Peter Bogdanovich: Fool For Love

Peter Bogdanovich and Cybill in Kay Gable house

Peter Bogdanovich became an A-list director in 1971 with The Last Picture Show.  The Oscar-winning drama wasn’t Bogdanovich’s directorial debut.  But it was his first big movie after cutting his teeth on a couple of Roger Corman productions.  In the nearly two decades between The Last Picture Show and its sequel, Texasville, Bogdanovich became a cautionary tale.  He left his wife, who had contributed greatly to his early success, to live with his leading lady, Cybil Shepherd.  Together, they became one of the most mocked couples in Hollywood.

After they split, Shepherd’s career rebounded on television.  But Bogdanovich continued to spiral with another doomed love affair that brought with it even more notoriety.  In the September 1990 issue of Movieline magazine, Stephen Rebello dissected what the hell happened to the once-promising director.

“I hope I’m not repeating what happened to Orson,” director Peter Bogdanovich fretted shortly after The Last Picture Show, his breakout movie, debuted to hosannas at the 1971 New York Film Festival. “You know, make a successful serious film like this early and then spend the rest of my life in decline.” It was hardly surprising that a former film critic such as Bogdanovich would summon the specter of Welles, whose name personifies the punchline of Hollywood’s most famous “Too Much, Too Soon” joke. What was surprising, however, was the sheer scale of the 32-year-old Cinderella’s self-delusion in comparing himself to Welles.

Bogdanovich was right on one score: his ascent had been precipitous. It was ironic that the posters for Last Picture read, “Anarene, Texas, 1951. Nothing much has changed…” because for him, everything had changed–overnight. But his belief that his situation in any other way bore much resemblance to Welles’s was an early symptom of the presumption that would be his undoing. In 1971 Bogdanovich could scarcely have foreseen the cautionary fable his life in Hollywood was to become. For seldom, even in a town where failure is a ringside seat attraction, has limelight been less flattering.

That Peter Bogdanovich’s most recent film was the woeful Rob Lowe comedy Illegally Yours, scarcely released in 1988, seems inconceivable to anyone who recalls the director’s halcyon stretch in the early ’70s when What’s Up, Doc and Paper Moon made millions, drew comparisons to Howard Hawks and John Ford, and initiated Bogdanovich into the directorial brat pack that included Coppola, Friedkin, and Scorsese. How powerful was he? Powerful– and megalomaniacal– enough to ask the governor of Texas to build an 1870-style town so that he could shoot a Western. And to tell producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown to get a rewrite on a Pulitzer Prize-winner’s screenplay before he would deign to direct it, for $575,000 plus 15 percent of the profits. To ask Fred Astaire for a favorable quote to use on the cover of Cybill Shepherd’s debut record album– and get it. To be pursued by Robert Evans for a multi-picture deal at Paramount and romanced by Warren Beatty to direct Heaven Can Wait. To turn down offers to direct The Last Tycoon, The Day of the Locust, Hurricane, King of the Gypsies— overtures fielded by powerful, then-ICM agent Sue Mengers, who called him “Petey” and got him million-dollar deals. That powerful.

Bogdanovich held Hollywood in the palm of his hand for four giddy years. But that was before the borderline between on-the-set and off-the-set blurred and things went stunningly haywire. Before he estranged himself from his wife, a gifted production designer/screenwriter, and deluded himself that he was playing Josef von Sternberg to a new Marlene Dietrich when he was really playing Sam Goldwyn to Anna Sten. Before he tripped himself up on a string of critical and box-office fizzles. Before he romanced a 20-year-old starlet whose enraged, unstable husband killed her, then committed suicide. Before he declared bankruptcy and found himself depicted as an egomaniac in four quasi-biographical movies, including one in which the star actor of three of his own films “played” him. Before he filed suit against a studio for tampering with his most successful film in years. Before he married the 20-year-old sister of his murdered lover.

Perhaps luckily, Bogdanovich has always seemed to put great stock in his innate superiority. Born in Kingston, in New York’s Hudson Valley, raised on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, he once described his family milieu as “very peculiar,” referring perhaps to the fact that his father, the Post-impressionist painter Borislav Bogdanovich, and mother, a worldly Austrian Jew, surrounded him with “painters, poets, intellectuals. Nothing very American.” Bogdanovich often portrayed his childhood vignettes in quick, elliptical cuts; he once told an interviewer that he was “born, then liked movies.” By the age of 10, when he considered his taste at its “purest,” he had seen Red River five times and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon ten. From 12 on, he kept card files with capsule comments on movies, which he would revise every so often. By day, he attended the tony Collegiate prep school (he got by “on a flair for public relations,” said a headmaster), wrote the movie/theater column for the school paper, and acted in the drama club. His off-hours were spent absorbing retina-searing images that he caught in revival houses or on TV in friends’ homes (his father refused to allow a television in their apartment).

By the age of 15, Bogdanovich was cutting classes. Ultimately, he missed graduating high school for failing to make up an algebra exam. For three years, beginning in 1955, he studied acting with Stella Adler; at 20, he directed Clifford Odets’s The Big Knife off-Broadway, “hoping somebody would discover me for movies.” At around the same time, he canonized Fritz Lang, Allan Dwan, Howard Hawks, and Orson Welles in publications such as Film Culture; later, for Esquire, he reverentially profiled Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, and John Wayne.

Bogdanovich met Polly Platt in the Catskills, where he hired her to design costumes for a play. Sixties photographs of Polly Platt suggest a smarter, less clenched-looking kid sister of Marilyn Quayle. Though she has recalled finding Bogdanovich “arrogant, erudite, and cat-like in his sense of dignity,” she married him in 1962. He struck associates at the time as driven, but in a passive, dreamy way; she had the smarts, the gumption. “I always looked at them like a replay of the old saying about Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers: ‘He gave her class, she gave him sex,’ ” recalls a former friend of the couple’s. “With Peter and Polly, it was: ‘He gave her the nerve, she gave him all her best ideas.’ ”

Perhaps fed up with waiting for Broadway to discover his genius, Bogdanovich and Platt lit out for Hollywood, where they rented a $150-a-month house in Van Nuys. Some time later, passion pit moviemaker Roger Corman hired Bogdanovich as second unit director on his biker epic, The Wild Angels. “I haven’t learned as much since,” Bogdanovich observed of that 1966 movie, for which he claims he did rewrites, locations scouting, and some directing and editing. In 1968, Corman paid Bogdanovich to cut some good ol’ American “T & A” footage of Mamie Van Doren into a somber Russian sci-fi movie and the result was Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women.

For the same $6,000 fee, Corman also asked Bogdanovich to direct a movie that restricted him to a $125,000 budget and the use of 18 minutes from a 1963 Boris Karloff-Jack Nicholson stinker, The Terror. Bogdanovich and Platt concocted a timely script about a washed-up horror movie bogeyman and a real-life monster, a Charles Whitman-ish psycho sniper. Platt discovered she was pregnant the day before the movie went into production, but alternately rewrote, hammered jerry-built sets, and calmed her mate’s freshman movie panic. When Paramount released Targets, filmed in a rush in 1968, critics discovered “an original and brilliant melodrama.”

Targets was the turning point for Bogdanovich, and he knew it. Years of interviewing Hollywood’s quotable old lions had taught him how to turn up the jets for self-promotion. “A man, not a machine, makes a movie,” he told an interviewer. “And that man is the director. There is one vision and that is his.” The imperiousness worked. Robert Evans, high-rolling v.p. of production at Paramount– who was also to champion Coppola and Polanski–signed Bogdanovich to a multi-picture contract in 1968. The following year, Jere Henshaw also proffered a nonexclusive multi-film deal at Warner Bros. Goodbye, Poverty Row.

But after the big Hollywood come-on, nothing happened for three years. Finally in 1971 the backers of Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces came to his rescue by offering him artistic carte blanche on The Last Picture Show, based on Larry McMurtry’s coming-of-age novel about a group of high school seniors in a dying Texas town during the Korean War. Bogdanovich resonated to the period, and hired Platt, who had found the novel in the first place, to replicate it: “I saw the story as a Texas version of Welles’s The Magnificent Ambersons, which was about the end of a way of life caused by the coming of the automobile,” said Bogdanovich. “This was about the end of a way of life caused by the coming of television.”

Despite nine months of preparation, once The Last Picture Show was underway Bogdanovich suffered “constant terror that I was screwing the film up, that I was winging it too much, that I should have planned more.” In the end, he thought the tumult saved him “from becoming self-conscious.” He had been rebuffed in his offer to James Stewart to play Sam the Lion, the movie’s noble, grizzled conscience. He battled his leading boy, Timothy Bottoms, whom he called “a neurotic kid,” accusing him of not learning his lines. (He had wanted John Ritter for the role and vowed never again to work with Bottoms.) And then, there was the ingenue. “I just never thought I could be good enough to get into the big time. But then, along came Peter,” said Cybill Shepherd, whose gaze first beckoned to Bogdanovich from the cover of Glamour in a Van Nuys supermarket. When he signed Shepherd, a former Miss Teen-Age Memphis and $75-an-hour New York model, without a screen test–for $5,000–she had already turned down Pretty Maids All in a Row after sex kitten panderer Roger Vadim described a lengthy sex scene to her. On the set, Bogdanovich called her “Miss Shepherd” (Von Sternberg had addressed his great obsession as “Miss Dietrich”) and in full view of the cast and crew, including Polly Platt, with whom by this time he had two toddlers, Bogdanovich and Shepherd fell, as he has put it, “overpoweringly” in love.

Critics embraced the brooding, laconic The Last Picture Show as a reassuring, Nixon-era antidote to the counter-cultural hooliganism of Easy Rider. “I have a perverse antagonism for the ‘new’ movie,” said Bogdanovich, putting distance between himself and Dennis Hopper’s maddeningly with-it The Last Movie, released the same year. “My films are not about cameras; they’re about people.” Frank talk, gloomy sex, and a sense of loss put over The Last Picture Show as a wised-up 70s picture, but its look and feel were cozily retro: a blend of vintage Ford, spiced with Sirk, cut with Kazan. It proved to be as much a watershed for new faces–Bottoms, Shepherd, Jeff Bridges, Randy Quaid–as a showcase for lived-in ones: Ellen Burstyn, Eileen Brennan, Cloris Leachman, and Ben Johnson (who won an Oscar for the role Stewart passed up). Called “the most impressive work by a young American director since Citizen Kane,” and “a masterpiece,” the movie won eight Oscar nominations.

With his next project, Bogdanovich continued his raid on favored old masters. “I expect to be peed on, but what can you do?” he said while shooting What’s Up, Doc?, a throwback to Bringing Up Baby, The Lady Eve, and scores of other screwball-era screwups. Feisty diva Barbra Streisand, playing an update of the foxy man-eaters perfected by Katharine Hepburn and Barbara Stanwyck, called Bogdanovich opinionated and autocratic, “a horny bastard but brilliant.” To him, she was a “nice, talented girl.” After all, he said, “How could I feel about her the way I do about Carole Lombard or Katharine Hepburn?” thereby indirectly equating himself with Howard Hawks, who had directed both great stars at their madcap apex. In 1972, with the Vietnam War-scarred country thirsty for woozy nostalgia, What’s Up, Doc?, which cost about $4 million to make, netted $30 million. Now a bonafide wunderkind, Bogdanovich consolidated his position by forming the Directors Company with Francis Ford Coppola and William Friedkin, for which Paramount was to dole out $31 million for four movies from each director. Adroitly timed, too, was the company’s first release, Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon, with Ryan and Tatum O’Neal as itinerant, Depression-era scam artists. Yet another retrograde item in monochrome, the movie, wrote a critic, marked Bogdanovich as America’s “most interesting young director.”

Paper Moon‘s success marked the very peak of Bogdanovich’s fame (as a filmmaker, that is), and as the next few years would demonstrate, fame blindsided him harder than most. After nine years of marriage, and a failed attempt at reconciliation, in 1971 he left Platt, who was widely perceived to have played no small role in his first four successes. “It couldn’t work out anymore,” Bogdanovich once said, “so we had to end it. It had nothing to do with Cybill.” Platt, who privately referred to Shepherd as “Miss Rhein-gold,” knew she was licked when she heard that Bogdanovich had taken his girlfriend to see a classic Buster Keaton movie. “I don’t blame Peter,” she said. “If I were a man, I’d leave me for Cybill, too.” After the divorce, Platt moved up to writing Pretty Baby, working as the production designer on A Star Is Born and Terms of Endearment, and producing Broadcast News and Say Anything.

Meanwhile, Bogdanovich went gaga, installing himself and Shepherd in a Spanish-style Bel-Air mansion, lining the floors with Oriental rugs, hanging Daumiers on the walls, and adopting two Siamese cats because Orson Welles suggested it. He smoked fat cat cigars (another Welles suggestion), drove a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, and became a name-dropping guest on talkshows (“Fritz Lang once told me…,” “Jean Renoir liked to say…”), during which he would purse his pouty lips, make puppy eyes at the camera, and impersonate celebrities. “The film magazines,” wrote one observer, putting it mildly, “came to despise him as a diabolical turncoat.”

The Bogdanovich-Shepherd affiliation was quintessentially of the movies. Few moguls, from Griffith and DeMille to Sturges and Preminger, had been able to resist the impulse to mold star women. Yet, unlike his predecessors from the heyday of the casting couch, Bogdanovich was accused of casting the couch instead of the girl. One story referred to Shepherd as his “leading lady and house pet.” When reporters inquired about their marital status, Shepherd, who romped with Bogdanovich in matching Brooks Brothers pajamas, cooed: “Living together is so much sexier.” He observed, “Neither of us is particularly social. I don’t suppose I’ve been to more than ten persons’ homes since I’ve arrived in this town.” During their eight-year relationship, they were the couple Hollywood loved to hate. Still, Bogdanovich guided his inamorata through singing, jazz, and tap dance lessons, and produced an album, Cybill Does It… To Cole Porter, for which he extracted a quote from the gracious Fred Astaire. Chiefly, though, he miscast Shepherd in movies that hastened his decline and rendered her a laughingstock.

Orson Welles told Bogdanovich flat out that Daisy Miller, the Henry James novella he had in mind for his next project, was a bum choice. Welles also let slip, however, that Shepherd was born to play the lead. “It’s almost as though it was there waiting for Cybill,” Bogdanovich said, picking up Welles’s cue but ignoring his warning. At first Bogdanovich planned to star opposite his beloved, and probably had enough clout to force Paramount into letting him, but in the end he chose actor Barry Brown to be his surrogate. Industry insiders, critics, and audiences found the results ludicrous. “Trying to make that little thing he’s with into Daisy Miller was hilarious,” said veteran director Henry Hathaway. “God almighty couldn’t do that.” Some of the reviews were even less kind.

Yet, even after Daisy Miller, Bogdanovich shunned projects that did not include Shepherd. He supported her refusal to test for the female lead in The Great Gatsby, and bailed out of directing King of the Gypsies (no room for blondes?), plunging instead into full-on folly– At Long Last Love (1975). Produced for $15 million, this “musical” was Cole Porter sung by the tone deaf, danced by the afflicted. One critic dubbed it “amateur night at the mausoleum.” Others compared leading man Burt Reynolds to a wounded buffalo and Shepherd to a kid from an orphanage trying to play Noel Coward. Hollywood still talks about the gala premiere bash hosted by studio executive Dennis Stanfill on a Fox soundstage opulently decked out as a millionaire’s home and attended by such royal waxworks as King Vidor, Roy Rogers, and Freddie Martin Columnist Army Archerd observed that they should have released the party instead. The picture, which lost $6 million, was Bogdanovich’s Heaven’s Gate, an embarrassment so acute that the director’s family referred to it only as “The Debacle.”

By this time, The New York Times had dubbed Bogdanovich “love’s fool” for continuing to promote Shepherd. His insistence on her playing gangster’s moll Virginia Hill killed a deal with producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown for a movie about Las Vegas hood Bugsy Siegel.

Newsweek reported that Columbia threatened to drop Bogdanovich’s next project, Nickelodeon (1976), if he tried to cast Shepherd in it. (Model Jane Hitchcock got the role.) But even without the girlfriend, Nickelodeon–starring Burt Reynolds and Ryan O’Neal as pioneer moviemakers–was Bogdanovich’s third career strikeout and also a personal blunder. “I think what really screwed us up,” he has said, referring to a gulf that had developed between him and Shepherd, “is that we couldn’t do Nickelodeon together.” Shepherd went to New York to make Taxi Driver for Martin Scorsese, then spent months away in Europe shooting such movies as The Silver Bears and The Lady Vanishes. Although she and Bogdanovich remained friends, their agendas split.

Eventually Shepherd returned to Memphis, where she did dinner theater, got married, and raised a daughter. Peter-less, she came back to Hollywood and won full-fledged TV stardom on “Moonlighting,” then edged tentatively toward conquering movies in Chances Are. “One of those terrible mistakes of diplomacy,” the director once said of his handling of Shepherd. Following the loss of his would-be leading lady and the death of his mother, Bogdanovich threw himself into “more than a year of devastating promiscuity,” feasting at that endless sexual smorgasbord, the Playboy mansion.

“I was never particularly humble,” he said when his career appeared to be slipping precipitously. Despite the town’s growing suspicions that the boy wonder was a flash in the pan, Bogdanovich declined The Day of the Locust, The Last Tycoon, and Dino De Laurentiis’s million dollar inducement to direct Hurricane. Even Warren Beatty picked his brains about Heaven Can Wait, then decided to take the reins himself. “I had to make a choice in my life,” Bogdanovich said, “whether I was to continue with the large budget Hollywood movie or go back to recapture an integrity which I felt was in danger of being lost.” Integrity, as it turned out, meant Saint Jack, a (1979) movie version of Paul Theroux’s novel about an expatriate pimp in Singapore, made on $1.5 million for Roger Corman. Bogdanovich edited the left-field, morally ambiguous movie at home. Critics liked it better than audiences did, perhaps because, as one writer put it, Bogdanovich is better at describing emotions than feeling them.

Peter Bogdanovich, John Ritter, Dorothy Stratten

For the first time since Daisy Miller, Bogdanovich entertained the idea of starring in one of his own movies, They All Laughed. Among the female cast were not only Colleen Camp and Patti Hansen, former Bogdanovich conquests, but also Dorothy Stratten, a Playboy “Playmate of the Year” and budding actress whom he had met at Hugh Hefner’s home. “I could hardly believe that she really existed,” Bogdanovich said of the luminously beautiful Stratten, who at 20 was a badly-married ex-welfare kid and escapee from an unhappy home. Bogdanovich again refrained from stepping in front of his own camera (he cast John Ritter as his alter ego), but long before the filming finished, he was in deep with Stratten.

What happened on this film made Daisy Miller look successful. First, the film’s financiers bailed out; then, in a tragedy that has become the basis for several books and films, Stratten was raped and shot point-blank by her jealous husband, who then committed suicide. The two experiences shattered Bogdanovich, who went bankrupt to reclaim the $8.6 million picture (he once called it his “salvation,” his “record of Dorothy”), recutting it three times at his own expense and distributing it himself, unsuccessfully. He announced that he would move to Texas to begin again, a move he evidently reconsidered.

Suddenly, instead of producers hiring Bogdanovich to direct pictures, they were hiring actors to play him. In 1981, Bogdanovich’s character (veiled, but unmistakable) figured in a TV movie, “Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten Story,” in which Jamie Lee Curtis played Dorothy Stratten. Three years later, Mariel Hemingway and Roger Rees played Stratten and a character based on Bogdanovich in Bob Fosse’s Star 80. Perhaps as much out of self-defense as grief, the director published The Killing of the Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten 1960-1980, in 1984. But the contents of that book were more personally damning than the movies that had preceded it. “I’m a widower,” he told a People reporter (who described his grief as “bordering on melodrama”). “I don’t know if I can ever love as totally and completely as I loved Dorothy.”

The mining of the Bogdanovich legend continued. 1984 brought Irreconcilable Differences, in which Ryan O’Neal and Shelley Long starred as the nice young married moviemakers who turn into Hollywood shitheels, with Sharon Stone as the director’s utterly inept girlfriend-leading lady. Strangers Kiss (1984), co-written, produced, and starring Blaine Novak, Bogdanovich’s production associate and an actor in They All Laughed, detailed the complications of a doomed, on-the-set love affair.

Mask (1985), starring Cher as a biker mom and Eric Stoltz as her congenitally disfigured son, at first appeared to be the stuff of a career rally. Then in-fighting broke out. The director launched an $11 million suit charging Universal and producer Martin Starger with cutting eight minutes from the movie and substituting “inappropriate” Bob Seger songs in place of a Bruce Springsteen soundtrack. Aside from financial damages, he also wanted the credit “Peter Bogdanovich’s Mask” removed from the film and its advertising. Trade papers printed a letter in support of Bogdanovich from such heavy-hitters as Woody Allen, John Huston, Billy Wilder, and Fred Zinnemann. But the industry’s Professional Standards Committee advised him to drop it, and when the movie opened to hearty reviews and business, he wound up looking more bratty than principled.

Whatever cachet Mask might have lent him was undercut by reports in The Los Angeles Times that his salary from Mask had gone directly to the bank, to which he then owed $2.5 million and which held a lien on the rights to They All Laughed and his Stratten book. The same story reported that he owed an additional $12,000 to American Express and to more than one hundred creditors. Later, Cher, whose performance in Mask won her 1985’s best actress award at the Cannes film festival (she tied with Norma Aleandro for The Official Story), vowed never to work with Bogdanovich again: “It is no secret that we didn’t get on. When he had his ideas and I had mine, I just went my own way.”

After the murder of Stratten and the Mask flap, Bogdanovich confessed that he “didn’t quite have the same feeling about [movies] anymore. When I work now, it’s got to be something that I really care about.” His next film, Illegally Yours, a Dino De Laurentiis production that went direct to video in 1988, was defensible only as an act of severe financial woe. It is unwatchable except for the perverse spectacle of Rob Lowe (in Bogdanovich-like glasses) imitating John Ritter imitating Ryan O’Neal imitating Cary Grant. The movie does have a place, though, in its director’s personal story: it contains the debut of one “L.B. Stratten” (described as “very tall” by one reviewer) who was the latest leading lady to star on and offscreen with Bogdanovich–and was also the 20-year-old sister Louise of the late Dorothy Stratten.

Last year, the 49-year-old director married Stratten. “I feel he wants her because of a guilt trip,” said Stratten’s mother, Nelly, who, in 1985, launched a $5 million slander suit (later retracted) against Hugh Hefner for making allegations about Bogdanovich’s “seduction” of Louise and “pathological replacement of Dorothy.” Bogdanovich has reportedly lavished on Louise private tap-dancing lessons, private schools, corrective plastic surgery–including a new nose, that, according to a friend, looks “more like Dorothy’s.” Is Bogdanovich mixing his cinematic metaphors–a bit of James Mason’s nymphet-obsessed character in Lolita here, a bit of James Stewart in Vertigo there? “I told Peter long ago, ‘You should marry Louise,'” Polly Platt has said in the couple’s defense. “Who can whisper when there’s a ring on your finger?”

TEXASVILLE, Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, 1990, (c) Columbia

Bogdanovich appeared to come full circle when he debuted two years ago as resident film historian on “CBS This Morning,” touting the vintage James Stewart, Cary Grant, and Marlene Dietrich flicks now available on video. (He exited the show last year.) Plus ca change. In a career remarkable for so little distinction between fact and fancy, it seems fitting that Bogdanovich did not return to Texas to begin again, but to film Texasville, the $ 18 million follow-up to The Last Picture Show due out this month. Based on Larry McMurtry’s novel (which is dedicated to Cybill Shepherd), the project is surely more than a decade too late and as such, the least clamored-for sequel since The Two Jakes. Bogdanovich became involved in Texasville three years ago when Dino De Laurentiis bought the screen rights to the book for $750,000. When De Laurentiis went under, Columbia, which released the original film, was among the studios that passed on the project that Bogdanovich calls “an opportunity to go back in time and recapture something that’s important in your career and in your life.” Eventually Nelson Entertainment agreed to assume the financial risk, which is considerable, given that no star in the movie–Cybill Shepherd, Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms, Eileen Brennan, Cloris Leachman, Randy Quaid, all back from the original film–is a guaranteed box-office draw.

Texasville picks up 30-odd years after the conclusion of The Last Picture Show and finds our stolid Texans reeling from a busted oil economy, wrong-headed love affairs, and male pattern baldness. What drove Bogdanovich back to the well? “I just have to keep making pictures,” says the director, who can relate to McMurtry’s “comic look at going broke” more than most. But why did the actors–some of whom ended the earlier movie liking neither Bogdanovich nor each other–agree to go back with him? The producers paid Jeff Bridges, an Oscar nominee for the 1971 film and today one of the movies’ most consistently watchable, not-quite-front-rank stars, $1.75 million. Timothy Bottoms, with whom Bogdanovich swore never to work again and who called making the original “Hollywood at its worst,” perhaps found as much inducement in his acting fee as in Nelson Entertainment’s funding of his behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of both films. Cybill Shepherd, still a close friend of Bogdanovich’s and of writer McMurtry’s, agreed to a salary cut to do the show: $1.5 million. Sources say that Bogdanovich played the despot on the set. But at least this time, the five principal actors who had to deal with him each owns a cut of the film.

Could anyone have actually been motivated by loyalty toward Bogdanovich? “At last, he has started to relate to something besides movies,” offers Polly Platt, now an executive at James L. Brooks’s Gracie Films. “People–real human beings versus those on celluloid–have an equal opportunity with him now.” Some say that the private Peter Bogdanovich has put his house in order. He is often spotted in the company of his wife and daughters, who are contemporaries, as when he sat stoically through a recent Madonna concert. He is on good terms with many of the women from his past. But if Texasville is Bogdanovich’s seventh flop, the man who once professed not to understand how anyone can do anything else but make movies may have to learn.


Stephen Rebello is the author of Alfred Hitchcock and The Making of Psycho. He has written numerous cover stories for Movieline, including the June feature on Sean Young.


Posted on September 22, 2016, in Movieline Articles, Movies and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I thought “Cat’s Meow” was quite good.


  2. As someone who has enjoyed at least some of Bogdanovich’s films, and also several of his books on film, I found this an interesting article. Texasville was, in fact, another financial failure, but Bogdanovich continued working in film, at least intermittently.

    A couple of additional notes about They All Laughed. Patti Hansen, mentioned in the article as appearing in the film, went on to marry Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones—they have been together for over thirty years. And the “two toddlers” mentioned briefly—Antonia and Sashy Bogdanovich, Peter’s daughters with Polly Platt—also appear in the film, as the daughters of Ben Gazzara’s character.


    • I have seen some of Bogdanovich’s films, but I wasn’t in tune enough to catch on that he had a fall from grace. I knew Cybil Shepherd from Moonlighting and was somewhat cognizant that it represented a comeback for her, but I didn’t know from what. I was aware of Irreconcilable Differences when it was released, but I had no idea it was based on a real guy much less someone famous. It was only when I was researching the WTHH on Sharon Stone that I became aware of the connection since she was essentially playing a parody of Shepherd. So getting the lowdown in this article was interesting to me.


  3. Fascinating article; I’m really familiar with the Dorthy Stratten case and Bogdanovich’s involvement with her before her murder, but I never knew that Cybill Sheperd & him faced such a public & insider backlash when they were together.
    Here’s something on Cybill Sheperd: she was part of the the pre-game parade on the field of the very first Super Bowl; NFL Films showed a clip & acknowledged it was her. I think she was 16 then.
    I liked “Mask” a lot; I can’t say the same for “Illegally Yours”. I was subscribed to VIDEO magazine when that film was being promoted and I remember the ad for it. I actually viewed it on cable the previous decade out of curiosity. Yep, it’s a dud.
    In that photo of John Ritter, Dorothy Stratten, and Bogdanovich, it looks like Ritter could be Bogdanovich’s brother (I know a Bogdanovich likeness was going on there, but that’s just what it looks like to me).


  4. “Cat’s Meow” was another example of Bogdanovich following in the footsteps of Welles. Welles wanted to include the yacht murder in “Citizen Kane” but decided not to provoke a lawsuit.


  5. Personally i’m more interested in an artists work, not there personal lives, what they do or how they act off the set so to speak…
    Peter Bogdanovich is one of the greatest american directors (PERIOD)!!!!
    Saint Jack & They all Laughed are his best films in my opinion…Both shot by Robby Muller..
    I watch a new movie everyday that i have never viewed before, from silent era to present.. Bogdanovich’s filmography is amazing, if your into film i suggest you watch everything in no particular order…skip illegally yours never enjoyed it…


    • A few days ago I viewed a “Dinner For Five” episode where Bogdanovich was awesome, doing spot on Marlon Brando & Orson Welles impressions. In general, I liked what he had to say. Same with Penelope Ann Miller (Princess Penelope, ha!) in that episode too.


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