TV… Returning to Peter Bogdanovich’s Role in a First Picture Show

#1990s

 

Recalling Peter Bogdanovich as he has some Northern Exposure…

 

The director stars as himself in a small but inspiring role in front of the camera in this nineties drama-comedy series.

 

ULTRA RARE 10-second CBS promo for “Northern Exposure” Season 5, Ep. 7 “Rosebud,” Nov. 7, 1993, Outer Galaxy Lounge

 

I was sad when I heard about the passing of the director Peter Bogdanovich. My most vivid memories of his films .as a kid – included watching Paper Moon (1973) with my mum and loving it. This film starred the real-life father and daughter, Ryan and  – the then really wee International Velvet (1978)  star – 8-year-old Tatum O’Neal in this charming black and white period film.

Wikipedia HERE tells that this film had originally been destined to be a John Huston project with Paul Newman and his wee daughter in the leading roles. However, Bogdanovich took over the making of this film. This was after the book it was based on Addie Pray, was recommended by his ex-wife Polly Platt. This book and movie tell about a con man who takes his ex-girlfriend’s “orphaned” wee kid – who he may or may not be a father to – on a road trip to her aunt’s house.

The Newmans were also out of the picture (literally and figuratively), Bogdanovich then decided to do this as a film project with the O’Neal family members. This was even though Tatum had had no acting experiences before being cast in this film.

I have warm memories about the movie plot and for their main characters, Moses Pray (Ryan) and Addie (Tatum) and I promise this film will be added to my review list. Tatum was both convincing and mesmerising in her screen stealing role. Wee Tatum then won an Academy Award for the Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards. 

Looking through Bogdanovich’s filmography as a director, there were so many films to choose and television to choose from. He worked with some fabulous actors such as Burt Reynolds, Ben Gazzara and Jeff Bridges and actresses that included Valerie Perrine, Dorothy Stratten and Cybill Shepherd. After discussing these tribute possibilities with my Darlin Husband, I then noticed that Bogdanovich had a small but interesting career as an actor.

Darlin Husband then suggested I watch him in the 90s series Northern Exposure (1990-95).  I had heard of but never seen this series. It tells of a newly qualified New York doctor, Joel Fleischman (Rob Morrow) who works in Cicely, a wee Alaskan town. From my first impressions, it seemed a sweet, fish out of water drama-comedy TV Series. Bogdanovich has a wee role in an episode named Rosebud, and this 1993 episode is found at Season 5 and Episode 7.

Luckily for me, Bogdanovich stars in what could be a stand-alone episode. The episode starts as has multi-millionaire businessman Maurice (Barry Corbin), asks the movie buff resident, Ed (Darren E Burrows) for his help as he wants to open a hotel in the town. Maurice says that he needs a reason for people to visit Cicely and he has decided on holding a film festival in the town, and he wants to enrol Ed for the task.

This is because Ed is the town’s biggest movie fan… and this fact is then proved with Ed’s enthusiastic description of that Sundance ear “removal” scene from Reservoir Dogs (1992). Maurice accepts this challenge… and decides on including the films of Orson Welles as part of the festival content.

Meanwhile, in the other stories within this episode… the elderly widow shop owner, Ruth Ann (Peg Phillips) is trying to enrol Joel to train as a member of the volunteer fire brigade. He turns her down because he believes it is a professional’s role. Later, Joe tells Maggie (Janine Turner) that he is still emphatically not interested in this role.

Joel also tells his receptionist, Marilyn (Elaine Miles) that he still won’t do this volunteer work and this time his excuse is that he is the town’s only doctor. This excuse does seem rational as he says if something happened to him then he would be as much use as a chocolate teapot in helping those others in the town… but tune in to see what happens with that storyline.

Simultaneously, Leonard (Graham Greene), a Native American healer is trying to research the white culture. He hopes to learn about the characters’ stories and legends which assist them in recovery from illnesses. It appears he is failing miserably in this task, as the town residents only want to tell him about those crazier urban legends in different ways.. and none of these tales of woe is helpful to him.

And now to the Peter Bogdanovich performance, this director is at first name-dropped by Ed. Ed matter of factly tells Maurice that he approached Bogdanovich about his true-life book collaboration – for the book, This is Orson Welles –  and friendship with Welles. As you do. In future passionate warm scenes, Ed talks about his insights into Orson Welles direction for Citizen Kane (1941), and we see Ed is a huge fan as he watches his movies. Maurice remembers Welles sherry adverts and Ed corrects him to wine adverts and he even quotes from these advertisements.

As part of his role in the festival, Ed also enrols Bogdanovich as a keynote speaker. Bogdanovich then drops in to Cicelyas he just happens to be “scouting for locations”. He is en route to another film festival. In his wee role, some of Bogdanovich’s movies – including The Last Picture Show (1971) –  are listed for the audience within the dialogue. The script also has references to Bogdanovich’s his co-stars – including Tatum O’Neal – and his love and friendship with Orson Welles. In this part of the storyline, it’s a perfect and gentle introduction to Bogdanovich as a man, a director, collaborator and his work.

Bogdanovich also shines in a scene – when he is having dinner with Maurice and Ed –  in which this director then tells a warm story. This is about a time he shared and collaborated with Orson Welles as a friend. The director (and actor) appears relaxed in this scene and he is a vivid storyteller. Listening to Bogdanovich’s soft voice and dulcet tones, you wonder if this scene was ad-libbed as he gives a natural and warm performance.

( After dinner, Maurice then dismisses Ed from his role at the film festival, and Ed is seen taking pills complaining of a sore stomach down to stress.)

This dinner scene is followed by a scene with Ed and Bogdanovich, where he suggests to Ed to write a film. Bogdanovich rightly perceives that Ed is passionate and insightful about the movies. Ed turns down this idea and tells Bogdanovich he wants to work as a Shaman. But he later confides he can’t be a Shaman to Leonard and he feels he has been both a liar and a fraud.

In this scene, Ed and Leonard are watching a film on a huge screen, and Ed tells Leonard that his stomach feels much better. This the wise Leonard puts down to the restorative power of watching movies.. and who hasn’t felt better after watching a favourite film.

So finally if – like Tom Holland’s Spiderman – you are feeling not so good and (here I quote another of Bogdanovich’s movie titles with Ryan O’Neal) it’s a case of What’s Up Doc? (1972). I’d prescribe you watch Paper Moon for a feel-good remedy of the black and white film kind from the directing powers of Peter Bogdanovich…

 

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