Bogdanovich was born in Kingston, New York, the son of Herma (née Robinson) (1904-???) and Borislav Bogdanovich (1899-1970), a painter and pianist. His Austrian-born mother was Jewish whose family moved from Vienna to Zagreb, Croatia in 1932, while his father was a Serbian Orthodox Christian; the two arrived in the U.S. in May 1939.
In the early 1960s, Bogdanovich was known as a film programmer at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. An obsessive cinema-goer, seeing up to 400 movies a year in his youth, Bogdanovich showcased the work of American directors such as Orson Welles and John Ford—whom he later wrote a book about, based on the notes he had produced for the MoMA retrospective of the director—and Howard Hawks. Bogdanovich also brought attention to such forgotten pioneers of American cinema as Allan Dwan. Bogdanovich kept a card file of every film he saw between 1952 and 1970, with complete reviews of every film.
Bogdanovich was influenced by the French critics of the 1950s who wrote for Cahiers du Cinéma, especially critic-turned-director François Truffaut. Before becoming a director himself, he built his reputation as a film writer with articles in Esquire. These articles were collected in Pieces of Time (1973).
In 1966, following the example of Cahiers du Cinéma critics Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol and Éric 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, he headed for Los Angeles, skipping out on the rent in the process.
Intent on breaking into the industry, Bogdanovich would ask publicists for movie premiere and industry party invitations. At one screening, Bogdanovich was viewing a film and director Roger Corman was sitting behind him. The two struck up a conversation when Corman mentioned he liked a cinema piece Bogdanovich wrote for Esquire. Corman offered him a directing job which Bogdanovich accepted immediately. He worked with Corman on Targets, which starred Boris Karloff, and Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women, under the pseudonym Derek Thomas. 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."
Returning to journalism, Bogdanovich struck up a lifelong friendship with Orson Welles while interviewing him on the set of Mike Nichols's Catch-22 (1970). 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). In the early 1970s, when Welles was having financial problems, Bogdanovich let him stay at his Bel Air mansion for a couple of years.
In 1970, Bogdanovich was commissioned by the American Film Institute to direct a documentary about John Ford for their tribute, Directed by John Ford (1971). The resulting film included candid interviews with John Wayne, James Stewart and Henry Fonda, and was narrated by Orson Welles. Out of circulation for years due to licensing issues, Bogdanovich and TCM released it in 2006, featuring newer, pristine film clips, and additional interviews with Clint Eastwood, Walter Hill, Harry Carey, Jr., Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and others.
Much of the inspiration which led Bogdanovich to his cinematic creations came from early viewings of the film Citizen Kane. In an interview with Robert K. Elder, author of The Film That Changed My Life, Bogdanovich explains his appreciation of Orson Welles' work:
It’s just not like any other movie you know. It’s the first modern film: fragmented, not told straight ahead, jumping around. It anticipates everything that’s being done now, and which is thought to be so modern. It’s all become really decadent now, but it was certainly fresh then.
The 32-year-old Bogdanovich was hailed by critics as a "Wellesian" wunderkind when his best-received film, The Last Picture Show, was released in 1971. The film earned eight Academy Awards nominations, including Best Director, and won two statues, for Cloris Leachman and Ben Johnson in the supporting acting categories. Bogdanovich co-wrote the screenplay with Larry McMurtry, and it won the 1971 BAFTA award for Best Screenplay. Bogdanovich cast the 21-year-old model Cybill Shepherd in a major role in the film and fell in love with her, an affair that eventually led to his divorce from Polly Platt, his longtime artistic collaborator and the mother of his two daughters.
Bogdanovich followed up The Last Picture Show with the popular comedy What's Up, Doc? (1972), starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal, a screwball comedy indebted to Hawks's Bringing Up Baby (1938) and His Girl Friday (1940). Despite his reliance on homage to bygone cinema, Bogdanovich 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 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, and Bogdanovich's Daisy Miller, which had a lacklustre critical reception.
Daisy Miller (1974) was a disappointment at the box office. At Long Last Love (1975) and Nickelodeon (1976) were critical and box office disasters, severely damaging his standing in the film community. Feeling against Bogdanovich began to turn. "I was dumb. I made a lot of mistakes," he said in 1976.
In 1975 he sued Universal for breaching a contract to produce and direct Bugsy.
He took a few years off then returned to directing with a lower budgeted film, Saint Jack (1979) which was a critical success, although not a large hit. The making of this saw the end of his romantic relationship with Cybill Shepherd.
Bogdanovich's next film was the romantic comedy They All Laughed (1980), which starred Dorothy Stratten, a former model who began a romantic relationship with Bogdanovich. Stratten was murdered by her estranged husband. Bogdanovich took over distribution of the film himself.
Bogdanovich turned back to writing as his directorial career sagged, beginning with The Killing of the Unicorn - Dorothy Stratten 1960–1980, a memoir published in 1984. Teresa Carpenter's "Death of a Playmate" article about Dorothy Stratten's murder was published in The Village Voice and won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize, and while Bogdanovich did not criticize Carpenter's article in his book, she had lambasted both Bogdanovich and Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner, claiming that Stratten was a victim of them as much as of her husband, Paul Snider, who killed her and himself. Carpenter also criticized Bogdanovich for his "puerile preference for ingenues". Carpenter's article served as the basis of Bob Fosse's film Star 80 (1983), in which Bogdanovich, for legal reasons, was portrayed as the fictional director "Aram Nicholas," a sympathetic but possibly misguided and naive character.
Bogdanovich took over distribution of They All Laughed himself. He later blamed this for why he had to declare bankruptcy in 1985. He declared he had a monthly income of $75,000 and monthly expenses of $200,000.
On December 30, 1988, the 49-year-old Bogdanovich married 20-year-old Louise Stratten, Dorothy's younger sister. The couple divorced in 2001. The marriage was viewed as a scandal because of the age gap and his previous relationship with her sister.
In the early 80s Bogdanovich wanted to make I'll Remember April with John Cassavetes and The Lady in the Moon written with Larry McMurtry.
Instead he made Mask in 1985.
Bogdanovich's 1990 sequel to The Last Picture Show, called Texasville was a critical and box office disappointment.
Both films occasioned major disputes between Bogdanovich, who still demanded a measure of control over his films, and the studios, which controlled the financing and final cut of both films. Mask was released with a song score by Bob Seger against Bogdanovich's wishes (he favored Bruce Springsteen), and Bogdanovich has often complained that the version of Texasville that was released was not the film he had intended. A director's cut of Mask, slightly longer and with Springsteen's songs, was belatedly released on DVD in 2006. A director's cut of Texasville was released on laserdisc, and the theatrical cut was released on DVD by MGM in 2005. Around the time of the release of Texasville, Bogdanovich also revisited his earliest success, The Last Picture Show, and produced a slightly modified director's cut. Since that time, his recut has been the only available version of the film.
Bogdanovich directed two more theatrical films in 1992 and 1993, but their failure kept him off the big screen for several years. One, Noises Off..., based on the Michael Frayn play, has subsequently developed a strong cult following, while the other, The Thing Called Love, is better known as one of River Phoenix's last roles before his untimely death.
In 1997 he declared bankruptcy again.
Bogdanovich, drawing from his encyclopedic knowledge of film history, authored several critically lauded books, including Peter Bogdanovich's Movie of the Week, which offered the lifelong cinephile's commentary on 52 of his favorite films, and Who The Devil Made It: Conversations with Legendary Film Directors and Who the Hell's in It: Conversations with Hollywood's Legendary Actors, both based on interviews with directors and actors.
In 2001, Bogdanovich resurfaced with The Cat's Meow. Returning once again to a reworking of the past, this time the supposed murder of director Thomas Ince by Orson Welles's bête noire William Randolph Hearst, The Cat's Meow was a modest critical success but made little money at the box office. Bogdanovich says he was told the story of the alleged Ince murder by Welles, who in turn said he heard it from writer Charles Lederer.
In addition to directing some television work, Bogdanovich returned to acting with a recurring guest role on the cable television series The Sopranos, playing Dr. Melfi's psychotherapist, also later directing a fifth-season episode. He also voiced the analyst of Bart Simpson's therapist in an episode of The Simpsons, and appeared as himself in the "Robots Versus Wrestlers" episode of How I Met Your Mother along with Arianna Huffington and Will Shortz. Quentin Tarantino also cast Bogdanovich as a disc jockey in Kill Bill: Volume 1 and Kill Bill: Volume 2. "Quentin knows, because he's such a movie buff, that when you hear a disc jockey's voice in my pictures, it's always me, sometimes doing different voices," said Bogdanovich. "So he called me and he said, 'I stole your voice from The Last Picture Show for the rough cut, but I need you to come down and do that voice again for my picture...'"
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 is also frequently featured in introductions to movies on Criterion Collection DVDs, and has 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.
In 2006, Bogdanovich joined forces with ClickStar, where he hosts a classic film channel, Peter Bogdanovich's Golden Age of Movies. Bodganovich also writes a blog for the site. In 2003 he appeared in the BBC documentary, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls and in 2006 he appeared in the documentary Wanderlust.
In 2007, Bogdanovich was presented with an award for outstanding contribution to film preservation by The International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) at the Toronto International Film Festival.
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 culturally significant films.
In 2010, Bogdanovich joined the directing faculty at the School of Filmmaking at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. On April 17, 2010, he was awarded the Master of Cinema Award at the 12th Annual RiverRun International Film Festival. In 2011, he was given the Auteur Award by the International Press Academy, which is awarded to filmmakers whose singular vision and unique artistic control over the elements of production give a personal and signature style to their films.
In 2012, Bogdanovich made news with an essay in the Hollywood Reporter, published in the aftermath of the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting, in which he argued against excessive violence in the movies:
Today, there’s a general numbing of the audience. There’s too much murder and killing. You make people insensitive by showing it all the time. The body count in pictures is huge. It numbs the audience into thinking it’s not so terrible. Back in the ’70s, I asked Orson Welles what he thought was happening to pictures, and he said, “We’re brutalizing the audience. We’re going to end up like the Roman circus, live at the Coliseum.” The respect for human life seems to be eroding.
Bogdanovich's most recent film, She's Funny That Way, was released in theaters and on demand in 2015.Great Performances- episode - James Stewart: A Wonderful Life - Himself (1987)
Great Performances - episode - Bacall on Bogart - Himself (1988)
John Wayne Standing Tall - TV Movie - Himself (1989)
Ben Johnson: Third Cowboy on the Right - Documentary - Himself (1996)
Howard Hawks: American Artist - TV Movie documentary - Himself (1997)
Warner Bros. 75th Anniversary: No Guts, No Glory - TV Movie documentary - Himself (1998)
John Ford Goes to War - Documentary - Himself (2002)
Karloff and Me - Documentary - Himself (2006)
American Masters - episode - John Ford/John Wayne: The Filmmaker and the Legend - Himself (2006)
Stagecoach: A Story of Redemption - Video Documentary - Himself (2006)
Commemoration: Howard Hawks' 'Rio Bravo' - Video short - Himself (2007)
The Size of Legends, The Soul of Myth: 7 Part Documentary (2009)
Ride, Boldly Ride: The Journey to El Dorado: 7 Part Documentary (2009)
Dreaming the Quiet Man - Documentary - Himself (2010)
Peter Bogdanovich - Stagecoach Criterion Collection Edition Special Feature (2010)
A Film of Firsts: Peter Bogdanovich on Red River - Red River Criterion Collection Edition Special Feature (2014)
Hawks and Bogdanovich - Red River Criterion Collection Edition Audio excerpts Special Feature (2014)
The Criminals (1966) - a World War Two film for Roger Corman
Lonesome Dove (1972) - a Western from a script by Larry McMurtry who turned it into the best selling novel
The Apple Tree (early 1970s) from a script by Gavin Lambert based on the story by John Galsworthy
The Girl with the Silver Eyes (1974) based on novel by Dashiell Hammett
Twelve's a Crowd (early 1980s) with Keith Carradine and Colleen Camp
I'll Remember April with Colleen Camp, John Cassavetes and Charles Aznavour
remake of Detour (1945)
remake of Brewster's Millions (early 1980s) with John Ritter
The Lady in the Moon (early 1980s) from a script by Larry McMurtry
Private Lives with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton from the play by Noël Coward (early 1980s - they later appeared in it on stage)
Paradise Road (late 1980s) from a novel by David Scott Milton to star Frank Sinatra set in Las Vegas
Turn of the Century (2013) based on Kurt Anderson novel
Bogdanovich was also fired off Duck, You Sucker! and Another You (1991), the latter while during filming. He turned down directing A Glimpse of Tiger, The Getaway (1972), King of the Gypsies (1978), Heaven Can Wait (1978), The Hurricane (1979) and Popeye (1980). He also turned down the role played by Dabney Coleman in Tootsie (1982). He also directed a scene in the John Cassavetes film Love Streams (1984).
Books by Peter Bogdanovich:1961: The Cinema of Orson Welles. New York: Museum of Modern Art Film Library. OCLC 982198898.
1962: The Cinema of Howard Hawks. New York: Museum of Modern Art Film Library. OCLC 868410545.
1963: The Cinema of Alfred Hitchcock. New York: Museum of Modern Art Film Library. OCLC 937577000.
1967: John Ford. London: Studio Vista. OCLC 868409009. Expanded edition: Berkeley: University of California, 1978. ISBN 9780520034983.
1967: Fritz Lang in America. London: Studio Vista. OCLC 469498600; New York: Praeger. OCLC 841184600.
1970: Allan Dwan: The Last Pioneer. Inglaterra: Studio Vista. OCLC 777766501.
1973: Pieces of Time. New York: Arbor House. OCLC 982199356. Expanded edition, 1985: Pieces of Time: Peter Bogdanovich on the Movies, 1961-1985. ISBN 9780877956969.
1984: The Killing Of The Unicorn - Dorothy Stratten 1960-1980. William Morrow and Company. ISBN 0-688-01611-1.
1992: This is Orson Welles. HarperPerennial. ISBN 0-06-092439-X.
1995: A Moment with Miss Gish. Santa Barbara: Santa Teresa Press. OCLC 34316185.
1997: Who The Devil Made It: Conversations with Legendary Film Directors. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-679-44706-7.
1999: Peter Bogdanovich's Movie of the Week. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 9780345432056.
2004: Who the Hell's in It: Conversations with Hollywood's Legendary Actors. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-375-40010-9.
The Last Picture Show (one solo commentary, and one with actors Cybill Shepherd, Randy Quaid, Cloris Leachman and Frank Marshall)
The Sopranos (TV series) (episode "Sentimental Education")
What's Up, Doc?
They All Laughed
The Thing Called Love
The Cat's Meow
She's Funny That Way (with co-writer/producer Louise Stratten)
Bringing Up Baby
Clash by Night, with audio interview excerpts of director Fritz Lang
Fury, with audio interview excerpts of director Fritz Lang
The Lady from Shanghai
Land of the Pharaohs, with audio interview excepts of director Howard Hawks
M, with digital transfer supervisor Torsten Kaiser and restoration supervisor Martin Koerber, plus audio interview excerpts of director Fritz Lang
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Othello, with Orson Welles scholar Myron Meisel
The Rules of the Game, reading commentary written by film scholar Alexander Sesonske
The Sopranos (TV series) (episode "Pilot") with Sopranos creator David Chase
Strangers on a Train, with Psycho screenwriter Joseph Stefano, Patricia Highsmith biographer Andrew Wilson and other participants
To Catch a Thief, with film historian Laurent Bouzereau
The Third Man, on the Criterion Edition of the film
Make Way for Tomorrow, on the Criterion Edition of the film