1997, director-historian-actor Peter Bogdanovich
richly deserved the National Board of
Review's first William K. Everson Award
for History of Film for his book of his
classic filmmaker interviews Who the
Devil Made It (1997, Alfred A. Knopf).
The late Professor Everson, a long-time
NBR member and contributor to Films
in Review , was one of our leading
film historians, educators and authors.
GALLAGHER: Bill Everson was a very generous
guy. He loaned me a print once of William
K. Howard's White Gold (1927)
and I'm on the subway thinking I'm holding
what is very possibly the only existing
copy of this film.
BOGDANOVICH: I remember going up to his
apartment on West End Avenue. I never
saw so much film. Everywhere you looked,
cans of film, in the corners, on the shelves,
in the bathtub.
He told me the management of his building
had to reinforce the floors in his apartment.
The floor would buckle. Film is heavy,
heavier than books.
You must have read Films in Review
when you were a kid.
It was one of the only film history magazines
I used to collect the career indexes,
the issues that had a career article with
a list of the person's films. I had a
whole bunch of them. I got rid of all
my film books a few years ago, sold some,
gave some away. I've gone through like
four libraries. Every so often I want
to periodically eliminate and start over
again. The only thing I miss having is
Cahiers du Cinema ; I used to have
a run of those that disappeared. Somebody
I devoured Who the Devil Made It .
You had such a rapport with these directors
-- Hawks, Walsh, Cukor, Hitchcock. The
Howard Hawks interview is spectacular;
your sessions spanned ten years with him.
Yes, from '62 to '72.
He was one of the veteran directors you
were closest to.
Yeah, as close as you could get. He was
very encouraging to me and very kind,
and tough in his way. He liked me and
I liked him a lot. I miss him a lot. Thing
is, my father (the artist Borislav Bogdanovich)
was an older man, he was 40 when I was
born, so I grew up with an older father
than most people. He died at a young age,
at about 70, and I think I gravitated
towards older people just generally. The
consequence of that is all these directors
that I interviewed didn't seem old to
me, really. So many of them have died
and I feel bereft of a lot of friends,
because the age thing didn't mean much
to me. I feel sometimes like a whole part
of my life is gone.
I was very moved by the poignant picture
you painted of Allan Dwan -- "The
Last Pioneer" as you call him --
living in this little house in the San
Fernando Valley owned by ...
His housekeeper. Well, Allan was one of
the sweetest men you ever could ask to
meet. He was so kind. I think he was the
nicest to me overall of the directors
in the book. He was very warm, extraordinarily
encouraging, interested in everything
I did. He was just really fun and buoyant
all the time. He never felt sorry for
himself. He seemed very jolly and wise.
Is the interview in Who the Devil Made
It the same as the book you did on
Dwan, The Last Pioneer ?
It's the same interview. It's just slightly
The Last Pioneer is long out of
print, so it's great to have it in the
Yeah, that's difficult to find.
As is Fritz Lang in America .
Fritz Lang in America is virtually
all in the new book, a little bit cut
but not much. It's in a different order
because in Fritz Lang in America
we didn't deal much with the German films,
but it's basically the same interview.
Very little was cut from that interview
and very little from Dwan. The book was
so fat so we took some stuff out.
It's interesting in your prelude to the
Fritz Lang interview to read about your
relationship with him.
It was rocky. But he was like that. I've
hardly heard of anybody saying anything
nice about him, except Kevin Thomas (of
the Los Angeles Times ) who got
along with him very well. Fritz was threatened
by people and also competitive as hell.
He reminded me a lot of the European intellectuals
I grew up with. My father would have a
dinner party and these kind of people
would come over. I met a lot of people
like Fritz when I was a kid growing up
here in New York, so he was familiar to
me as a type. He wasn't too nice after
a while but I try to remember the good
things because he was extraordinarily
generous and warm in the beginning.
What was Josef von Sternberg like?
Very warm in a cold way. He was just very
reserved and not very outgoing. He didn't
speak too much but what he did say had
a lot of weight. He was sad, he was a
sad man. I didn't understand a lot of
that stuff when I was that age. I didn't
understand what had happened and how rough
it must have been. You don't when you're
younger til you go through some shit you
don't really know what they're dealing
with and it must have been extraordinarily
difficult for Joe. Very tough. I think
his wife Mary kept him going. She taught,
she was an archaelogist. I guess he had
some money from the Directors Guild but
I don't know how ... had a nice house
though, didn't seem to be broke but again
I don't know how they kept going. He died
four years after we met. I didn't know
him that well but I saw quite a bit of
I'm a huge Leo McCarey fan and of course
I read your piece on him in Esquire
so again it's wonderful to have the
full interview finally available. It's
such a gift to have this interview in
print, the only extensive one we have
with McCarey. It's like suddenly finding
a career interview with Victor Fleming
or Woody Van Dyke or Gregory LaCava.
Yes it's too bad but that was really how
it got done cause the doctors and the
wife didn't want to have it done. They
thought it would hurt his health. Jim
Silke, who was at the AFI then, convinced
Irene Dunne that it was a good idea, and
Irene Dunne convinced the doctors and
the wife so I was allowed to go. Leo enjoyed
it. There's no question he enjoyed doing
it. It tired him out. After the first
session I didn't seem him for a while
cause he had a kind of a relapse. It was
very fortuitous that I was able to do
it because he was very revealing and a
delight, and very much like his pictures
although he was pretty sick and was fading.
He faded through the whole twelve sessions.
I didn't get that much after the first
It's interesting to learn that Cary Grant
tried to get out of doing The Awful
Isn't that amazing? That was surprising.
I never asked Cary about that but Cary
was always a little uncomfortable about
McCarey. I was very friendly with Cary
Grant, he was very nice to me. The interview
I did with McCarey went to the AFI as
part of the Oral History Program, the
full interview was there in their files.
Somebody read it and did a piece about
Cary Grant and I think in some book that
was published it said that Leo McCarey
didn't like Cary Grant, based on my interview.
I remember saying to Cary, "I'm sorry
about that thing with McCarey but that's
what he said." He said "Oh that's
alright, that's alright." It was
Garson Kanin who told me how much of an
influence McCarey had on Cary Grant. You
can see it in pictures.
You can see it comparing The Awful
Truth with other movies Grant did
before that, with the exception of Sylvia
Sylvia Scarlett was a kind of
Cockney characterization and he was very
good in that but it isn't like The
Awful Truth at all.
The Cary Grant persona really came out
of The Awful Truth .
It happened in that picture. It came together
for him in that picture. Having met McCarey,
albeit when he was not himself really,
I could see where that came from because
he had a very sophisticated dry wit, kind
of mischievous, with all those little
kinds of noises that Cary makes in the
movie, that's very McCarey. I can see
Leo McCarey giving him that stuff. You
can see it in other McCarey pictures without
Cary Grant where people react that way.
In Ruggles of Red Gap (1935),
Roland Young has that very dry quality.
Well, the Laurel and Hardys have that
kind of reserved humor, slightly laid
I think what is the key to the big movie
stars -- and I'm writing a book about
that for Knopf tentatively called Who
the Hell's In It , all the actor
pieces that I've done, all being rewritten
and I'm writing new stuff -- and one of
the main points I'm going to make in there
is that the really big movie stars were
all personalities of a certain kind and
they were seen differently by major directors
and those directors had an impact on those
actors which they carried with them. Cary
Grant is a perfect example. One of the
things I left out of the book really by
accident, it'll be in the next one, was
that I asked Cary about Von Sternberg
They did Blonde Venus (1932)
: Blonde Venus . I said to Cary,
"Do you direct much?" He said,
(Peter does a flawless Cary Grant
) "Not really. But the first
day he saw me he looked at me and he said
'Your hair's parted on the wrong side.'"
I said, "What'd you do?" He
said, "I parted it on the other side
and I kept it that way the rest of my
career." There's a perfect example.
If Joe hadn't said that maybe it would
have been different. But that was a little
thing but big deal, parting your hair
on the other side! And then, wow. Then
you can see in Sylvia Scarlett
that Grant, as George Cukor said, found
himself in a certain way as an actor,
he allowed himself to be free, cause he's
kind of reticent in all the other pictures,
kind of laid back. He had been a straight
leading man up to that point but not very
interesting. In Sylvia Scarlett
suddenly he explodes into a characterization.
It was Cockney that he had grown up with,
though he was from Bristol, he knew people
like that. Then with McCarey on The
Awful Truth suddenly he took the
sophistication and the slapstick -- and
Cary of course had been a circus performer,
an acrobat -- so McCarey used that and
you can see how the character and persona
changed from Von Sternberg to Cukor to
McCarey and then to Hawks who used him
for the comedy stuff in Bringing Up
Baby (1938) and added elements and
then had him play a dramatic part for
the first time in Only Angels Have
Wings (1939). So really in the few
years between 1936 and 1939, Sternberg
was earlier, but in those three years
he worked with Cukor, McCarey and Hawks
and then Hitchcock in '40 which gave him
another thing. With all those things going
through, he had a career. He knew what
to do for the rest of his career. He knew
how to play each aspect of himself. So
his personality in those roles, with that
fine tuning the directors gave him, made
him a movie star.
Jimmy Stewart is another great example,
from Capra to Cukor to Hitchcock to Mann
Yeah, Jimmy is a little less obvious than
Cary Grant because he always had a certain
persona. He had the Westerner and the
Easterner that he played. It's odd that
he played both those things so effectively,
and you see them both in 1939 with Mr.
Smith Goes to Washington and Destry
Rides Again . That was the rest of
his career right there in those two pictures.
The only thing that was different was
that after the war he added a certain
element of harshness and cynicism which
was exploited not just by Anthony Mann
but by Hitchcock and Preminger, kind of
an awareness about himself. He told me
about that, he said (perfect Jimmy
Stewart imitation) "I thought
I better toughen it up." Somebody
was putting him down after the war and
he drew on the more neurotic aspects of
I'm amazed by Jean Harlow -- dreadful
in Hell's Angels (1930) and
The Public Enemy (1931), then
she becomes a different performer in Red
Dust (1932), Red Headed Woman
(1932) and Bombshell (1933).
I think the first time you see that change
is in Dinner at Eight (1933).
Red Dust and Red Headed
Woman pre-date that.
They do? That's right, they do. Red
Dust is Fleming, who directed Red
Headed Woman ?
Well, a lot of it depends on who the co-star
is and who the director is, no question
about it, because the actor has to feel
a certain way in front of the camera.
I've seen actors dreadful in a take and
then you tell them something and suddenly
it changes everything.
You have to make a creative environment
It's an atmosphere in which you feel that
you can't really do anything wrong. The
actor should feel that he can't do anything
wrong. You may not like it and say let's
try it that way or this way but it won't
be wrong . Orson Welles was extraordinary
with that, at creating that kind of atmosphere,
cause I acted for him, where you felt
that maybe he wouldn't like it or he'd
ask you to do it again but you didn't
feel like, "Oh Christ I better not
do that," and you could just do anything.
You felt it would be alright, Orson would
forgive you if it wasn't good. If he didn't
like something he'd laugh hysterically
and say "That
bad, we'll try that again!" It was
always kind of fun and I think to varying
degrees certain directors were like that.
Certainly Hawks was very laid back and
It shows, doesn't it, in the naturalistic
dialogue patterns in movies like Only
Angels Have Wings (1939). I love
It's very much like being with Howard,
that movie. If you knew him you kind of
felt, well, that was Howard. You could
see him writing that stuff, having the
actors do it. Yeah, it's very Hawks. I
like it too. It's fun.
Speaking of Orson Welles, what's the status
of The Other Side of the Wind ?
Do you know where the footage is?
Oh yeah. The negative is sitting in a
vault in Paris. There's a stalemate, a
Mexican standoff -- is that politically
incorrect? -- well anyway, between Orson's
heirs, which basically is Oja Kodar in
this case, and the Iranian investor who
put up money, and Orson put up some money
and the French court decided that neither
owned it, that both owned it and they'd
have to agree before anything could happen.
They've been not agreeing for years and
it just sits there.
What a shame.
Yeah. And Orson asked me to finish it
should anything happen to him. He said
that to me in '73 or '74 one afternoon.
He said, "You must promise me that
if anything happens to me you'll finish
it." I'd say, "Orson, for God's
sake, nothing's going to happen to you."
He says, "I know but you must promise."
And I did and I feel the burden of it.
All it takes is money, that's it. It just
takes some money to pay everybody off
and put it together. It's shot. There's
very little to shoot, there's some trick
stuff, there's no acting stuff, there's
a few trick shots and some things, but
You'd think that Miramax and Fine Line
would be falling over themselves to do
You would think so but maybe they don't
know about it. I haven't really pursued
it lately, I've been having my own problems.
Frank Marshall was involved in trying
to help us get it together. Y'know, there
going on in life in one's own career,
it becomes a problem but believe me it's
on my mind and we're trying again now
to see if we can make something happen.
The Cukor interview in your book was originally
for a TV special.
I don't know what it was for, I can't
remember but it never got used. It was
for something . It was for a documentary
or something. I don't know. It never got
used, that's all I know.
The Ulmer interview was originally published
in Film Culture and then pieces
in Kings of the B's .
Todd (McCarthy) used most of it, I don't
remember. What's there in the Knopf book
is mostly there. It's not all there. His
daughter is preparing a documentary about
Edgar and she found they're restoring
a lot of his films, I just spoke to her
before. I'm meeting with her back in L.A.
next week. The BBC is interested in doing
a documentary on him and they found Natalka
Poltavka (1937), they found a number
of his old pictures.
There are some wonderful stories in your
interview about the making of Ulmer's
Yiddish films, the nudist camp in New
Yeah some amazing stuff. I think you get
a real sense of what he was like.
In retrospect, '70s mainstream Hollywood
was a golden age compared to today - The
Last Picture Show (Bogdanovich),
Taxi Driver (Scorsese), The
Conversation (Coppola), Five
Easy Pieces (Rafelson), so many great
pictures. What happened?
Well what happened was that we all fucked
up, really. What happened was the director
became the superstar. People like John
Cassavetes and some of my stuff, we all
kind of geared it toward the director
and that's pretty much what happened at
the end of the '60s and early '70s. And
then we had freedom to make what we wanted
and most of us all made big bombs in various
ways whether it was Coppola who went off
the deep end or (Michael) Cimino, I made
a musical that didn't work ( At Long
Last Love ), Marty Scorsese made
a musical that didn't work ( New York,
New York ).
In Everyone Says I Love You
(1996) Woody Allen does the same thing
you did in At Long Last Love
Woody says he went to see my picture at
the (Radio City) Music Hall five times
and he loved it, but I didn't know that
until recently! (laughter ).
But that picture was rushed into
release. That was a disaster and unfortunately
people say to me now "Gee, I really
like that picture, why was it so attacked?"
But the people who are reacting to that
now have only seen the recut version which
was the one I recut after it opened, you
see. It was an original musical comedy
and we only
had two previews. Two. The first one was
a total disaster in San Jose and the second
one in Denver was OK. It played. But then
I made some more changes to it because
of pressure from the studio and didn't
preview that version. So that version
which had never previewed opened and it
was the worst version there was. It was
fucked. Then I saw that playing and I
realized what I needed to do but by then
it was too late. It was overconfidence
on the part of the studio, because the
studio really liked the movie, that was
the funny thing. They liked it, they thought
it was terrific but in a musical, well
in anything, it all has to do with construction.
And in a musical particularly, the balance
between the musical numbers and the dialogue
has to be delicate and I just was still
too inexperienced to realize how critical
that was and so after the picture had
opened it was declared a bomb. The only
place it made money was at the Music Hall.
Then I realized how I should have cut
it after that and I immediately did cut
it, they let me recut and I think I paid
for that, and that version was then shown
on television and that's the version that
all release prints have been ever since.
That was quite different from the opening
version. Very different, but unfortunately
it was too late.
I always felt the critics at the time
were incredibly harsh to you.
Yeah well they were. Judy Crist, the critic,
was friend of mine and when we were preparing
to come into New York with At Long
Last Love -- which I always refer
to as At Long Last Turkey --
I spoke to Judy and she said, "How's
the picture?" and I said, "It's
OK I guess." She said, "It better
be good." I said, "What do you
mean?" She said, "They're layin'
for you here," and they were. It
was just too much. I'd had three hits
in a row and even though people think
of Daisy Miller as having gotten
bad reviews it was a critical hit and
got quite good reviews.
It's the best Henry James adaptation.
Well thank you, that's what Gore Vidal
I didn't know if you've seen Portrait
of a Lady (1996). It's a snore.
Daisy Miller was a good picture
but I probably shouldn't have made it
at that particular moment. I remember
when we screened it at Paramount, Frank
Yablans, the new head of the studio came
over to me and I said "What do you
think?" He said, "It's alright."
I said "Is that all you have to say?"
"Well what do you want me to say?"
I said, "It's just alright?"
He said, "It's fine, it's good but
you are Babe Ruth and you just bunted."
From a commercial point of view he was
right. It was not a picture that was ever
going to be a big hit unless you released
it today. It got very good notices. People
remember it as having gotten bad notices
but the truth is that Paper Moon
got fairly mixed notices. The New York
Times didn't like it, Time
didn't like it. On the other hand The
New York Times raved about Daisy
Miller , but it was just not a commercial
picture in its day plus at that point
Paramount changed hands, Barry Diller
came in, Frank was out, it fell between
the cracks, and nobody really pushed it.
I like the picture. I think it was pretty
Weren't you supposed to star in Daisy
Miller at one point?
I asked Orson if he would direct Cybill
and me in it. He said, "No, you direct
it. Cybill's born to play it." He encouraged
me to do it which maybe was a double-edged
sword but anyway Barry Brown was so right
for the part that it was scary. But it
was also a problem because he just wasn't
very personable and the part needed somebody
with a little more personality, but y'know,
he was the part, he sure was Winterbourne.
Poor Barry. He killed himself really,
He projected intelligence in the part.
He had a kind of intelligence and he was
a very bright kid but he was so self-destructive.
But he was very much like Winterbourne,
he was definitely "winter born."
Let's talk about Raoul Walsh.
Were you going to do a Walsh interview
book in the '70s?
We were gonna do a big interview and then
after that first interview he decided
he was going to write his own book. He
said, "Pedro, I'm going to do my
own book, so we'll talk." I think
he talked to Schickel after his book came
out. He didn't do any more interviews
until after his book came out. I think
it made him decide, what the hell, I may
as well write my own book.
It's a fun interview talking about his
You get a sense of what he was like, don't
Absolutely. And you got him to talk about
some of his lost films like Lost and
Found on a Desert Island (1922)
and The Spaniard (1925).
We got all the way up to What Price
Glory ? (1926). After that most of
his films got to be pretty known. I regretted
that I couldn't get more but I was very
happy with what I had. I didn't know what
I'd ever do with it, I never used any
of it except in that piece I did in Esquire
"Paul Revere on the Trolley Tracks."
Which was really an attempt to plug his
book. It was published around the time
his book came out.
Did you stay in touch with him?
Oh yes, we talked on the phone all the
time. I didn't go out to see him much,
he was way out in the Simi Valley but
we talked on the phone a lot.
Did you ever interview King Vidor?
I knew him and I met with him a few times,
and he was a lovely man, but Nancy Dowd
did a great interview, very long, hard
Yeah, it's in the DGA Oral History Series.
It's very complete. Coppola, Friedkin
and I had a company at Paramount ...
The Directors Company.
It was a great fuckin' deal. Billy, Francis
and I could make anything we wanted under
three million dolars and not even show
an outline to the studio. That's how Daisy
Miller got made. Nobody read it,
nobody saw it, we made it for 2.2 (million),
substantially under three, and that was
it. My partners weren't happy with it,
they thought it was a kind of a vanity
production to show Cybill off. If I'd
wanted to do that I would have done something
else. That was a pretty difficult role,
and I thought she was awfully good in
it. What some people didn't realize is
that that was the way a girl like that
would have been in 1875. She was from
New York, she was a provincial girl. If
you read the story that's what she is.
If you read the original novel we hardly
added anything. The movie is exactly the
book. I added one sequence that I wrote
that Freddy Raphael had nothing to do
with. In fact Freddy Raphael had nothing
to do with that script, it was so funny.
There's two things he wrote. One idea
was the little miniature painter and the
other thing was having that scene play
in the baths.
With Mildred Natwick.
Yeah, that was his idea. Everything else
was the book and I couldn't use his script
cause it was really way over the top.
Anyway, that's another story. We went
to arbitration in England cause Freddy's
English and so they were a little partial
to him. They said I could have billing
but it would have to say "Additional
Dialogue by", and I said I'm not
going to give myself that.
So anyway the deal at the Directors Company
was anything we wanted to make under three
million was fine. And if
we wanted to produce a picture for another
director it could be anything up to a
million and a half. So King Vidor came
to me and asked if we would help him produce
a picture that he wanted to do very badly
about what happened to the guy that played
the lead in The Crowd (1928).
James Murray. And King had a whole script
prepared to do a movie about what happened
to James Murray. I wanted to do it, I
was trying to get it together but then
Billy pulled out of the company and Francis
kind of reluctantly pulled out of the
company and there was no company. It was
The Conversation was The Directors
Company, wasn't it?
Yeah. There were only three pictures made
for The Directors Company. Billy never
made one. I did Paper Moon and
Daisy Miller and Francis did
The Conversation. I had a deal
on Paper Moon before the Directors
Company came into being and I decided
to throw it into the company as a way
of kicking off the company, cause it was
made for under three (million) too, it
Did you ever hear about a company called
Renowned Artists that John Ford, Tay Garnett
and Ronald Colman tried to start back
No! I've heard about Renown, Harry Joe
Brown and Randolph Scott's company.
Renowned Artists had a deal in '37 with
UA. Ford was going to do The Quiet
Man and Garnett was going to do
Trade Winds , but the company
never got off the ground.
I would think that the idea of independence
during the studio system would have been
very very difficult because it was so
much easier to do it with the studios.
It would have been hard to break off.
(William) Wyler, (George) Stevens and
(Frank) Capra did it after the war (with
Liberty Productions) and McCarey was supposed
to be part of that and he decided to go
on his own (Rainbow Productions), but
they were still pretty much attached to
studios. Although I think It's a Wonderful
Life (1946) probably suffered because
it was a Liberty Production. I think the
studio (RKO) kind of fucked them a little
on that one. That's why it wasn't successful.
I doubt that picture, if it had been properly
distributed, wouldn't have been successful.
It probably was done for political reasons
to screw him. They didn't like them being
independent. I'm sure of that. They do
that. They can screw you up. They can
distribute it badly, and you have no control
and you can't really prove it.
Are you interested in doing independent
Sure. I have a number of pictures that
I want to make and I'll make them however
You were involved with Sam Fuller's The
Big Red One (1980) originally.
Yeah, it's a sad story. I should never
have left the damn thing. I was going
to do Saint Jack . That was a
mess. What happened was, Yablans was the
head or Paramount and I got Fran to make
a deal for Sammy to write a script, and
I think they paid him and he wrote a draft
and then Yablans was out of there, I don't
know what happened, but the next thing
that happened was I got Lorimar to step
up to it and I was going to be the producer.
Sammy wanted me to play the Bob Carradine
part. I didn't see myself as a soldier
but I regret that I didn't do that and
I regret that I didn't stay involved as
a producer but for various reasons it
didn't work out. I brought Gene Corman
in (to produce). Gene took over and Gene
wasn't as strong with Lorimar as he might
have been, so unfortunately they kind
of took the picture away from Sam. He
was stuck with having to complete it their
way. It was unfortunate. I didn't see
the completed version til it opened in
New York in 1980.
invited me, I remember Dorothy Stratten
and I went to see it and that's when he
met her. It was right toward the end of
shooting here in New York (on They
All Laughed ). I just thought it
didn't feel anything like what the original
script was, what it could have been. That
footage still exists. There's been an
attempt to put it back the way it was
and I've spoken to Joel Silver and a couple
of people to see if they could get the
money to let Sammy do it correctly. That's
another problem, getting that money together.
Is there more footage that exists for
The Last Picture Show ?
Yeah. The original cut was about two hours
and twenty-five minutes, but it wasn't
the right cut, it was too long. When we
were preparing Texasville , Peter
Guber agreed to let me recut Picture
Show by adding certain footage to
it. The picture had not yet appeared on
video so the idea was to add some footage
and make a new version of it and put it
out in theatres prior to the opening of
Texasville . That started to
happen. I started working on it, I reveiwed
all the material and decided there were
about seven minutes I wanted to put back
in. Some stuff had disappeared, but very
little. The sound had disappeared but
the footage was there. The dailies were
there so we had the dailies of the sound.
I put back about seven minutes and then
Frank Price took over at Columbia and
Frank didn't like me because of the situation
that happened at Universal on Mask,
so Frank pretty much sabotaged that
plan, which was to bring Picture Show
out and then Texasville ,
so that was sabotaged and didn't happen.
What did happen was that Texasville
had to be totally recut because
I had to lose certain stuff that wouldn't
make any sense if you hadn't seen Picture
Show . It wasn't available anywhere.
So that was unfortunately very sad. Texasville
came out and was perceived incorrectly
because it wasn't what we made. It was
perceived as too much of a comedy when
in fact the original Texasville
was more evenly balanced between comedy
and drama. Subsequent to that the long
version of Last Picture Show
was finished on 35mm and on laserdisc
and is available on Criterion Laserdisc,
seven minutes longer. There's a very good
laserdisc that's been available a few
years. Pioneer did a director's cut of
Texasville so that also exists
on laserdisc in a version that's twenty-five
minutes longer. But the only way to see
those two pictures the way we would have
liked them to be show one after the other
is on laserdisc.
You mention the balance of comedy and
drama. People like Leo McCarey did that
It's my favorite thing. Doing a comedy
that becomes sad or the intermixing of
comedy and drama which when I was growing
up had a name -- it was called a comedy-drama.
Now they don't do that anymore. It's either
a comedy or a drama. It's very unusual
now to have the two mixed. The ability
to do that is the best.
Paper Moon is a great example
That has it. Most people thought of it
as a comedy but I made it as a drama.
I thought it was fairly mordant humor.
How did John Ford react to The Last
Picture Show ?
I don't know if he ever saw it. He never
said anything to me about it. He never
said anything about any of the pictures.
I don't know if he saw them. He came on
the set of What's Up Doc? and
visited but I never heard him say anything.
How about Hawks?
Hawks did. I ran Targets for
Hawks and I describe that in the book
( Who the Devil Made It ). He said
"The action's good and that stuff's
hard to do." He was critical of it
otherwise but complimentary. Dwan saw
the pictures and he was very encouraging.
Jean Renoir was the most encouraging.
He asked me to run my pictures at my house
once I got a projection room. Hawks was
very proud of What's Up Doc?
though I don't remember him ever saying
much about it. He went down to South America
one time for some kind of retrospective
and came back with some snapshots he'd
taken of the marquee when What's Up
Doc? played in Rio. He was kind
of proud of that.
He had to be proud to see Targets
where you use a clip from The
Criminal Code (1931) and have dialogue
about it with Karloff.
Yeah, I say "Howard Hawks directed
that." Yeah he liked that but Howard
never said much about those kind of things.
What was it like working with Boris Karloff?
He was so sweet, a wonderful man. He was
a joy to work with, very encouraging.
Loved the picture, loved the script. I
first met him a few days before we started
shooting. He'd flown over from London
to do the picture, came out to my house
in the Valley at the time to have dinner.
He said to me, "As I was landing
in Los Angeles I was reminded of one of
the lines you wrote in the script, and
I think it's the truest line I've ever
read in a screenplay." I said, "My
God, what is it?"
"It's that line -- 'What an ugly
town this has become.'"
It's interesting reading your interview
with Edgar Ulmer in Who the Devil Made
It about him working with Karloff
on The Black Cat (1934).
Yes and how funny he was and how charming.
Boris was like that. I don't know anyone
who's ever said anything against Boris.
I think Hawks talks about him briefly
in the interview too.
Did you know Tay Garnett?
I met him once, just shook hands with
him at a museum screening or somewhere.
He wrote his own book ( Light Your
Torches and Pull Up Your Tights ).
I remember seeing your documentary Directed
by John Ford when it first aired.
Where can one see that now?
The AFI has it. They've done nothing with
it. They never did clear the rights to
the clips so you couldn't show it anywhere
except for free. I've been trying over
the years to get somebody to finance an
updated version of it but haven't managed
to pull it off.
That film has classic interview clips
with Ford giving you answers like "Uh
huh" or "If you say so."
Well that was just what we got. That was
Ford (laughter) so we put it
Did you work with his daughter Barbara
Ford, the editor?
She worked on Mask . She died
right after. I knew Barbara for years.
She worked with me as an assistant at
the house, she was kind of the secretary
at the house for a few years. She was
really a sweet woman. She died of cancer
shortly after Mask .
She was very close to her father.
She was very close with Jack. Yeah he
thanked me for helping her.
In Targets , you also show a
clip from Preminger's Anatomy of a
Murder and you mention Ben Gazzara
and of course you went on to work with
He wasn't a friend then. I didn't know
him. I met Ben through Cassavetes when
they were working Opening Night ,
that was the first time I met him. I went
over to do that extra thing and we all
went to have lunch and that's where I
got the idea to use Ben in Saint Jack
because he was very much like the
character that I envisioned of Jack Flowers.
At one point I thought of Cassavetes playing
him, but I thought Ben was more outgoing,
more the kind of character this guy was,
plus he was Italian. The ironic thing
about it all is the first review of anything
I ever wrote was for my high school newspaper
and it was about the off-Broadway production
of End as a Man , which was the
first time Benny had been seen in New
York. It was weird kind of coincidence
that was the first thing I ever wrote
That was filmed as The Strange One
It was, but I saw it off-Broadway. It
was such a hit it moved to Broadway. It
was brilliantly done. Ben was extraordinary.
I saw everything Ben did in New York in
those years before I moved out to Los
Angeles. I saw Hatful of Rain
on stage with Gazzara, he was brilliant
and I saw him do Cat on a Hot Tin
Roof which was magnificent.
He's great, wonderful guy.
Oh you know him.
Yeah, his daughter Liz worked on the editing
of my film The Deli ( author's
note : I subsequently directed Ben
Gazzara in the feature Blue Moon
Liz worked with us on Saint Jack.
How did you handle directing yourself
in Saint Jack ?
I'd walk through it myself and stage it
which I do often even when I'm not acting.
I'll step into it just to figure out how
to do it. I began as an actor and I will
very often have to step into the role
to see how I'm going to stage it. People
I work with let me step into it and figure
out how to do it. On Saint Jack
it was no different except in this case
I was going to play it. So I'd stage it
and walk through it with Benny and then
I'd have another actor step in and I'd
watch it and then I'd shoot it.
Did you do that on Targets as
No I didn't have the luxury to have somebody
else on that one, which is tougher.
Would you mind talking about your experience
with Sergio Leone?
No, I don't mind. It was doomed. Sergio
had liked Targets and he decided
he wanted to have an American director
direct the picture ( Duck, You Sucker!
a.k.a. A Fistful of Dynamite
). He pretty much thought he was
going to be able to push the buttons and
tell me how to shoot it. I worked on the
script for about three months
Luciano Vincenzoni who was a terrific
guy and a terrific writer, and had written
Sergio's best films, the two after Fistful
of Dollars -- For a Few Dollars
More and The Good, the Bad and
the Ugly. For me, those are Sergio's
best pictures. I went over there (to Italy),
I didn't know anything, I was arrogant
and I didn't get along with Sergio because
he wanted to direct through me. I didn't
want to particularly do that. It just
didn't work out and I quit or was fired
after I came back for Christmas, and I
never went back. Before I even left we
had been told by BBS that we would make
The Last Picture Show. It was
just a question of clearing the rights
and eventually they were cleared. We got
the rights and I went right into preparing
that when I got back. So it was just as
well. The Sergio Leone picture came out
and it was called Duck, You Sucker!
The title we were going to call
it was Johnny and Johnny , because
one of the characters was called Sean
and the other was Juan. They both mean
John so they were going to call each other
Was it cast at the point you were working
on the script.
I think it was going to be Rod (Steiger)
as Juan. Who ended up playing Sean?
Yeah, I think they were both cast. After
I left, Sergio tried to bring another
director in but the two actors wouldn't
go for it and it ended up that Sergio
had to direct it. I don't think
he wanted to particularly but he did though.
He did it alright.
Didn't you also try to set up a picture
with Howard Hawks?
Hawks had a Louis L'Amour Western that
he wanted to put together and it just
didn't work out. He wanted to produce
it and I was going to direct it. I should
have probably done it. I don't know that
I said I would but I think he just couldn't
get it put together. I got busy with Picture
Show and one thing led to another.
I wish I'd done it now. At the time ...
Do you think there was more respect then
for the veteran Hollywood directors than
today? I've had meetings with producers
and executives who have literally never
heard of John Ford.
Oh yeah, I'm not surprised. Then it was
closer to the beginning, it was twenty-five
years ago, all those guys were alive,
it was closer to when they made pictures.
The people who are running the movies
today don't know pictures. They just don't
know them. They have no film culture at
all. So many of the young people making
pictures don't watch the old pictures.
It shows in the work. A lot of the American
independent films and even the Hollywood
films made today show an amazing lack
of film culture. It's almost as if everyone's
trying to invent the wheel all over again.
The technique of pictures seems to me
very old fashioned, old-fashioned in the
sense that it's primitive. Today it's
cut-cut-cut-cut-cut, that's all it is.
That's the whole MTV influence.
It's just cut-cut-cut. That's pretty easy
to make pictures that way.
Have you seen Sling Blade ?
That was different. That was good. I thought
Billy Bob Thornton was amazing. I told
(John) Ritter to tell Billy Bob I thought
he had gigantic balls to just put the
camera down and watch some of that stuff.
He didn't feel he had to cut it up into
a thousand pieces.
It was almost shot like a Biograph film.
It's very good, very effective. Very well
done. Woody Allen shoots a lot of stuff
in one master shot. I saw him the other
night and I said "Do you like to do them
in masters?" He said "Yeah, I do everything
in masters. I hate all that coverage."
He doesn't even bother to shoot it. That
takes a lot of confidence and knowledge.
I feel like in most American pictures
today nobody's home. Nobody made this
picture, which is why I used Hawks' quote
for the title of the book. I asked Hawks
who he liked and he said he liked almost
anybody that made you know who the devil
was making the picture. The director's
a storyteller and he ought to have his
own way of telling it. That just about
sums it up.
Would you tell the story about John Ford
asking Ben Johnson to do The Last
I had asked Ben to do it and he turned
it down. He said "There's too many
words. Too many words, Pete." So
I called Ford and I said, "I've got this
really good part for Ben Johnson, he says,
he won't do it, he says there's too many
said, "Aw Jesus! I mean, Ben always
said that. When
we were doing (She Wore A) Yellow
Ribbon , I mean he'd come on the
set and he'd say to the script girl 'Do
I got any words today?' If she said yes
he'd go out and sulk. If all he had to
do was ride the horse he'd be happy. I
mean, Jesus, where is old Ben?"
think he's in Arizona."
give me his number, I'll call him."
said "It's really a good part."
I"ll call him."
fifteen minutes later he calls me back
and he says, "He'll do it."
said "Did you talk to--?"
do it. I said to him what's the matter
with you Ben, I mean, Jesus, Pete has
got a good part for you, what do you want
to do, play Duke's sidekick your whole
So then about ten minutes after that Ben
Johnson calls me and he says, (Ben
Johnson drawl) "You put the
Old Man on me."
really want you to this."
God, Pete, I don't know ... I'll be back
in a couple of days, I'll come see ya."
So he came over to the office and he still
didn't want to do it. I kept bugging him
and bugging him. He'd been there about
about an hour and I said "Ben, if you
do this, you're going to win the Oscar
for it." He got angry with me, he said,
"Why do you say that! Why the hell
do you say that!" (laughter).
I said "I don't know if anybody else will
get the Oscar but you in this role I think
will win the Oscar. You'll certainly get
a nomination." Then we talked another
forty minutes. He had the script in front
of him and he slammed the script shut
and said, "Oh alright I'll do the
goddam thing!" That's how he agreed
to do it. And he did win the Oscar.
You do a great Ben Johnson, by the way.
Old Ben. I can't believe he's gone. That's
You also worked with Harry Carey, Jr.,
And in Nickelodeon . He was very
good in that and very good in Mask.
Wonderful actor. I had him in another
picture, that awful one I made for DeLaurentiis,
I don't even like to mention it, Illegally
You took a lot of shit for Nickelodeon.
Well again Nickelodeon was not
released the way I wanted it. I had two
pictures in a row that were favorite projects
of mine, the musical (At Long Last
Love) and Nickelodeon.
Both of them were very dear to my heart
Nickelodeon was originally called
That's how it started, and that was a
mistake, I should have never gotten involved,
I should have done it myself. I'd been
planning to do a big picture about the
silent era, largely based on the interviews
with Dwan, Walsh and McCarey. I was preparing
it and I got a call from my agent and
she said they're preparing a movie called
Starlight Parade , there's another
director involved but they want you. I
said, "Well, I don't really want to do
their script, I'll have to rewrite it
let you rewrite it, whatever you want."
I rewrote the whole damn thing and never
used any of Starlight Parade .
The trouble was, again, the picture had
a balance between comedy and drama and
it was a comedy-drama, no question about
it, and I had wanted to do it in black
and white. It was very important to do
it in black and white and Columbia, the
studio, wouldn't let me. I had a big fight
about that and they cancelled the picture.
Then Barry Spikings at British-Lion came
in and funded some of the picture, threw
in a few million dollars. It ended up
being a Columbia-British Lion picture
and but when it was all done it was a
difficult picture. The previews were edgy
and the studio wanted me to take most
of the drama out, play it more comedy
and turn it more into a What's Up
Doc?, which it really wasn't. So
that threw it off and it got fucked up.
Again, the picture came out not at all
the way I wanted. I tried to recut that
one and I couldn't get back to it.
still would like to put some of that stuff
back. There's about five minutes I'd like
to put back that really makes a difference,
some heavy stuff where you find out that
Ryan O'Neal has an affair with Stella
Stevens, it becomes very clear, and you
see that John Ritter knows it. All that
stuff. It was just much heavier and darker.
So the picture got screwed up and that's
why I took three years off and went away.
I said I don't want to do this. Finally
I did Saint Jack for that reason
with Corman -- I didn't want to compromise
what I believed in anymore. We didn't
get much money to make it, but Saint
Jack was made exactly how I wanted
to. People thought I had to go
to Corman. I didn't have to. I
just didn't want to deal with the studios.
They said they'd make Saint Jack
but not with Ben Gazzara and I wanted
to do it with Ben. That's why I went off
and did that.
There's something you said about Raoul
Walsh's directorial style in High
Sierra influencing Targets.
Well, the chase.
What was it about Walsh's pictures that
influenced you before you were a filmmaker?
The energy is amazing, tremendous vitality
and a very sure sense of action. He was
a very good action director. White
Heat is one of those very powerful
action films. High Sierra's
a picture I love. Raoul had a real sense
of the kinetic, and a recklessness that
was very effective. Those films he made
at Warners like Gentleman Jim
and High Sierra in the early
'40s were very very effective. I love
even Colorado Territory.
Remake of High Sierra.
A very effective remake, with Joel McCrea,
who was a dear man. I never really talked
to him as much as I'd have liked to. There's
a biography of him coming out, by the
way. His daughter I think interviewed
him and Knopf is going to publish it.
He was an underrated actor.
Very underrated. He really did some good
ones. A really nice guy too. But Raoul
was a lot like his movies. There
was a recklessness and a vitality in the
man that was appealing. An edginess. He
was edgy. I like what Allan Dwan said
to Raoul Walsh -- "I always liked
Raoul's on the edge kind of thing".
There was that kind of on the edge thing
with Walsh at his best.
Did you know William Wellman?
Never met him. I just never met him. I
know he said a very nice thing about me
on television one time, cause it was reported
to me. He named me as one of the young
guys that knew something. I was the only
one he mentioned. He said he didn't like
the new pictures but he thought this guy
Bogdanovich knew something. Something
like that. That was nice.
What's your opinion of his work?
He was a good director. Uneven. Louise
Brooks was very fond of him, said wonderful
things about Beggars of Life
which is supposed to be his best picture.
I've never seen it. Is it good?
It has an opening where Wellman tells
lots of story in a purely visual way,
very quickly, very economically.
He was a good storyteller. I liked some
of his pictures. I never really got into
his pictures the way I did with some of
How about Henry Hathaway?
No, I never liked him. He didn't like
me personally and I didn't much like him.
I met him a couple times and I just didn't
like him. I don't like his pictures.
My Man Godfrey is as good as
it gets in that kind of comedy. That's
the best one, he made a few others but
that seemed to me to be the best of them.
Private Worlds is his, that's
a nice picture.
The Half-Naked Truth.
That's also quite good. I haven't seen
all of his pictures. Of course he died
long before I could have met him.
I think it closes the book nicely, brings
it back to New York.
all, Dwan was shooting in New York during
And Walsh was from the Upper West Side
That's right. So that kind of brings it
back to New York, which is where I'm coming
back to. I'm moving back to New York.
I grew up here. 15 West 67th Street for
years, then my parents moved to 90th and
Riverside Drive. I went to Collegiate.
And the RKO-Colonial Theatre.
And the Loew's Lincoln. Both of them are
gone long ago. Loew's Lincoln preceded
There's a wonderful story about your mother
forcing you to go to a play. You just
wanted to go to the movies.
Yeah she did, she forced me to do that.
We had a big huge argument about it. That
was a major thing.
You wrote about maintaining a big file
on all the movies you saw. When I was
a kid I used to tape record credits off
of pictures playing on TV, make notes,
put them on index cards.
See, I didn't have television. My parents
didn't get television until I had already
moved out of the house.
You were doing all that from seeing the
movies in theatres?
Either from the movies or down at the
public library. I still have all those
When I was in school in Philadelphia I
took a lead from you and wrote program
notes for the cinematheque in exchange
for free admission.
(laughter) So it worked. Yeah,
I had done that at the New Yorker Theatre.
Where was that?
Between 88th and 89th on Broadway.
That was a big influence on you.
Huge. It was a 900-seat theatre. I saw
Dan Talbot yesterday. He's still a friend.
Andrew Sarris and Eugene Archer.
We used to hang around at the New Yorker
in this little office in which Jonas Mekas
came in one day and wrote on the wall
"All the good movies are made in
Hollywood" Everybody thought I had
written it. It was really Jonas.
Really? Mr. Experimental Cinema?
Yeah I guess he'd written it as a tongue-in-cheek
thing. At that point we were showing a
lot of good old Hollywood pictures. As
I say in the book, I don't think one should
call them old movies, I think that there's
good movies and there's not good movies,
and there's movies you've seen and there's
movies you haven't seen. If it's a good
movie and you haven't seen it, it's new.
I taught American Film Comedy one semester
at School of Visual Arts and the very
first thing I put up was The Awful
Truth . As soon as the Columbia logo
came up in black-and-white, I got groans
from the film students.
Until they saw the movie, of course. There's
an attitude people have about vintage
films. Knowledge of classic American cinema
is dismissed as film trivia.
I know. It just isn't taken seriously
and that's an American tragedy. We don't
take seriously the stuff that we're best
at. Jazz is the same thing. It took the
French to discover that too. To say it
was good. The kids just don't know what
they're missing. People who haven't seen
these movies don't know what they're missing.
It's like an extraordinary treasure that's
right under their noses and they're just
too ignorant to know it's there. And they
better get wise to it because it's really
a tragedy, lost to people. It's like having
never read a novel.
Which is another problem.
That's another thing that seems to be
happening. Nobody reads anymore.
Do you have a personal favorite among
They All Laughed. That's probably
for very personal reasons but it is a
personal question so that's my personal
answer! (laughter) That's the
picture I like best. I think people who
know me would say that picture is kind
of the way I am. It's more like me than
any other picture I've made. I don't really
dislike any of them except the ones that
aren't the way they're supposed to be.
Bogdanovich's remembrance of John Cassavetes,
check out the June 2004 edition of "Between
Action and Cut").
-- JOHN GALLAGHER