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peterbogdanovich Peter Bogdanovich
Blogdanovich is the blog of director, producer, writer, actor, film critic, and author Peter Bogdanovich. He has directed over 25 feature films including international award winners The Last Picture Show, What’s Up, Doc?, Paper Moon, Daisy Miller, Saint Jack, Mask; cult favorites Targets, Texasville, Noises Off, They All Laughed, and A The Thing Called Love, among stars he’s introduced: Cybill Shepherd, Tatum O’Neal, Madeline Kahn, John Ritter, Sandra Bullock; has directed stars Audrey Hepburn, Barbra Streisand, Michael Caine, Cher; best-sellers Who the Devil Made It: Who the Hell's In It, The Killing of the Unicorn; standard texts John Ford, This is Orson Welles; and was a recurring guest-star on the popular HBO series The Sopranos.

Peter Bogdanovich

PRESTON STURGES

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • June 8, 2011 12:28 PM
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  • 10 Comments
In 1973, I did an Esquire column about screenwriters, focusing largely on the first writer-director of the talking era, the mercurial Mr. Preston Sturges, who got so fed up with seeing his scripts mangled by inferior directors that he made an unprecedented deal with Paramount: he would direct his own screenplay for one dollar. The superb result was the brilliantly satirical political comedy, The Great McGinty, which won him an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. This was followed by seven more comedies over the next four years, each one of similar vintage quality (except for The Great Moment, which was somewhat wrecked by studio interference in the cutting), an amazing outburst of creativity that remains unchallenged to this day; six further masterpieces that have stood the test of time and changing tastes: Christmas in July, The Lady Eve, The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, Hail the Conquering Hero, The Palm Beach Story, and Sullivan’s Travels. If you haven’t seen every one of them, you are missing seven treasures of delight, wit and hilarity---human and wildly funny---among the finest of American comedy. The article I wrote was later reprinted in my collection, Pieces of Time, titled “Screenwriters and Preston Sturges,” and this has been uploaded on author-critic Clive James’ website, to which we hereby supply the link. All these fabulous films are available on DVD (or through Netflix) so if you haven’t seen them, there’s no excuse for not catching each and every one as soon as you possibly can!

About Peter Bogdanovich

  • June 1, 2011 4:38 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Blogdanovich is the blog of director, producer, writer, actor, film critic, and author Peter Bogdanovich. He has directed over 25 feature films including international award winners The Last Picture Show, What’s Up, Doc?, Paper Moon, Daisy Miller, Saint Jack, Mask; cult favorites Targets, Texasville, Noises Off, They All Laughed, and A The Thing Called Love, among stars he’s introduced: Cybill Shepherd, Tatum O’Neal, Madeline Kahn, John Ritter, Sandra Bullock; has directed stars Audrey Hepburn, Barbra Streisand, Michael Caine, Cher; best-sellers Who the Devil Made It: Who the Hell's In It, The Killing of the Unicorn; standard texts John Ford, This is Orson Welles; and was a recurring guest-star on the popular HBO series The Sopranos.

My Man Godfrey

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • June 1, 2011 6:26 AM
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  • 8 Comments
The name for probably my favorite movie genre, screwball comedy—-essentially romantic farce—-was coined, it seems, from the original Variety review of Carole Lombard’s dizzy performance in the utterly delightful 1936 Depression-era comedy directed with consummate savoir faire by Gregory LaCava, MY MAN GODFREY (available on DVD). Said the trade paper’s critic, accurately: “Lombard has played screwball dames before, but none so screwy as this one.” Two years earlier, Howard Hawks had started Lombard as an out-there comedienne, with John Barrymore, in the backstage classic, Twentieth Century, but in My Man Godfrey she conclusively immortalized herself as the gorgeous queen of madcap.

The Greatest Year?

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • May 25, 2011 11:24 AM
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  • 14 Comments
Back in the early 1970s, I had a monthly column in Esquire called “Hollywood”, and one piece I did concerned the low state of movie quality at the time (things have only gotten worse), especially in light of the glorious past. To make my point, I arbitrarily picked 1939, the year I was born---along with a number of my illustrious colleagues (like Coppola and Friedkin)---and ran through the amazingly prolific array of movie classics released in that last year of the 1930s, including such seeming evergreens as Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz. A few months later, in a huge spread in Life magazine, Richard Schickel wrote a similar lengthy rundown of pictures from 1939, but he declared it unequivocally The Greatest Year of American Movies. This worked its way into the culture and is now the establishment viewpoint. I often wonder what would have happened if I’d been born in 1941.Certainly a case can be made that 1941 is actually a greater year for American film than 1939, since John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley (the Oscar winner for Best Picture) and Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane are certainly greater, more personal works of art than either Gone With the Wind or The Wizard of Oz. And clearly one could return more frequently to Preston Sturges’ 1941 masterpiece, The Lady Eve. Though Howard Hawks had his archetypal Only Angels Have Wings in 1939, he had in 1941 both Sergeant York and Ball of Fire (both with Gary Cooper, who won Best Actor for York). And Raoul Walsh had his tragic gangster milestone, High Sierra, which made Humphrey Bogart an A-list star and made it possible for John Huston to cast him in the lead for his first directorial effort, The Maltese Falcon, also a 1941 release. Anyway, all this is by way of introducing the Esquire column that seems to have started it all, which author-critic Clive James has uploaded on his website, and to which we herewith supply a link. The substantial question of which year is The Greatest will be more deeply discussed when we get around to the 1940s in our Golden Age of American Talkies series of blogs. In a nutshell, however, I would simplify matters by stating that the absolute highpoint in the American Cinema was reached with the years 1939-1940-1941, since 1940 boasted, among others, such treasures as Ford’s Depression family epic, The Grapes of Wrath, Hawks’ breakneck screwball newspaper romance, His Girl Friday, and Ernst Lubitsch’s most beautiful human comedy, The Shop Around the Corner

Mr. Lucky

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • May 18, 2011 3:45 AM
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  • 11 Comments
If you like Cary Grant as much as I do, then it doesn’t matter that 1943’s romantic World War II home-front drama, MR. LUCKY (available on DVD), is neither a great movie, nor a film from an interesting though flawed director, nor even featuring an unusually fine screenplay. It is, though, a terrific vehicle for Cary Grant, who might therefore be called the picture’s auteur by default.

Daddy-Long-Legs

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • May 11, 2011 5:12 AM
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  • 5 Comments
Mary Pickford was the screen’s first legend in her own lifetime; throughout the 1910’s and ‘20s, the most popular and beloved star and woman on earth, “America’s Sweetheart” and, overseas, “The World’s Sweetheart.” Also, I believe, she was greatly responsible for getting women the vote in 1920 (in the U.S.; 1918 in Ireland; 1919 England): How could Mary Pickford (or Lillian Gish, for that matter, or Gloria Swanson) not have the right to vote? “Little Mary’s” favorite—-and best—-director was the star silent filmmaker-actor Marshall Neilan, who has haunted me for years. Howard Hawks, no less, first mentioned him to me in 1962 as a major influence on his work: “Marshall Neilan had this great sense of humor,” Hawks said, “and yet his pictures were not slapstick. He always had a good foundation for a story, but his method of treating it lightly crept in—-or of stopping in the middle of something very dramatic to get a laugh. That looked like a good idea to me.”

O RARE ERNST LUBITSCH

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • May 4, 2011 1:00 AM
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  • 11 Comments
I feel sorry for people who have never seen an Ernst Lubitsch movie; they are missing such delights. There is no way to really describe what exactly it is that makes most of his pictures so charming, funny, human, stylized, unique. During the time of his world-wide popularity (ca. 1924 till after his death in 1947), people called it “The Lubitsch Touch,” which proved that everyone could feel it, but no one could adequately define it. Over the years, I’ve tried to explain why I love Lubitsch so much and what it is that makes him so ultra-special, in a place all by himself. There’s never been anyone like Ernst Lubitsch, though many filmmakers have tried, they never came close. In Esquire, back in the early '70s, I did a monthly column and devoted one entirely to Lubitsch, which was reprinted in my collection, Pieces of Time (1973/1985); and for my directors’ interview book, Who the Devil Made It (1997), I expanded this into a section of the Introduction called “The Director I Never Met”---but most wanted to! And finally, in 2008 I tried again in a long piece for Peter Kaplan’s The New York Observer, the title of which states the point succinctly: “The Importance of Seeing Ernst”. I still think it’s of the utmost importance; if more people were enjoying Lubitsch movies, they would be happier, more hopeful. Here’s the link to the article on their website if you want to read about why pictures like Trouble in Paradise, The Smiling Lieutenant, The Shop Around the Corner, The Love Parade, The Merry Widow, Cluny Brown, and Heaven Can Wait, among others, are among my favorites, and as good as the medium can offer: treasures waiting to be found.

A Star is Born

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • April 28, 2011 8:53 AM
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  • 6 Comments
There isn’t really a more quintessential show-business drama than a love story between two professionals, one on the way up, the other on the way down. Variations abound, but the most famous of these——the “Star is Born” story——has been made four times (and a fifth is being readied): The first, about a struggling young actress and an alcoholic film director (Constance Bennett and Lowell Sherman), was a modest success called What Price Hollywood? and was directed in 1932 by George Cukor (one of his first films) and produced by David O. Selznick, who five years later turned it into a rising young actress and a fading movie star (Janet Gaynor and Fredric March), in the smash success——and one of the earliest color films——A Star Is Born (1937) directed by William Wellman.

The Birth of a Nation

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • April 20, 2011 10:42 AM
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  • 15 Comments
In January, 2000, the National Society of Film Critics issued a blistering statement of protest that “deplores the rash decision” made by the Directors Guild of America’s National Board a month before to retire the name of its highest (lifetime achievement) honor, the D.W. Griffith Memorial Award, citing as their reason the racist stigma attached to Griffith’s 1915 Civil War landmark, The Birth of A Nation (available on DVD), the second half of which depicts sympathetically the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. The Film Critics went on: “The recasting of this honor, which had been awarded appropriately in D.W. Griffith’s name since 1953, is a depressing example of ‘political correctness’ as an erasure, and rewriting, of American film history, causing a grave disservice to the reputation of a pioneering American filmmaker...The DGA’s national board might spend its time on more significant business: as a watchdog pressuring the industry to improve on its shameful record of employment of minority filmmakers.” In other words, the racist aspects for which Griffith’s name was being removed perhaps still prevailed in current industry hiring practices.

Sidney Lumet

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • April 14, 2011 10:55 AM
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  • 9 Comments
Early in 1958, Sidney Lumet directed me in a live TV production of Hemingway’s short story, Fifty Grand, starring Ralph Meeker; I was still 18, and it was a bit part: in the boxing sequences, I was the kid who walked around the edge of the ring, holding up a sign of which round it was. As a director, I noticed, Sidney moved fast, in complete control of the set. Everybody—cast or crew alike---were all “darling,” “sweetheart,” “honey,” “baby” to Sidney. He was very New York theatrical---having made his stage debut at age four---acting on Broadway and at the Yiddish Theatre, he learned on his feet what actors go through, what they need and what they don’t need. Sidney was also very precise; he knew exactly how the scene would cut together, and therefore shot only what he needed, without covering himself with alternate cutting possibilities. (All those hundreds of hours of live television he directed didn’t hurt for experience in quick decision-making and urgency.) In the business, it’s called “cutting in the camera”, and it's practically unheard of today. Sidney was perhaps the last survivor of the classic techniques that were common to most directors in the studio system: John Ford and Alfred Hitchcock ---antipodes as artists---both cut in the camera. So did Howard Hawks and Orson Welles.

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