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

The 39 Steps

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • July 20, 2011 3:25 AM
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  • 10 Comments
It now seems more inconceivable than ever to realize that for over three decades Alfred Hitchcock’s English period (1926-39) was valued by film critics and historians far above his American (1940-76). Throughout the 1940s,‘50s and much of the ‘60s—-while Hitch turned out such superb and challenging work as Shadow of A Doubt, Notorious, Strangers on A Train, Rear Window, Vertigo, and North by Northwest, to name only a few of the highlights—-these were denigrated and the early British movies were held up as the great pinnacle of achievement from which he had fallen. Supposedly, The Lodger, Blackmail, the first Man Who Knew Too Much, The 39 Steps, and The Lady Vanishes, among others, were the vintage Hitchcock, and the newer stuff merely commercial Hollywood sellout.

Camille

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • July 13, 2011 8:41 AM
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  • 3 Comments
One time Orson Welles was waxing eloquent to me on the subject of the divine Greta Garbo, whose mystery and magical artistry he adored. Of course I agreed but, I said (still being a bit pedantic), wasn’t it too bad that, of all her more than two dozen silent and sound films, she had acted in only two really great pictures. Welles looked at me for a long moment, then said quietly, “You only need one...”

City Lights

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • July 6, 2011 10:50 AM
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  • 11 Comments
Charlie Chaplin’s fifth feature-length film (after scores of shorts), CITY LIGHTS (available on DVD) was released early in 1931, the third full year of all-talking pictures and though it had numerous sound effects, a synchronized score, several sound jokes including some sardonically squeaky babble at the beginning, it is a silent movie, the last one made. Everybody had warned Chaplin that this was a terrible risk, since while he was shooting it over a period of nearly three years, the craze for sound films had exploded and entirely transformed the picture medium.

The 400 Blows

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • June 29, 2011 10:56 AM
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  • 5 Comments
One could date the start of the American independent film movement with the release in France in 1959 of a picture that heralded the beginning of the French New Wave: François Truffaut’s first feature--made when he was 27--and one of the classics of humanist cinema, THE 400 BLOWS (available on DVD). The original French title is Les Quatre Cents Coups, which literally translated means “the 400 dirty tricks,” but is understood idiomatically as “raising hell,” which is quite a different thought than the English understanding of it as being “the 400 blows one endures in life.” Either meaning can represent the film, since the leading character both plays dirty tricks and receives 400 blows.

It Should Happen to You

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • June 22, 2011 10:41 AM
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  • 6 Comments
With the meaning of celebrity becoming ever more ambiguous, and Andy Warhol’s notorious prediction coming true that eventually everybody will be famous for fifteen minutes, the touching and delightful 1954 George Cukor-Garson Kanin-Judy Holliday-Jack Lemmon satirical New York comedy about fame, It Should Happen to You (available on DVD), seems now not only still most relevant but also downright prescient. Kanin, who wrote the original screenplay, initially called the picture (far more appropriately) A Name for Herself, but the studio thought it could do better and didn’t. (Columbia was the studio, which had become a major because of It Happened One Night, so maybe they figured there was magic in the words “it” and “happen”; they would later make It Happened to Jane.) Jack Lemmon, whose beguiling debut in pictures this was, always blamed the movie’s lackluster box office on its meaninglessly general title.

Film As Hell: 3 Pictures About Pictures

  • By Peter Bogdanovich
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  • June 15, 2011 4:16 AM
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  • 8 Comments
Movies about moviemakers or making movies usually have unhappy endings. Actually, so do a good many of the movies’ real-life stories. Why a product (or art) that supposedly gives to millions such joy and enlightenment should often lead to such unhappiness for its creators is perhaps some alchemistic punishment too mythic or mystic to conclusively unravel, but maybe it has to do with the dangerously difficult boundaries between reality and illusion, and the mysterious processes of making reality out of illusion and illusion out of reality.

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

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