The author of “Imagining Peter Bogdanovich: My Conversations with Hollywood’s New Director” recalls his relationship with the late filmmaker.
Not many moviegoers have the opportunity to meet, let alone interview or befriend their favorite filmmakers.
Peter Bogdanovich, who died on January 6 at the age of 82, pulled off the trick many times. First as a film scholar and magazine writer, then as a filmmaker in his own right, Bogdanovich reached out to directors like Ford, Hawks, and Welles, and actors like John Wayne, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart, among countless others.
Through a combination of luck and perseverance, Bogdanovich ensured that these men, whose movies he had seen, inhaled, and studied as a young man in New York, became his teachers, mentors, and friends.
He achieved what had been the dream of every movie fan since before the movies spoke: to meet, in the flesh, those icons of the big screen.
It was with that model in the back of my mind that I sought out a similar friendship with Peter Bogdanovich, who was the only contemporary director whose work suggested a connection or had any tangible link to those Golden Age classics. Given the fact that he did not I’m in the movie business and I live in Ohio, my goal was unlikely, but nonetheless, my career as a film critic provided an opportunity: I interviewed Peter for the first time in 2003, when he was 20 years old, and the interviews continued accumulating. until we had a book, “Imagining Peter Bogdanovich,” that came out in 2020.
Bogdanovich’s films were widely misinterpreted as the work of someone who was simply emulating his heroes. Rather, his work simply functioned as a continuation of theirs: “The Last Picture Show” took up the mantle of “The Magnificent Ambersons,” “What’s Up, Doc?” aimed to generate even more laughs than “Bringing Up Baby” and “At Long Last Love” sought to revive the witty charm of 1930s musicals.
Yet in his mature work, that A-to-B thinking rarely holds up: deeply personal masterpieces such as “Saint Jack,” “They All Laughed,” and “Mask” had no superficial cinematic backgrounds in the way that ” Doc “Clearly built into“ Baby, ”but nonetheless flowed from the Golden Age due to Bogdanovich’s human sensibilities, unmatched deep-focus photography, and crystal-clear cut style.
In the 1990s, when the apathy and myopia of the heads of the studios meant that he could not practice his trade anywhere but in movies made for television, I kept the faith thanks to his devotion to his craft: “To Sir , With Love II ”and“ A Saintly Switch ”weren’t masterpieces, but they were staged, filmed, and directed with the intelligence and sensitivity of someone who has seen every minor work by Allan Dwan.
I was lucky to be able to interview my favorite filmmaker, but even luckier that my favorite filmmaker turned out to be an extraordinarily decent, chivalrous, and honorable man. I found out when our professional relationship turned into a friendship.
We get excited about many of the same movies, including, especially, his; We didn’t like the same movies, including, honestly, many of the ones that come out today. I expected his emails and his distinctive stamp, “All the best, as always.”
We talked on the phone regularly, even when I wasn’t interviewing him, especially for the past two years when I called him every time I felt like talking about one of his movies. I kept little mental lists of things to ask him about, often in regards to one of his many pending film projects or literary endeavors. I don’t know if he ever sat down and rested on his laurels, as he deserved; that he died without winning an Oscar, or without receiving an honorary one, is a parody.
He also called; When Turner Classic Movies screened his 1993 film “The Thing Called Love” last fall, he wanted to know if I had seen the broadcast and, if so, if they were using the director’s cut. My answering machine is full of messages that I will never delete: “Peter, it’s Peter, the other Peter” and all that.
He once told me last year that he hadn’t been feeling well and that he had spent the day rereading my book about him. He seemed to like it very much. How many authors can say that their topic told them such a thing? Whenever he wrote about a classic movie, not his own, but someone else’s, he tried to find a way to refer to one of Peter’s interviews with the giants; it was my way of keeping his name in the press, in a good way.
Three days before Christmas, I called him one last time. We talked about a movie he was planning to make, a biographical portrait of George and Ira Gershwin, and I asked him if he had seen the rare Lubitsch shorts that TCM had just aired. I did not do it; He said he was especially sorry to miss Lubitsch’s first American film, which he told me he had never seen. But there was time, and time, to make the Gershwin movie and to make “Wait For Me,” his dream project about a filmmaker haunted by ghosts.
“Okay, love, take care of yourself,” he said at the end. (He used terms like “love” and “darling” more freely than anyone I have ever met).
“Let’s talk again soon,” I said.
“I always appreciate you calling me,” he said.
Peter was a hero worthy of worship.
Peter Tonguette, a regular contributor to The Wall Street Journal, The Christian Science Monitor, National Review, and other publications, is the author of “Imagining Peter Bogdanovich: My Conversations with the New Hollywood Headmaster” and the editor of “Peter Bogdanovich: Interviews “