The man in the ascot: a tribute to Peter Bogdanovich

Peter Bogdanovich’s career spanned five decades and influenced countless actors, writers, and directors. He used his camera to re-interpret the Golden Age of American cinema, and to help usher in the New Hollywood with masterpieces like The Last Picture Show (1971) and Paper Moon (1973). He has a total of 32 directing credits to his name, and over 50 roles in front of the camera, most notably as Dr. Elliot Kupferberg in The Sopranos. Bogdanovich was distinguished with countless awards throughout his career, including two Oscar nominations, and contributed immeasurably to the history of cinema as a historian, cunning programmer, and perceptive critic.  He also left an imprint as a director of theater and television.

Guillermo del Toro praised the filmmaker on Twitter, describing him as "a champion of cinema" who "single-handedly interviewed and enshrined the lives and work of more classic filmmakers than almost anyone else in his generation." He also had a famous and well-documented friendship with Orson Welles, most recently depicted in the newly-restored The Other Side of the Wind (2018).

Bogdanovich died of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles. He was 82 years old.

5 Films to Watch

The Last Picture Show (1971) 

Bogdanovich’s most famous film and, arguably, his most important. The Last Picture Show is a towering achievement in new age melodrama. It’s a sun-drenched tale about feeling lost (and being lost) without having a place to go. It captures a place in time, but also transcends its own setting by tapping into a very familiar feeling–that of wanting to belong. To something, anything, that has real value. Cybill Shepherd and Jeff Bridges star in the film based on Larry McMurtry’s novel of the same name (who also wrote the screenplay). Available to rent on iTunes, YouTube, and Amazon.

Paper Moon (1973) 

Funny and heartwarming, even when coated in Great Depression blues. The fact that words like "Coney Island" and "bone structure" will forever be associated with Paper Moon shows just how cunning its sensibilities are. Anchored by a pair of extraordinary performances by real-life father-daughter Ryan and Tatum O’Neal, a taut script by Alvin Sargent, and stunning photography by a black-and-white master, László Kovács, Paper Moon is a film that merits unyielding adoration and study. Now streaming on Amazon Prime.

What’s Up Doc? (1972) 

A spiritual remake of Bringing Up Baby that miraculously works incredibly well, in no small part thanks to terrific writing and a tour de force by Barbra Streisand, who delivers one of the all-time greatest comedic performances. Bogdanovich channels his inner Howard Hawks and smartly keeps the comedy flowing through wide angles and simple but sublimely executed gags. Available to rent on iTunes, YouTube, and Amazon. 

Saint Jack (1979)

Ben Gazzara delivers a tremendous performance as an American expatriate wheeling-and-dealing in Singapore in the early ‘70s. Based on Paul Theroux’s 1973 novel of the same name, Saint Jack delves into the subtler face of American imperialism and the rapid changes that were reshaping Singapore’s social fabric. Available to rent on iTunes, YouTube, and Amazon. 

Noises Off… (1992) 

A loaded cast of comedic talents (from Michael Caine and Carol Burnett to Julia Hagerty and Denholm Elliott) provides the contagious energy to this adaptation of Michael Frayn's original play. Noises off… is part Ernst Lubitsch and part Howard Hawks–a frenetic exercise in slapstick that will leave you smiling from ear to ear. Available to rent on iTunes, YouTube, and Amazon.

[Header image by Damian Dovarganes, copyright AP2005]

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