The son of immigrants fleeing the Nazis, his father is a Serbian painter and pianist and his mother descended from a rich Austrian Jewish family, Bogdanovich was conceived in Europe but born in America. He was originally an actor in the 1950s, studying his craft with acting teacher Stella Adler, and appearing on television and in summer stock. In the early 1960s, Bogdanovich achieved notoriety programming movies at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. An obsessive cinema-goer, sometimes seeing up to 400 movies a year in his youth, Bogdanovich prominently showcased the work of American directors such as John Ford, whom he subsequently wrote a book about based on the notes he had produced for the MoMA retrospective of the director, and the then-underappreciated Howard Hawks. Bogdanovich also brought attention to such forgotten pioneers of American cinema as Allan Dwan.
Bogdanovich was influenced by the French critics of the 1950s who wrote for Cahiers du Cin"ma, especially critic-turned-director Fran"ois Truffaut. Before becoming a director himself, he built his reputation as a film writer with articles in Esquire. In 1968, following the example of Cahiers du Cin"ma critics Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, and "ric Rohmer who had created the Nouvelle Vague ("New Wave") by making their own films, Bogdanovich decided to become a director. With his wife Polly Platt in tow, they packed their bags, took a grocery carriage full of books and loaded them into their car and headed for Los Angeles, skipping out on their rent in the process. Intent on getting into the industry, Bogdanovich's persistence paid off when he would bug publicists for movie premiere and industry party invites. At one screening, Bogdanovich was viewing a film with film director Roger Corman sitting behind him. The two struck up a conversation when Corman mentioned he liked a cinema piece Bogdanovich wrote for Esquire. It was in this conversation that Corman offered him a directing job which Bogdanovich didn't even blink before accepting. He went on to work with Corman on Targets and Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women. Bogdanovich later said of the Corman school of filmmaking, "I went from getting the laundry to directing the picture in three weeks. Altogether, I worked 22 weeks " preproduction, shooting, second unit, cutting, dubbing " I haven't learned as much since."
Turning back to journalism, Bogdanovich struck up a life-long friendship with Orson Welles while interviewing him on the set of Mike Nichols's adaptation of Catch-22. Bogdanovich played a major role in elucidating Welles and his career with his writings on the actor-director, most notably his book This is Orson Welles (1992). He has steadily produced notable books on cinema, including Who the Devil Made It: Conversations with Legendary Film Directors.
Bogdanovich is also frequently featured in introductions to movies on the famed Criterion Collection DVDs.
The 32-year old Bogdanovich was hailed by a critics as a "Wellesian" wunderkind when his most well-known film, The Last Picture Show, was released in 1971. The film received eight Academy Awards nominations, including Best Director, and won two statues: Cloris Leachman and Ford film veteran Ben Johnson in the supporting acting categories. Bogdanovich, who had cast the 19-year-old model Cybill Shepherd in a major role in the film, fell in love with her, an affair that eventually led to his divorce from the film's set-designer Polly Platt, his long-time artistic collaborator and the mother of his two children.
Bogdanovich followed up The Last Picture Show with the popular hit What's Up, Doc? (1972), a screwball comedy indebted to Hawks' Bringing Up Baby (1937) and His Girl Friday (1941), starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal. Despite his reliance on homage to bygone cinema, Bogdanovich had solidified his status as one of a new breed of A-list directors that included Academy Award winners Francis Ford Coppola and William Friedkin, with whom he formed The Directors Company. The Directors Company was a generous production deal with Paramount Pictures that essentially gave the directors carte blanche if they kept within budget limitations. It was through this entity that Bogdanovich's Paper Moon (1973) was produced.
Paper Moon, a Depression-era comedy starring Ryan O'Neal that won his 10-year-old daughter Tatum O'Neal an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress, proved to be the high-water mark of Bogdanovich's career. Forced to share the profits with his fellow directors, Bogdanovich became dissatisfied with the arrangement. The Directors Company subsequently produced only two more pictures, Coppola's The Conversation (1974), which was nominated for Best Picture in 1974 alongside The Godfather, Part II (1974), and Bogdanovich's Daisy Miller, a film that had a lackluster critical reception.
An adaptation of the Henry James novella, Daisy Miller (1974) spelled the beginning of the end of Bogdanovich's career as a popular, critically acclaimed director. The film, which starred Bogdanovich's lover Shepherd as the title character, was savaged by critics and was a flop at the box office. Bogdanovich's follow-up, a film of the Cole Porter musical At Long Last Love (1975) starring Shepherd, was panned by critics as one of the worst films ever made and noted as such in Harry and Michael Medved's The Golden Turkey Awards: Nominees and Winners, the Worst Achievements in Hollywood History (1980). The film also was a box office bomb despite featuring Burt Reynolds, whose star would only rise during the 1970s.
Once again beholden to the past, Bogdanovich insisted on filming the musical numbers for At Long Last Love live, a process not used since the early days of the talkies, when sound engineer Douglas Shearer developed lip-synching at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The decision was widely ridiculed as none of the leading actors were known for their singing abilities. (Bogdanovich himself had produced a critically panned album of Shepherd singing Porter songs in 1974.) The public perception of Bogdanovich became that of an arrogant director hamstrung by his own hubris. Many have speculated that the fall in Bogdanovich's career may have been attributed to his divorce with Polly Platt.
Bogdanovich turned back again to old triumphs and traditions with Nickelodeon (1976). Nickelodeon, a comedy recounting the earliest days of the motion picture industry and reuniting Paper Moon's Ryan and Tatum O'Neal with Reynolds. Counseled not to use the critically unpopular Shepherd in the film, Bogdanovich instead used newcomer Jane Hitchcock as the film's ing"nue. Unfortunately, the magic of Paper Moon could not be repeated and the film died at the box office.
After a three-year hiatus, Bogdanovich returned with the critically and financially underwhelming Saint Jack (1979) for Hugh Hefner's Playboy Productions Inc. Bogdanovich's long affair with Shepherd had ended in 1978, but the production deal making Hefner the film's producer was part of the settlement of a lawsuit Shepherd had filed against Hefner for publishing nude photos of her pirated from a print of The Last Picture Show in Playboy Magazine. Bogdanovich then launched the film that would be his career Waterloo, They All Laughed, a low-budget ensemble comedy starring Audrey Hepburn and the 1980 Playboy Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratten. During the filming of the picture, Bogdanovich fell in love with Stratten, who was married to Paul Snider. Stratten moved in with Bogdanovich, and when she told Snider she was leaving him, she was killed in a murder-suicide.
They All Laughed could not attract a distributor due to the negative publicity surrounding the Stratten murder, despite it being one of the few films made by the legendary Audrey Hepburn after her provisional retirement in 1967. (The film would prove to be Hepburn's last starring role in a theatrically released motion picture.) The heartbroken Bogdanovich bought the rights to the negative so that it would be seen by the public, but the film had a limited release to weak reviews and lost Bogdanovich millions, driving him into bankruptcy.
Bogdanovich turned back to his first avocation, writing, to pen a memoir of his dead love, The Killing of the Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten (1960"1980) that was published in 1984. The book was a riposte to Teresa Carpenter's "Death of a Playmate" article written for The Village Voice that had won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize. Carpenter had lambasted Bogdanovich and Hefner, claiming that Stratten was as much a victim of them as she was of Snider. The article served as the basis of Bob Fosse's film Star 80 (1983), in which Bogdanovich was portrayed as the fictional director "Aram Nicholas".
Bogdanovich's career as a noted director was over, and though he achieved a modest success with Mask in 1985, his sequel to The Last Picture Show, Texasville (1990), was a critical and box office disappointment. He directed two more theatrical films in 1992 and 1993, but their failure kept him off the big screen until 2001's The Cat's Meow. Returning once again to a reworking of the past, this time the supposed murder of director Thomas Ince by Welles' b"te noire William Randolph Hearst, The Cat's Meow was a modest critical success but a flop at the box office. In addition to helming some television movies, Bogdanovich has returned to acting, with a recurring guest role on the cable television series The Sopranos as Dr. Melfi's analyst. Bogdanovich directed a fifth season episode of the series.
Bogdanovich's personal reputation suffered from gossip about his 13 year marriage to Dorothy Stratten's 19-year-old younger sister Louise Hoogstraten, who was 29 years his junior. Some gossip held that Bogdanovich's behavior was akin to that of Scottie Ferguson, the James Stewart character in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958), with the director trying to remold Hoogstraten into the image of her late sister. The marriage ended in divorce in 2001.
In 1998, the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress named The Last Picture Show to the National Film Registry, an honor awarded only to the most culturally significant films.
Bogdanovich hosted The Essentials on Turner Classic Movies but was replaced in May 2006 by TCM host Robert Osborne and film critic Molly Haskell. Bogdanovich also plays Dr. Melfi's shrink in The Sopranos. He also had a supporting role as a fictional version of himself in the Showtime comedy series Out of Order. He will next appear in The Dream Factory.