New York City, 1980. Director Peter Bogdanovich on the set of “They All Laughed” with actors Dorothy Stratten and John Ritter. The film was self-distributed by Bogdanovich in 1981 when 20th Century Fox dropped out as distributor following the tragic murder of the film’s star Dorothy Stratten.
This week on The Road to Cinema Podcast, we talk to director Bill Teck whose new documentary “One Day Since Yesterday: Peter Bogdanovich and the Lost American Film” recently premiered at the Venice Film Festival. The film chronicles the cinematic legacy of Peter Bogdanovich’s “They All Laughed” in tandem with how the film shaped Bogdanovich’s life both personally and professionally. The documentary was presented along with director Peter Bogdanovich’s new film “She’s Funny That Way” starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston. “She’s Funny That Way” was co-written by Louise Stratten. Louise is the sister of “They All Laughed” star Dorothy Stratten who was tragically murdered by her former husband after “They All Laughed” wrapped production in the summer of 1980. This is Bogdanovich’s first theatrical narrative film in over 10 years since the Hollywood period piece “The Cat’s Meow” released in 2001. I was surprised when Teck told me that “She’s Funny That Way” also marks the first fully original screenplay of writer/director Peter Bogdanovich since the 1981 release of “They All Laughed”. Many of Bogdanovich’s films since “They All Laughed” have been novel and stage play adaptations such as “Texasville” and “Noises Off”, or original screenplays from other writers such as “Mask” written by Anna Hamilton Phelan. We learn from Teck how the direction of “Mask” was influenced by Bogdanovich’s reaction to the death of his girlfriend Dorothy Stratten.
Director Peter Bogdanovich on the set of “Mask” in 1984 with actors Eric Stoltz and Cher. “One Day Since Yesterday” investigates Bogdanovich’s personal connection to the film’s story and his battle with Universal Pictures to include Bruce Springsteen’s songs in the finished film.
On the surface, “They All Laughed” is a romantic comedy about a group of private detectives trying to foil their own romantic complications while falling in love with the very people they are hired to follow. However, by peering behind director Peter Bogdanovich’s curtain, we see that many of the characters and situations are emblems of Bogdanovich’s life at the time.
John Ritter’s friends and work colleagues are played by Bogdanovich’s real life confidantes Ben Gazzara, Blaine Novak, co-writer/producer of “They All Laughed”, and George Morfogen, a producer on “They All Laughed”.
So here we have a romantic comedy genre piece about private detectives which is actually nothing close to a genre film when you closely observe its mechanics. It is a personal film infused with Bogdanovich’s style for elegant compositions, his light Ernst Lubitsch touch of farce, the screwball high jinks of Howard Hawks, and Bogdanovich’s one-of-a-kind directorial signature of a wistful, bittersweet, romantic melancholy. And there is of course the film’s opening song and the title of Teck’s documentary “One Day Since Yesterday”; a song that Bogdanovich helped write for his girlfriend Dorothy Stratten. A true expression of love was put into this gentle, funny tale that pays homage to the great studio romantic comedies of the 1940s and 1950s yet it is nothing close to being a homogenized “studio film” because every element is personal beyond comprehension.
On The Road to Cinema Podcast, Teck shares with us how despite the film’s under the radar release in 1981, “They All Laughed” has developed a groundswell of embrace in recent years by critics and filmmakers alike. Among the champions, Oscar winning writer/director Quentin Tarantino who is interviewed for the documentary. Tarantino considers “They All Laughed” to be one of his favorite films and a major influence on his own work. We also discuss director Bill Teck’s ingenuity as an independent documentary filmmaker who functioned as a “one man band” of director, cinematographer, and sound mixer using the Sony AX-2000. We observe that filmmaking does not always require a team of thousands; it can be just an individual motivated to tell a story. Watch below as Peter Bogdanovich and director Bill Teck introduce Teck’s new documentary “One Day Since Yesterday: Peter Bogdanovich and the Lost American Film” this past September at the Venice Film Festival.
Learn more about the genesis of the documentary “One Day Since Yesterday: Peter Bogdanovich and the Lost American Film” with director Bill Teck on episode #8 of The Road to Cinema Podcast! Follow us on Twitter @JogRoad and follow director Bill Teck @billteck for the latest updates on the documentary’s release date.