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

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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  • 5 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.

The Philadelphia Story

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • April 9, 2011 4:59 AM
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  • 7 Comments
Of all the famous Katharine Hepburn movies--and she is the longest-lived (in her career) and most honored star in picture history--the one I’ve had a little trouble really loving is The Philadelphia Story (available on DVD). It’s got an impeccable pedigree: the last and most popular of four comedies she did with Cary Grant, three of them directed by George Cukor, who not only discovered Hepburn for 1932's A Bill of Divorcement, but also directed her in seven other movies (two for TV); and quite faithfully adapted from a successful Philip Barry play that had been a hit vehicle for Hepburn on Broadway. In fact, The Philadelphia Story is credited with reviving Hepburn’s picture career after she had left Hollywood a couple of years before with the weight on her of a powerful exhibitor’s comment that she was “box office poison.” She negotiated to control the play’s film rights and was instrumental in getting Cukor, Grant and James Stewart to do the movie, thus essentially authoring her own triumphant return to the screen. For his performance, Stewart won the Oscar as Best Actor. All the star players have some excellent scenes and the supporting cast is splendid. So what’s wrong?

THE BEST DIRECTOR: JEAN RENOIR

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • April 2, 2011 1:30 AM
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  • 6 Comments
Whenever I want to reassure myself that the movies have the potential to equal the sublime poetic heights of a symphony or concerto by Mozart, or a painting by DaVinci,Turner or Rembrandt, or a play by Shakespeare, I look at a film by Jean Renoir. From the mid-20s to the late-60s, he made a series of profoundly human masterworks, mainly inFrance, but then in America, where he was resident, in Beverly Hills (believe it or not) from 1940 until his death in 1979. Deceptively simple, Renoir’s films were always artless--you never caught him working--they just seemed to flow from some deeply spiritual source.

Opening Night

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • March 27, 2011 2:22 AM
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  • 5 Comments
Early in 1977, John Cassavetes called me, both of us living in Los Angeles. He was shooting a picture in some legitimate theater down on Wilshire; it was supposed to be a Broadway opening night, and he needed a few celebrity faces, so Peter Falk was going to come down as an extra—-could I? “Anything for you, John,” I said and meant it, because in a town of artists of all sorts, Cassavetes was the rare real thing. The picture, he said, was about theater people bringing a new play to New York, and was called Opening Night (available on DVD). John financed it entirely from his own pocket, starring his brilliant wife and partner, Gena Rowlands, as the play’s star on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and Ben Gazzara as the director, Joan Blondell as the playwright, Paul Stewart as the producer, Zohra Lampert as the director’s wife, and Cassavetes himself as a totally self-absorbed actor.

The First Films

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • March 19, 2011 4:37 AM
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  • 4 Comments
Today is the 116th anniversary of the first day ever a film was shot: March 19, 1895, in Lyon, France. Louis Lumière, aided by his older brother Auguste—-their family name, with startling appropriateness, in French means “light”—-had invented a machine (and patented it a month before) that photographed, printed, and projected motion pictures. They called it the Cinématographe, from the Greek for “writing the movement,” and from which we got “cinema”—-in more ways than one.

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