Peter Bogdanovich, the ascot-wearing cinephile who directed black-and-white classics such as “The Last Picture Show” and “Paper Moon” in the 1970s, has died. He was 82 years old.
Bogdanovich died early Thursday morning at his Los Angeles home, according to his daughter, Antonia Bogdanovich. He died of natural causes, according to her.
Bogdanovich was heralded as an auteur from the start, with the chilling lone shooter film “Targets” and soon after “The Last Picture Show,” his evocative portrait of a small, dying town that 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 picture “Paper Moon,” which also won an Oscar for 10-year-old Tatum O’Neal.
His turbulent personal life was also frequently in the spotlight, from his well-known affair with Cybill Shepherd, which began while he was married to his close collaborator, Polly Platt, during the filming of “The Last Picture Show,” to the murder of his Playmate girlfriend Dorothy Stratten and his subsequent marriage to her younger sister, Louise, who was 29 years younger than him.
The news of his passing sparked an outpouring of emotion.
“Oh no, what a surprise. I’m heartbroken. In an email, Francis Ford Coppola commented, “He was a fantastic and amazing artist.” “I’ll never forget going to see the premiere of ‘The Last Picture Show.'” At the end, the audience sprang up all around me, bursting into applause that lasted at least 15 minutes. I’ll never forget, despite the fact that I’d never had a reaction like that before, that Peter and his picture earned it. May he sleep in bliss for all eternity, relishing the thrill of our acclaim.”
“He was a close friend and a champion of Cinema,” Guillermo del Toro tweeted. As a director, he created masterpieces and was a delightful human being. He interviewed and preserved the lives and works of more legendary filmmakers than practically anybody else in his generation.”
Bogdanovich, who was born in Kingston, New York in 1939, began his career as a film journalist and critic, working as a film programmer at the Museum of Modern Art, where he endeared himself to a slew of old guard filmmakers such as Orson Welles, Howard Hawks, and John Ford through a series of retrospectives.
“I’ve had some really crucial one-sentence indications, like when Howard Hawks turned to me and said, ‘Always cut on the movement and no one will notice the cut,'” he told The Associated Press in an interview. “It was a simple sentence, but it had a significant effect on everything I’ve done.”
But his Hollywood education began much earlier: when he was five years old, his father took him to see Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton films at the Museum of Modern Art. Later, he’d direct his own Keaton documentary, “The Great Buster,” which was released in 2018.
Bogdanovich and Platt traveled to Los Angeles in the mid-1960s, when they met Corman and Frank Marshall, an aspiring producer who helped get the picture “Targets” off the ground. And his professional ascension only accelerated over the next several films and years. But, despite “Paper Moon,” on which Platt cooperated after they divorced, he would never be able to match the praises he received during his first five years in Hollywood.
Bogdanovich’s involvement with Shepherd resulted in the dissolution of his marriage to Platt, with whom he had two daughters, Antonia and Sashy, as well as the termination of a fruitful artistic cooperation. The scandal was loosely inspired on the 1984 film “Irreconcilable Differences.” He later refuted the notion that Platt, who died in 2011, was crucial to the success of his early films.
He would go on to collaborate with Shephard on two more films, an adaptation of Henry James’s “Daisy Miller” and the musical “At Long Last Love,” neither of which was well appreciated by reviewers or audiences.
Bogdanovich admitted to the Associated Press in 2020 that his connections had an impact on his career.
“Everything about my personal life got in the way of people comprehending the pictures,” Bogdanovich explained. “That’s been bothering me since the first couple of photographs.”
He was working on a television show inspired by Dorothy Stratten at the time, and he wasn’t hopeful about the future of cinema.
“You know, I just keep going. Television is not dead yet,” he said with a laugh. “However, movies may have a difficulty.”