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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

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.

Madigan

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • March 14, 2011 3:58 AM
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  • 5 Comments
A rough but effective sketch for the Clint Eastwood-Don Siegel Dirty Harry can be found in the Richard Widmark-Don Siegel police-detective picture made three years earlier, which Siegel had wanted to title Friday, Saturday and Sunday, after the three days the story plays in, but which was released in 1968 as Madigan, the last name of Widmark’s character (available on DVD). This was especially irritating to Siegel since the Academy Award winner for best foreign film just the year before had been the popular Elvira Madigan. But Hollywood producers and studio executives in those days, of course, gave even less of a thought to foreign films than they do today. In fact, Madigan is an excellent example of a late ‘60s major studio picture—-Universal being the last to have contract players—-behind which there is some personal and subversive writing and, especially, direction. It is a movie with serious intentions compromised by “front office” interference, disguised to look bland, yet filled with disturbing reverberations, all supplied by occasionally good dialog, generally fine acting and terrific mise en scene.

ALPHAVILLE

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • March 9, 2011 4:19 AM
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  • 9 Comments
“Sometimes reality is too complex for oral communication,” says the gurgling, gravelly-sounding computer voice at the start of Jean-Luc Godard’s 1965 iconoclastic science-fiction detective picture, Alphaville (available on DVD). “But,” the voice continues, “legend enhances it in a form which enables it to spread all over the world.” Film, of course, is a modern form of legend, so Godard sets his course pretty clearly at the outset. After that, you’re on your own.

Father of the Bride

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • March 2, 2011 11:52 AM
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  • 10 Comments
One of the most difficult things to pull off in a movie is having a character talk directly to the audience, looking into the camera lens as they do. The suspension of disbelief for the rest of the film is heavily imperiled by so blatantly breaking the fourth wall and including us, the usually unacknowledged watchers. Whereas the device has widespread and easy currency in the theatre—-from the Greek’s Chorus to the Elizabethan’s, from Feydeau’s farcical asides to Thornton Wilder’s Stage Manager in Our Town—-the movies being a far more realistic medium, I can only think of four instances when this has worked with complete success: In the very first musical comedy, Ernst Lubitsch’s The Love Parade (1929), Maurice Chevalier brilliantly, wittily, aristocratically, made the audience complicitous with his romantic indiscretions and self-justifications—-repeated similarly in the Lubitsch-Chevalier One Hour With You (1932). Michael Caine managed smoothly to make his misogynist working-class anti-hero, Alfie (1966), equally effective in his confidences to the audience. And then there’s Spencer Tracy as the amusingly long-suffering title character in Vincente Minnelli’s delightful and human 1950 comedy of the middle-class, Father of the Bride (available on DVD).

THE SHORTEST LONG WESTERN: RIO BRAVO

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • February 21, 2011 8:40 AM
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  • 11 Comments
Supposedly, when Quentin Tarantino was dating he used to run his own 35mm print

The Golden Age of American Talkies: 1931

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • February 18, 2011 3:32 AM
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  • 10 Comments
The Smiling Lieutenant (Ernst Lubitsch)City Lights (Charlie Chaplin)Tabu (F.W. Murnau & Robert Flaherty)Street Scene (King Vidor)Dishonored (Josef von Sternberg)The Champ (King Vidor)The Struggle (D.W. Griffith)The Criminal Code (Howard Hawks)Arrowsmith (John Ford)An American Tragedy (Josef von Sternberg)The Skin Game (Alfred Hitchcock)Private Lives (Sidney Franklin)Wicked (Allan Dwan)Bad Girl (Frank Borzage)Chances (Allan Dwan)The Miracle Woman (Frank Capra)Girls About Town (George Cukor)Frankenstein (James Whale)The Public Enemy (William Wellman)Seas Beneath (John Ford)The Yellow Ticket (Raoul Walsh)Tarnished Lady (George Cukor)The Guardsman (Sidney Franklin)Dirigible (Frank Capra)The Squaw Man (Cecil B. DeMille)The Brat (John Ford)Doctors’ Wives (Frank Borzage)

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