Friday, January 7, 2022

RIP Peter Bogdanovich

Peter Bogdanovich (1939-2022)  had a Hollywood life in several senses. Growing up, he loved one thing: movies. They consumed his childhood. He then turned his passion into a career, first by interviewing and writing about famous directors, than by becoming one: The Last Picture Show (1971), What's Up Doc? (1972), Paper Moon (1973). What an incredible story, to go from a poor kid who loved movies to an adolescent who idolized great directors to a director at the top of his profession.

Then everything went wrong. He divorced his wife and took up with Cybill Shepherd. He somehow lost his touch as a director, made a bunch of failures. He left Shepherd for a Playboy model, Dorothy Stratten, and made a film so she could appear in it, but then her estranged husband murdered her before killing himself; Bogdanovich is supposed to have spent hours alone watching Stratten's scenes over and over. The movie flopped. Upset with how the studio handled its promotion, he bought the rights and tried to promote it himself, lost a pile of money and went bankrupt.

After disappearing for a while he resurfaced in the 1990s as a television actor, appearing in several TV shows and The Sopranos, but he never again came close to the roaring success he enjoyed in the 1970s.

It makes me wonder, again, what a good life is: one that is safe and happy, or one that takes you to the heights, and the depths? Is the kind of passion that drove Bogdanovich to the top of Hollywood a good thing, or ultimately a catastrophe for the people it touches? And should we feel any regret about loving the art that such people produce on their way to personal Armageddon?

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