Peter Bogdanovich is the son a Serbian father and a mother who was Jewish and from a rich Austrian family. At the beginning of his carreer in the 1950's Peter worked as an actor, studying with legendary acting coach Stella Adler. In the early 1960s he achieved notoriety for programming movies at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Peter was a frequent cinema-goer, an interest which led him to amongst other moves writing a book about the American director John Ford.
Bogdanovich was influenced by the French critics of the 1950s, especially the critic François Truffaut who also worked as director. In 1968, Peter himself became a director, he directed the critically praised movie Targets.
Peter had a lot of help from the legendary Orson Welles and they became good friends. Orson Welles worked as such an inspiration to Peter that he wrote the book This is Orson Welles, published in 1992. He has also written invaluable books about the cinema and movies, especially Who the Devil Made It: Conversations with Legendary Film Directors, which established Peter as one of the premier English-language chroniclers of cinema.
The film Peter is most famous for, The Last Picture Show, was released in 1971 when Peter was 32 years old. The film received eight Academy Award nominations, including one for himself as Best Director. The movie didn't win Best Director, but two of the others for Cloris Leachman and Ben Johnson in the supporting acting categories. Peter himself had cast 19-year-old model Cybill Shepherd in a major role in the film, and in real life he fell in love with her. It led to an affair that eventually made him divorce Polly Platt, his longtime artistic collaborator, who also worked on this movie, and the mother of his two children. Some people have said the split from Polly in some ways put an end to the successful part of Peter's career.
He followed up the next year, 1972, with another hit movie, What's Up, Doc?, a screwball comedy heavily empowered by Howard Hawks' witty movies. Bogdanovich had his place as one of a new breed of A-list directors and he formed The Directors Company with other well-renowned directors. It was a generous production deal with Paramount Pictures which helped Peter with the production of his next movie, the critically praised Paper Moon released in 1973. Forced to share the profits with his fellow directors, Bogdanovich wasn't completely satisfied with the arrangement.
A movie adaptation of the Henry James novel Daisy Miller, in 1974, spelled the beginning of the end of Bogdanovich's career as a popular director. The film starred Peter's lover Cybill Shepherd as the title character and was a flop at the box office as well as the critics. The follow-up, At Long Last Love from 1975 was a filming of the Cole Porter musical and known to critics and movie goers as one of the worst films ever made, despite starring Burt Reynolds, a burning star at this time. Along with these movies the public perception of Peter became that of an arrogant director hamstrung by his own hubris.
After a three-year break, after the split with Cybill Shepherd in 1978, Bogdanovich returned with a film for Hugh M. Hefner's Playboy Productions Inc called Saint Jack. Then he did a film in 1981 that would be the death of his carreer: They All Laughed. It was made on low budget and starred Audrey Hepburn and the 1980 Playboy Playmate of the Year, Dorothy Stratten. During the filming of the picture, Peter fell in love with Stratten, who was already married. When she told her husband she was leaving him, he shot and killed her, before committing suicide. The movie 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 Hepburn after her provisional retirement in 1967. Peter had to file for bankruptcy. Then he turned back to writing, with the memoir of his love The Killing of the Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten (1960-1980) published in 1984.
Peter's career as a noted director was over, but he did achieve modest success with Mask in 1985. Then five years later he made Texasville which was the sequel to his greatest success The Last Picture Show, but it turned out a critical and box office disappointment. He directed a couple of other films, none of them vety seccesful, but returned to acting with a recurring guest role on the The Sopranos in 1999.
Peter married Dorothy Stratten's sister, the 19-year-old Louise Stratten, who was 29 years younger than Peter and the gossip started again. Some saying that he was trying to make her an image of her older sister. The marriage ended in divorce in 2001.