Peter Bogdanovich, the ascot-wearing cinephile and director of 1970s black-and-white classics like “The Last Picture Show” and “Paper Moon,” has died. He was 82.
Bogdanovich died early Thursday morning at his home in Los Angeles, said his daughter, Antonia Bogdanovich. She said he died of natural causes.
Considered part of a generation of young “New Hollywood” directors, Bogdanovich was heralded as an auteur from the start, with the chilling lone shooter film “Targets” and soon after “The Last Picture Show,” from 1971. His evocative and melancholic portrait of teenage angst and middle age loneliness in small, dying town earned eight Oscar nominations, won two (for Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman) and catapulted him to stardom at the age of 32. He followed “The Last Picture Show” with the screwball comedy “What’s Up, Doc?,” starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal, and then the Depression-era road trip film “Paper Moon,” which won 10-year-old Tatum O’Neal an Oscar as well.
His turbulent personal life was also often in the spotlight, from his well-known affair with Cybill Shepherd that began during the making of “The Last Picture Show” while he was married to his close collaborator, Polly Platt, to the murder of his Playmate girlfriend Dorothy Stratten and his subsequent marriage to her younger sister, Louise, who was 29 years his junior.
Reacting to the death, Streisand wrote on Twitter that, “Peter always made me laugh! He’ll keep making them laugh up there, too.” Francis Ford Coppola wrote in an email, “May he sleep in bliss for eternity, enjoying the thrill of our applause forever.” And Martin Scorsese, in an email, wrote that, Bogdanovich “was right there at the crossroads of the Old Hollywood and the New.”
Born in Kingston, New York, in 1939, Bogdanovich started out as an actor, a film journalist and critic, working as a film programmer at the Museum of Modern Art, where through a series of retrospectives and monographs, he endeared himself to a host of old guard filmmakers including Orson Welles, Howard Hawks and John Ford. He regaled them with knowledge of their films, took lessons for his own and kept their conversations for future books.
Bogdanovich’s relationship with Shepherd led to the end of his marriage to Platt, with whom he shared daughters Antonia and Sashy, and a fruitful creative partnership. The 1984 film “Irreconcilable Differences” was loosely based on the scandal. He later disputed the idea that Platt, who died in 2011, was an integral part of the success of his early films.
He would go on to make two other films with Shepherd, an adaptation of Henry James’s “Daisy Miller” and the musical “At Long Last Love,” neither of which were particularly well-received by critics or audiences.
Headlines would continue to follow Bogdanovich for things other than his movies. He began an affair with Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten while directing her in “They All Laughed,” a romantic comedy with Audrey Hepburn and Ben Gazzara, in the spring and summer of 1980. Her husband, Paul Snider, murdered her that August. Bogdanovich, in a 1984 book titled “The Killing of the Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten, 1960-1980,” criticized Hugh Hefner’s Playboy empire for its alleged role in events he said ended in Stratten’s death. Then, nine years later, at 49, he married her younger sister, Louise Stratten, who was just 20 at the time. They divorced in 2001, but continued living together, with her mother in Los Angeles.
In an interview with the AP in 2020, Bogdanovich acknowledged that his relationships had an impact on his career. “The whole thing about my personal life got in the way of people’s understanding of the movies,” Bogdanovich said. “That’s something that has plagued me since the first couple of pictures.”
Despite some flops along the way, Bogdanovich’s output remained prolific in the 1980s and 1990s, including a sequel to “The Last Picture Show” called “Texasville,” the country music romantic drama “The Thing Called Love,” which was one of River Phoenix’s last films, and, in 2001, “The Cat’s Meow,” about a party on William Randolph Hearst’s yacht starring Kirsten Dunst as Marion Davies. His last narrative film, “She’s Funny that Way,” a screwball comedy starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston that he co-wrote with Louise Stratten, debuted to mixed reviews in 2014.
Over the years he authored several books about movies, including “Peter Bogdanovich’s Movie of the Week,” “Who the Devil Made It: Conversations with Legendary Film Directors” and “Who the Hell’s in It: Conversations with Hollywood’s Legendary Actors.”
He acted semi-frequently, too, sometimes playing himself (in “Moonlighting” and “How I Met Your Mother”) and sometimes other people, like Dr. Elliot Kupferberg on “The Sopranos,” and also inspired a new generation of filmmakers, from Wes Anderson to Noah Baumbach.