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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

They Were Expendable

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • October 17, 2010 4:22 AM
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  • 13 Comments
Most war films are, ultimately, about winning. In 1945, however, as World War II was ending, John Ford made probably the finest U.S. war picture, about one of America’s greatest defeats—-in the Philippines—-the title of which alone is devastating in its implications: THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (available on DVD). Ford, who had entered the Navy in 1941, at age 47, was closely involved in numerous missions and operations all through the War, serving with the O.S.S. (forerunner of the C.I.A.) and making several war documentaries, including this country’s first one, The Battle of Midway (1942), which mostly he himself shot hand-held and during which he was wounded. It received the Oscar as Best Documentary, as did another that Ford supervised, December 7th (1943). Although he rarely spoke of his war experiences, records recently have come to light that he also was there on D-Day, and shot some of the most significant color footage in various campaigns. Certainly his intimate involvement with all aspects of that terrible conflict is apparent in his sensitively unadorned, elegiac handling of They Were Expendable. “What was in my mind,” Ford told me once, “was doing it exactly as it had happened.”

Frank Sinatra in Concert (At Royal Festival Hall)

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • October 10, 2010 5:59 AM
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  • 7 Comments
In 1971, at age 55, Frank Sinatra announced his retirement from show business, though of course he returned two years later and then barely quit till his death. The aborted retirement, however, neatly marks the close of Sinatra’s extraordinary Act II: Following his twin 1953 comebacks, in From Here to Eternity , and on his epoch-making first Capitol album, Swing Easy , Sinatra became the first modern superstar. For the next fifteen years, he made every year at the very least one album and one film—-once, as many as five films, and once, seven albums. Then in 1969, three albums but no film; 1970, one disastrous movie (Dirty Dingus Magee), and one often affecting but split-focused album (Sinatra and Company). Within a year, Sinatra announces retirement, being no fool: He certainly knew by then that an exit must precede a new entrance, that there’s a curtain after every act. For Sinatra fans (and who isn’t?), there’s a DVD available of a rare 1970 concert, right around the release of that Sinatra and Company album---FRANK SINATRA IN CONCERT AT ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL---and it is pure gold in assaying just exactly how much Sinatra knew and where he was as both performer and person as his superstar period came to an end.

Autumn Sonata

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • October 3, 2010 2:46 AM
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  • 3 Comments
In 1976, two years before his 60th birthday, Ingmar Bergman was rehearsing a play at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm when two plainclothes policemen arrested and booked him for income-tax fraud. Although the charges were false and eventually dropped, this terribly humiliating experience caused the internationally acclaimed Swedish filmmaker to suffer a nervous breakdown and a deep depression. He vowed never to work again in his native country, and began a self-imposed exile during which he made two films (before finally relenting and returning to Sweden): The Serpent’s Egg, an English-language picture shot in Munich, and the British-Norwegian co-production, shot in Norway, AUTUMN SONATA (available on DVD).

Stagecoach

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • September 26, 2010 4:22 AM
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  • 10 Comments
In mid-1968, I was out at John Wayne’s home in Newport Beach, California, preparing a filmed interview with Wayne for a documentary which the American Film Institute had asked me to make on John Ford. As the Duke was walking me back to my car, he took a shortcut, leading me through the sizeable garage. Entering, I was greeted by a virtual sea of 35mm motion picture canisters—-large, octagonal specially-built metal cases to hold the heavy 2000-foot reels of film—-two or three reels per canister; this is how movies have always been shipped and stored. Suddenly, here before me, were 35mm prints of an awful lot of John Wayne movies: mostly brand-new-looking cases, boldly marked “RED RIVER,” “THE QUIET MAN,” “SANDS OF IWO JIMA,” “RIO BRAVO,” “SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON,” etc.

The Heartbreak Kid

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • September 18, 2010 11:56 AM
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  • 6 Comments
I have a certain nostalgic fondness for the original 1972 Elaine May-Neil Simon comedy, THE HEARTBREAK KID (available on DVD), which goes beyond the darkly hilarious film itself, because at the time of its making and release I was living with one of the stars, Cybill Shepherd. This warm feeling only increased with the publication of Cybill’s memoirs (Cybill Disobedience), in which there are numerous revelations—-to me, too—-about her various doings during our nine-year relationship (and, of course, before and after). It turns out that on The Heartbreak Kid, there were no extracurricular encounters, though things might have gone a bit differently if Cybill hadn’t reacted so disbelievingly when Charles Grodin told her in a bed scene not to touch his hair because it was “a rug.” (Some years later, there was a delayed reaction of sorts when the two shared a one-night stand, Cybill tells in her book, the single night only because she found Chuck was then going with someone else.)

Casablanca

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • September 18, 2010 11:44 AM
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  • 11 Comments
There is no more enduring cosmic lucky accident in picture history than the 1943 Warner Bros. classic World War II romantic foreign adventure, Casablanca (available on DVD). “Most of the good things in pictures,” John Ford said, “happened by accident.” When he told me this, rather offhandedly, he was in his seventies and had directed nearly 140 films while I had directed one, and was more than a little surprised by his comment. Ford was Orson Welles’ favorite American director and when I repeated the old man’s remark to Welles, his eyes brightened as he confirmed the statement with an inspired, “Yes!” He paused and then added, excitedly, “You could almost say a director is a man who presides over accidents!” Now, after doing a score of other films, I’ve found that these are two key words-of-wisdom and have amazingly complex layers of meaning, the more pictures you make. Ford, who was always terse in his remarks, even elaborated once: “Sometimes you have good luck on pictures; most of the time you have bad luck.” And luck, ultimately for the Greeks, came from the Fates who, as we know, are either with us or they’re not. When you are making a movie, you feel part of a larger, unstoppable adventure, over which you only have so much control, and the rest is, as Jeff Bridges succinctly puts it: “The hand you get dealt.”

Stage Door

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • September 18, 2010 11:34 AM
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  • 2 Comments
Which picture did Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Lucille Ball, Eve Arden and Ann Miller all appear in together? It was the funny and touching 1937 adaptation of Edna Ferber’s and George S. Kaufman’s Broadway success about a bunch of struggling actresses in a New York women’s boarding club, STAGE DOOR (available on DVD). Directed with a discreet and delicate touch by Gregory LaCava (whose Carole Lombard-William Powell classic, My Man Godfrey, had come out the previous year), this comedy-drama--remember those?--has boundless energy and charm, thanks mainly to his sure hand and the superb ensemble performances he inspires from a once-in-a-lifetime cast. Critics of the period praised the script by veterans Morrie Ryskind and Anthony Veiller as being an improvement on the original play, and although time has somewhat dated a couple of plot points, the overall work still has affecting contemporary relevance and resonance in its look both at women and their place in show business. Seen today, it isn’t surprising the film received four major Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress for lovely Andrea Leeds, who carries the picture’s most dramatic aspects.

Pickup On South Street

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • September 18, 2010 11:26 AM
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  • 3 Comments
Sam Fuller directed, wrote and produced his pictures in headlines. There was always a kind of tabloid journalistic stylization to his work, mixed with the boldness of a scandal sheet’s lead story, the succinctness of boiling it all down to as few striking words as possible. Fuller became a moviemaker with rich first-hand experiences of life as a copy boy from age 12 for the old New York Journal, by age 17 a crime reporter for the San Diego Sun, and as a soldier in World War II, fighting with the First Infantry Division—“The Big Red One”—throughout North Africa and Europe, awarded the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, and a Purple Heart. By the time Fuller made his first film--with a typical Fuller title: I Shot Jesse James (1949)--he had seen enough true horrors, tragedy, and human comedy to make even the worst picture-crises pale by comparison, and the most outrageous picture-plots seem tame.

History Is Made at Night

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • September 18, 2010 11:08 AM
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  • 3 Comments
One of my favorite movie titles is also, as Andrew Sarris has said, probably the most romantic title in pictures, and names a film directed by an Italian-American from Salt Lake City who is responsible for several of the most intensely affecting love stories ever made: Frank Borzage’s 1937 European triangle tale, HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT (available on DVD"> Starring France’s biggest American screen star, Charles Boyer, and Frank Capra’s “favorite actress,” Jean Arthur, the story is set in Paris and on a doomed ocean liner—-inspired by the Titanic calamity. (Surely someone involved with Jim Cameron’s Titanic saw this, because there are certain sub-plot similarities.)

High Sierra

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • August 31, 2010 9:26 AM
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  • 5 Comments
As nearly everyone seems to know, Humphrey Bogart became a romantic star-leading man with the success of Casablanca (1943), in the role first offered to, and rejected by, George Raft, at that moment still a bigger star than Bogart on the Warner Bros. lot. What less people perhaps remember is that Bogart had already become an A-list star with the triumph two years earlier of another movie-role George Raft also turned down first: the over-the-hill modern outlaw Roy Earle in Raoul Walsh’s memorable 1941 gangster tragedy scripted by John Huston and W.R. Burnett, HIGH SIERRA (available on DVD). Among vigorous pioneer Walsh’s most representative and affecting films, it features transfixing, transcendent performances by Bogart and Ida Lupino…

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