Archive | January, 2022

Being Peter Bogdanovich

22 Jan

A life in film, worthy of being a film

Last week with the passing of Peter Bogdanovich the movie world lost a filmmaker whose streak of instant classics in the 1970s rivaled that of fellow New Hollywood deities Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and William Friedkin. The lesser known Bogdanovich who claimed to have been obsessed with film from the day he was born would enjoy a meteoritical early career helming three back-to-back critical and commercial hits; “The Last Picture Show,” “What’s Up, Doc?” and “Paper Moon,” in his early thirties, but despite those cinematic successes, Bogdanovich’s personal life was peppered with tragedy, financial and career implosions, tabloid fodder romances and worse—his life, or parts of it, were not only like a movie, they were in movies.

The son of immigrants, Bogdanovich grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan where his father Borislav, a painter, often took him to the matinee where he became intoxicated by Golden Age classics directed by Charlie Chaplin, John Ford, Howard Hawks and Orson Welles. In his early twenties he penned detailed monographs of his cinematic idols for the Museum of Modern Art where he also programmed and wrote pieces on film for “Esquire” and “The Saturday Evening Post.” After directing an off-Broadway revival of Clifford Odets’s drama “The Big Knife” at the age 20 (starring a young Carroll O’Connor) he drifted west with his wife Polly Platt to work for the upstart Roger Corman as a second unit director and writer. In 1968 Corman would produce Bogdanovich’s first feature “Targets,” a loose depiction of mass murderer Charles Whitman infamously known as the “Austin Tower Sniper” for killing nine people during a 90 minute shooting spree in 1966. The film, a piquant blend of character profile and Bogdanovich’s love of cinema and screen legends (the final scene takes place at a drive in and features Boris Karloff as an aging horror film actor) was a low budget curio that scored critical acclaim but didn’t garner much attention at the box office. That same year, under the moniker of Derek Thomas, Bogdanovich also made “Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women” for Corman, a B-level quickie about scantily clad women in outer space–if that sounds like a vampy spoof on “Barbarella,” know that the Jane Fonda sci-fi, sex-kitten fantasy was made in ’68 as well.

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