Acclaimed Filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich Dies Aged 82

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Peter Bogdanovich, Oscar-nominated director of The Last Picture Show and What’s Up Doc died on Thursday age 82. Bogdanovich was one of the central figures in the New Hollywood Movement that defined American cinema in the 1970s. Despite a career with ups and downs, he leaves a lasting legacy in film history.

Bogdanovich got his start in Hollywood working for Roger Corman, the “Godfather of New Hollywood.” His credits under Corman were typical for his B-movie production company. His first film Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women (1968) was released without Bogdanovich’s name in the credits. Both it and his next feature Target (1968) launched his career.

It is his next film, The Last Picture Show (1971), that Bogdanovich is best known for. A film about a small American town and the loss of a way of life, it was released to rave reviews, received eight Oscar nominations and has since come to be considered a classic. Alongside the screwball comedy What’s Up Doc (1972) and Paper Moon (1973), it marked the high-point of Bogdanovich’s career and cemented his place in Film History.

After these early successes, Bogdanovich’s career entered a rockier period coinciding with personal tragedy. Before his 1981 film They All Laughed was released, its star Dorothy Stratten, with whom Bogdanovich was romantically involved, was murdered by her estranged husband. Bogdanovich faced financial ruin when he mortgaged his house to buy the rights for the film out of frustration with its limited release. As he said in an interview with Vulture in 2019, “I just blew it. Because I was so depressed.”

In later years, he experienced something of a comeback, directing well-received films such as Mask (1985) and taking acting roles, most famously as Dr. Elliot Kupferberg in The Sopranos. His last credits included a role in Orson Welles’s final film, The Other Side of the Wind, completed in 2018 after over forty years in production, and the Buster Keaton documentary The Great Buster: A Celebration (2018).

Alongside his films, Bogdanovich leaves a legacy as a film historian. Facilitated by his friendships and connections throughout the industry, he wrote numerous books and essays and interviewed countless filmmakers. Those interviews served as the basis for his documentaries, such as Directed by John Ford (1971).

His role in film history defies simple definition. An Oscar-nominated director, screenwriter, film-historian, critic and even occasional actor—Peter Bogdanovich’s life was film. As he himself said, “I was born, and then I liked movies.”

Words by Reuben Bharucha


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