parents who fled Nazism in Europe, Peter Bogdanovich grew up in New York and began to take acting lessons very early on. His teacher is Stella Adler, famous for teaching drama to Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro.
Passionate about cinema (he watches up to 400 films per year), the young Bogdanovich begins by working at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in the early 1960s. There he presents great directors, such as Orson Welles, John Ford , Allan Dwan or Howard Hughes.
Following the model of the Cahiers du Cinéma, he became a renowned film critic, with highly developed knowledge on the subject. Influenced by the New Wave, he decides to become a director and goes to Los Angeles with his wife (and collaborator) Polly Platt, where he meets Roger Corman.
In 1966, Peter Bogdanovich took on several functions (assistant director, screenwriter, actor, etc.) on the set of Roger Corman’s Wild Angels, which quickly pushed him to direct. After directing a documentary on Howard hughes, he directed his first feature film, the little-known “Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women” and continued with La Cible, a horror film with Boris Karloff in the main role.
The last session, it was him
But it was through his next film that he truly acquired the status of a fashionable director, whose work is perfectly in tune with the constants defining The New Hollywood. The Final Screening, which focuses on the lives of ordinary young people in a small, isolated village in 1950s Texas, is a huge critical and commercial success. Revealing Cybill Shepherd (who became Bogdanovich’s companion) and Jeff Bridges, the film was nominated for 8 Oscars (including Best Director) and won 2 (best supporting roles for Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman).
Following this triumph, Bogdanovich continued with two other great successes: Shall we pack our bags, doctor? (1972) and especially Cotton Candy (1973), a black and white comedy about the relationship between a crook (Ryan O’Neal) and a little girl who could be his daughter (Tatum O’Neal who, at 10, won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress) in the 1930s.
At this time, the filmmaker is at his peak. But after these three successes, Bogdanovich’s career was affected by the successive failures of “Daisy Miller” (1974), “Finally love” (1975) (both with Cybill Shepherd) and Nickelodeon (1976). Three years later, he still fails to win back the hearts of the public.
In 1981, he filmed And Everybody Laughed with Audrey Hepburn, Ben Gazzara and model Dorothy Stratten, with whom he began an affair. Hearing the news, the latter’s husband kills the young woman, rapes her corpse and commits suicide.
This most sordid news item pushes the director to put an end to his career (“If the reality is worse than what you can see in the cinema, I don’t see the point of making films …”, he confides). Bogdanovich then turns to his first vocation, and writes a book devoted to his murdered love entitled “The Killing of the Unicorn”. However, he did not completely give up directing, and achieved modest success with Mask in 1985, where singer Cher played the main role.
Texasville, sequel to The Last Show
In 1990, he produced Texasville, the sequel to his masterpiece The last session, but which ended in failure in theaters… Just like Bruits de coulisses (1992) and The Thing Called Love (1993). Constantly shunned by the public, his last film for the cinema was released in 2001 (A Perfume of Murder with Kirsten Dunst).
From the 1990s, Bogdanovich made a few appearances on the big screen, as for example in Mr. Jealousy and Studio 54. However, he chose to focus on television, in front of and behind the camera (he notably played a small role in 15 episodes). of the Sopranos and directed several TV films and series episodes).
In 2015, Peter Bogdanovich made his comeback behind the camera with the comedy-drama Broadway Therapy. With its prestigious cast (Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston), the film follows the journey of a former escort-girl turned actress who forges a relationship with a director on Broadway.
Continuing to act as an actor, he died on January 6, 2022 while working on a new One Lucky Moon achievement.
Emblematic figure of New Hollywood, Peter Bogdanovich is very representative of this particular era: like Hal Ashby and many others, he failed to reproduce the success of his first innovative films.