The other side of Peter Bogdanovich

Orson Welles, Peter Bogdanovich, and John Huston on the set of the finally completed The Other Side of the Wind.
  • Orson Welles, Peter Bogdanovich, and John Huston on the set of the finally completed The Other Side of the Wind.

Here's more of my talk with Peter Bogdanovich. From Buster Keaton the subject shifts to what chance, if any, we have of ever seeing Jerry Lewis' notorious concentration camp clown picture, his thoughts on The Other Side of the Wind, and the last director's cut needed to complete his library.

Don't forget to see Bogdanovich's latest, The Great Buster, opening Friday at San Diego's last single-screen picture show, Landmark's Ken Cinema.

Scott Marks: Why have we never seen Martha Coolidge’s City Girl?

Peter Bogdanovich (Laughs): Oh, God. Uhh… Martha Coolidge shot it and we financed the finishing of it, but we couldn’t afford to distribute it. It reverted back to her and you can ask her why she hasn’t put it out there. I think there was some problems with the music. We couldn’t afford to pay for it, or something happened. I spent half-a-million dollars on it and sure would like it to come out, but I don’t know if it ever will. Martha has it.

SM: Do you think a complete print exists of Jerry Lewis’ The Day the Clown Cried?

PB: No. I think Jerry destroyed it. He hated it. I asked him why and he said that he didn’t think it was any good.

SM: I asked about it when I was living in Chicago and he said, “Kid, you have as much chance of seeing it as you do reliving the Chicago Fire.” I don’t know what the hell he meant, but I took it as a no.

PB: He wasn’t keen on it.

SM: A year or so before Jerry died, a story circulated that he gave a print of the film to the Library of Congress under the condition that they agree not to show the film for at least 10 years.

PB: I hadn’t heard that. It’s possible.

SM: Other than to qualify for awards, will The Other Side of the Wind receive a theatrical release or will the San Diego premiere be held in my living room?

PB: It helps to see it on the big screen. The Other Side of the Wind certainly suffers in smaller venues. It’s so dense and so fast that you miss certain things. It’s the fastest Welles… it’s like a speeding bullet. It’s a very modern film. I hope it plays theatres. The intention was for it to play select theatres.

SM: Is there still one film at the top of your want list, the one picture that you haven’t seen?

PB: I think I’ve seen just about everything that I wanted to see. I went and searched them all out. There is one. I would like to see the complete Magnificent Ambersons.

SM: You and me both. Do you think a print exists?

PB: I keep hoping that it does. A friend of mine said he was going to go to South America, wherever the hell Orson was. Rio, I guess. There was reputed to be a print there, the one sent to him by the studio. He tried to find it, but couldn’t.

SM: And speaking of films that never played San Diego, what happened with She’s Funny That Way?

PB: They really fucked that picture up pretty good. They wanted me do to a director’s cut, but it would be tough to do because they really screwed it up.

SM: You have probably had as many director’s cuts as Welles.

PB: I think I did, yeah. They weren’t as severe as what they did to Orson… it took me twenty years to get Mask right. And I did three cuts of The Last Picture Show after it was released.

SM: Will we ever see the missing twenty minutes or so of Texasville.

PB: We’re working on that with Criterion to put it out with the extra twenty-five minutes. It’s a better picture that way. It was at a time when there was no video or disc of Picture Show available. The first regime (at Columbia), Peter Guber, had originally promised to reissue Picture Show in theatres to coincide with the release of Texasville. Then Frank Price came in and he refused to do that. We had to cut all the references to Picture Show because at that point nobody could see it. It was very unfortunate. Now that you can see Picture Show anywhere, we’ll probably put that stuff back if we can get Criterion to do it. They want to do it. And I’m thinking of putting it out in black-and-white because it’s so much more interesting than color. You know there’s a black-and-white version of Nickelodeon which is quite good.

SM: Do tell? Like I don’t have a copy!

PB (Laughing): Thank you. It was meant to be in black-and-white when we shot it. The studio head David Begelman refused to let me do it that way. So I said to Laszlo Kovacs who was the cameraman, “Let’s light it for black-and-white because one day I’m going to print the fucking thing in black-and-white. That’s why it looks so good!

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I would like to have read his comments on his "The Cat's Meow" movie, which the critics hated, and audiences avoided. I guess we'll never know if that was a true story or not about Hearst. Apparently Welles thought there was some truth to it.

At least that one made it to the screen intact. As for the story, if it isn't true it should be. ;)

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