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Peter Bogdanovich, director of ‘The Last Picture Show’ and ‘Paper Moon,’ dies at 82

In his 1970s glory days, he was considered a moviemaking wunderkind.
Peter Bogdanovich
In his glory days, Peter Bogdanovich was considered a moviemaking wunderkind, celebrated for his technical mastery and encyclopedic knowledge of film history.Emma McIntyre / FilmMagic

Peter Bogdanovich, the Hollywood filmmaker who parlayed his youthful obsession with American cinema and formative experience as a magazine critic into a career as the director of 1970s classics such as “The Last Picture Show” and “Paper Moon,” died Thursday.

He was 82.

Bogdanovich died of natural causes just before 1 a.m. Thursday, according to his daughter, Antonia Bogdanovich.

“We would like to ask for your respect of our privacy while we mourn the death of our loved one, our precious man,” she said in a statement.

In his glory days, Bogdanovich was considered a moviemaking wunderkind, celebrated for his technical mastery and encyclopedic knowledge of film history. He championed and emulated classical genres and forms.

In his 20s, he churned out monographs on Golden Age auteurs like Orson Welles and Howard Hawks. He was just 32 when his third feature, the melancholy coming-of-age portrait “The Last Picture Show,” dazzled critics and collected eight Oscar nominations.

He rose to national prominence during the “New Hollywood” wave of the late 1960s and ‘70s, a time when iconoclastic young directors got the keys to the proverbial kingdom.

Bogdanovich’s career was a rollercoaster. He followed “The Last Picture Show” with two warm-hearted hits: the screwball pastiche “What’s Up, Doc?” (1972) and the father-daughter dramedy “Paper Moon” (1973).

But those back-to-back successes were followed by a string of commercial failures that tarnished his reputation, including the literary adaptation “Daisy Miller” (1974). His filmography was sometimes overshadowed by one of the defining tragedies of his life.

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In the summer of 1980, Bogdanovich’s girlfriend, model and actor Dorothy Stratten, was murdered by her estranged husband. The killing led Bogdanovich to take a four-year hiatus from directing and shadowed the rest of his life.

In recent decades, Bogdanovich made films only intermittently, and almost never with the same commercial visibility or critical acclaim of his early works. But he remained a cult figure among cinephiles, revered as the country’s unofficial chief film professor.