Croatian American Peter Bogdanovich at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco in 2008, by Eliaws
Although he was conceived in Zagreb, it was perhaps natural that Croatian American Peter Bogdanovich should Americanise his name. His parents left the Croatian capital before their son was even born. Peter would grow up in New York, where he absorbed the culture and climate of the world-famous metropolis. In particular, he fell in love with its cinema.
As a young man, Bogdanovich was obsessed with movies. Early on, he scored a job as a film critic which allowed him to immerse himself in the world of movies. Within this era, he struck up a lifelong friendship with Orson Welles. Bogdanovich famously regarded Welles’ Citizen Kane as the peak of cinema. Also at this time, Bogdanovich was given his first break as a film director by famous producer Roger Corman.
Orson Welles (left) and Peter Bogdanovich (right)
The 1960s saw a revolution in the world of American cinema. Tired old formats such as historical epics and musicals were being swept aside. In their place arrived films by a fresh crop of restless, modern directors. For the most part, they were influenced by the much more radical and real European new wave cinema. Their films appealed to young audiences with gritty realism, unflinching violence and extreme flights of fancy.
Among these new American filmmakers you can find the now-classic names of Martin Scorcese, Woody Allen, Robert Altman, John Boorman, David Lynch, Terrence Malick, Francis Ford Coppola, Sam Peckinpah, Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, John Carpenter, Brian De Palma and Stanley Kubrick. Croatian American Peter Bogdanovich was definitely among them.
He started his career as a director by making a documentary about John Ford, the pre-eminent director of western movies. It is to Croatian American Peter Bogdanovich’s enduring credit that this documentary remains one of the greatest examinations of Ford and his work.
Classics of legendary filmmaker, Croatian American Peter Bogdanovich
The Last Picture Show, with Jeff Bridges and Cybill Shepherd
From there, Bogdanovich jumped to making his first proper film, ‘The Last Picture Show’. Featuring Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd and Cloris Leachmant, it was released in 1971. Universally acclaimed, the coming-of-age drama is as classic as Americana comes. It features a fine Hank Williams soundtrack and was the first lead-starring role of future great Bridges. This one film alone ensured Bogdanovich’s name would forever be associated with cinema’s exciting, new American movement.
Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal starred in Bogdanovich’s second film, the romantic comedy ‘What’s Up, Doc?’ He reunited with Ryan O’Neal in 1973 for the film ‘Paper Moon’. O’Neal’s daughter, Tatum, won an Oscar for best supporting actress with this film. After several immediate hits, Bogdanovich felt he could afford to be choosey about his next projects. He turned down The Godfather, The Exorcist and Chinatown.
Set shot from classic 1985 emotional drama Mask, with Cher (centre) and Bogdanovich (right)
His later films included the classic emotional drama ‘Mask’, starring Cher, and ‘The Cat’s Meow’, starring Kirsten Dunst. A legend among the next generation of filmmakers, Bogdanovich appeared as an actor in cameo roles for cult director Quentin Tarantino and in The Sopranos series.
Croatian American Peter Bogdanovich plays Dr. Elliot Kupferberg in Episode 4, Season 3 of The Sopranos
In 2010, he joined the faculty of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and in 2014 made his last feature film, the comedy ‘She’s Funny That Way’ starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson. In 2018, he released his final film, a documentary about Buster Keaton – ‘The Great Buster: A Celebration’.
Peter Bogdanovich is survived by his two children Antonia and Alexandra (Sashy), his sister Anna Bogdanovich and three grandchildren.
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