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

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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?

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.

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.

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