Anyone who loves movies, and movie history, owes a giant debt of thanks to Peter Bogdanovich for interviewing, chronicling, and bearing witness to so many veterans of Hollywood’s golden age. Listening to the audio version of his fascinating book This is Orson Welles is one of the great experiences of my life. The book reads well but springs to life when you hear the Great Man himself, as recorded in a wide variety of locations over many years’ time. (I still have my well-worn audiocassette.)

I first met Peter at a reception at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan celebrating the publication of his book on Allan Dwan. (That was 51 years ago!) I told him how much I enjoyed the program notes he wrote for my favorite revival theater, The New Yorker. We chatted about the impending release of his first major film, The Last Picture Show, and I marveled at his ability to get backing for a black & white movie. He told he how difficult it was to get that OK but he swore he wouldn’t make it any other way.

John Wayne spoke to Bogdanovich for his 1971 documentary DIRECTED BY JOHN FORD

Peter had an air of self-assurance that some read as arrogance but that was who he was. Success didn’t really change him. The only addition to his appearance was an ever-present ascot.

I can also vouch for his generosity. I dropped him a note explaining that I was editing The Laurel & Hardy Book and asked if I could read any of his oral history with director Leo McCarey, who played such a vital role in the team’s development. He instructed his assistant to photocopy all the relevant pages in his transcript of his conversations with the late filmmaker. Not every researcher or historian is so willing to share.

Curtis Hanson and Peter flank one of their favorite directors, Joseph H. Lewis (best remembered for GUN CRAZY) at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association award luncheon in 1998. I took this photo and sent it to all three participants.

After making the 1971 documentary Directed by John Ford (which he expanded in 2006) he had a Western script he hoped to shoot with John Wayne and James Stewart in the leading roles. He spoke of it as a done deal but it turned out to be more of a pipe dream.

Yet unlike other film buffs-turned-directors, he was more than a mere wannabe. He made some truly great films, led by The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon. Much can be said of What’s Up, Doc?, Targets, Saint Jack, Mask, Noises Off, The Thing Called Love, and The Cat’s Meow. He enjoyed acting, as well, and made a lasting impression as the psychiatrist on The Sopranos. I daresay nothing gave him greater pleasure than doing his vocal impressions of Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, and other famous filmmakers he’d gotten to know. Not unlike his friend and hero Orson Welles, he had a bit of ham in his DNA.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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June 2024