Monday, January 10, 2022

At Long Last

 It wasn't until I had listened to a whole lot of music that I realized just how bad Jeff Lynne wished that he was a Beatle. At times, I have used this as a point of mockery, but after even more years of listening to music I understand just how devoted Jeff was to the legacy of those who came before. The Electric Light Orchestra, all the producing he did in the eighties and on into this new millennium, his work with George Harrison evolving into the Traveling Wilburys were all a path that helped keep those sounds and musicians in fans' minds. 

Further tributes to Mister Lynne will have to wait, but I awoke with this context to help share my feelings about Peter Bogdanovich. The acclaimed director of The Last Picture Show died this past week at the age of eighty-two. The first film he directed was Voyage to the Planet of Stone Age Women for Roger Corman. This low-rent adaptation of a low-rent Soviet science fiction movie bears little resemblance to the one for which just a few years later would bring a passel of nominations for Best Director. From his start as a film journalist, Peter was immersed in a study of the way things used to be. His second film, Targets, the story of a homicidal sniper which most people discovered after the success of Last Picture Show, featured the last screen appearance of Boris Karloff. His last picture show.

Which was not the direct path I took to discovering Mister Bogdonavich. That came when my parents took me to see Paper Moon. Starring the father and son team of Ryan and Tatum O'Neal, this black and white reverie about Depression era grifters was tattooed on my brain. What I could not recognize back then was the loving tribute this was to all those filmmakers from the twenties and thirties before him. This was also evident in the movie that preceded it, that I did not see for another ten years was the screwball comedy What's Up Doc? which some might call a ripoff of Bringing Up Baby. I was in college when I learned to use the word "homage." 

My favorite Bogdonavich memory does not reside in movies that I have seen, but rather in a movie that I did not see. Walking out of Radio City Music Hall after seeing The Great Waldo Pepper, directed by George Roy Hill, I spied a poster for At Long Last Love which was directed by Peter Bogdonavich. Nearly ten years later, when I sat on the stage of the Glenn Miller Ballroom competing in the University of Colorado's annual Trivia Bowl, we were asked to identify a film from a single shot. Burt Reynolds and Cybill Shepard together, dancing in evening wear. Just like the poster I saw on that trip to New York all those years ago. I buzzed in with the correct answer, stunning my teammates and, I confess, myself. 

Peter Bogdonavich continued to make films until 2014, but remaining a beacon onto the glory days of cinema. And though his personal life was often much more interesting than his later work, he was a link to giants like Hawks and Ford and Hitchcock and Welles. Which I suppose made him a giant in his own right. He stomped on the Terra of several generations, and he will be missed. Aloha, Peter. 

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