‘Last Picture Show’ Director Peter Bogdanovich Dies @ 82

Peter Bogdanovich, the director who scored three classics in a row with the '70s hits The Last Picture Show, What's Up, Doc? and Paper Moon, died shortly after midnight on Thursday, January 6, of natural causes. He was 82.

The director in 2013 (Image by Matthew Rettenmund)

His daughter Antonia confirmed his passing, saying he died at his L.A. home.

Born July 30, 1939, in Kingston, New York, he became a cinephile early on, including working as a programmer at the MoMA in NYC. In that capacity, he became enamored of the works of Golden Age directors and would come to imbue his own work with a palpable sense of their auteur style.

He became in influential film critic for Esquire prior to his foray into filmmaking under the tutelage of Roger Corman (b. 1926), working on Corman's The Wild Angels (1966) and, under a pseudonym, on Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women (1968). He made his proper debut as a director with Targets (1968), starring Boris Karloff (1887-1969).

(Image via Columbia)

With The Last Picture Show (1971), Bogdanovich, just 31, was hailed a major new voice in film. Starring his girlfriend Cybill Shepherd (b. 1950), it earned eight Oscar nominations, including his one and only as Best Director. Incredibly, he followed it with back-to-back hits What's Up, Doc? (1972) starring Barbra Streisand (b. 1942) and Ryan O'Neal (b. 1941) and Paper Moon (1973) with O'Neal and his Oscar-winning daughter Tatum (b. 1963), equally impactful films.

Riding high on success and with his high-profile affair with Shepherd an irritant to the media and the public, Bogdanovich then turned in three bombs in a row — Daisy Miller (1974) and At Long Last Love (1975) with Shepherd and Nickelodeon (1976).

His Saint Jack (1979) became a cult hit, but 1981's They All Laughed, starring his teenage girlfriend Dorothy Stratten (1960-1980), was another blow to his career. An inept comedy, it was further marred by Stratten's horrific murder at the hands of her jealous estranged husband. A heartbroken Bogdanovich went bankrupt trying to save it and distribute it himself.

He recovered with 1985's acclaimed Mask, starring Cher (b. 1946), but his remaining films were not successful: Illegally Yours (1988), the Last Picture Show sequel Texasville (1990), Noises Off (1992), The Thing Called Love (1993), The Cat's Meow (2001) and She's Funny That Way (2014).

In 2018, his work led to the restoration and completion of his lifelong friend Orson Welles's abandoned film The Other Side of the Wind (2018), containing lost performances by a host of greats and near-greats. Welles had once lived at Bogdanovich's home for years during hard times.

Bogdanovich acted in that film and racked up over 50 other acting credits from 1958-2021, including in his own films, on Shepherd's series Moonlighting (1987), on the miniseries Out of Order (2003) and in an arc on The Sopranos (2000-2007).

Bogdanovich is survived by daughters Antonia and Sashy with his ex-wife Polly Platt (1939-2011).

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