Credit Where Credit’s Due: Polly Platt

On Film / The Daily — May 26, 2020
Polly Platt in 1972

Introducing a new season of her popular podcast You Must Remember This, Karina Longworth points out that, even among cinephiles, Polly Platt is primarily known as the wife Peter Bogdanovich left for Cybill Shepherd during the making of The Last Picture Show (1971). Starting today, and with new episodes appearing each Tuesday through July 28, Longworth will lay out the case for Platt as “the secret, often invisible-to-the-public weapon behind some of the most loved American ‘auteur’ films (many of them comedies, directed by men) of the last decades of the twentieth century.” And “even if you think you know who Polly Platt was, you don’t know the whole story.”

Longworth will not only be drawing on dozens of interviews she’s conducted and her usual deep dives into the archives but also on access to It Was Worth It, an unpublished memoir that Platt put aside a few years before she died in 2011 because she felt it was simply too gossipy. We’ll be hearing about Platt’s work with Bogdanovich, which began when she cowrote the story of his debut feature, Targets (1968), and carried on when she was the production designer and all-round sounding board on the three critical and box-office hits that made Bogdanovich a major player in the New Hollywood of the 1970s: The Last Picture Show, What’s Up, Doc? (1972), and Paper Moon (1973). Ryan O’Neal, the star of the latter two films, has been among the many who have argued that the movies Bogdanovich made afterwards never measured up to this hat trick.

Platt went on to write the screenplay for Louis Malle’s Pretty Baby (1978) and to become the first female member of the Art Directors Guild. She worked closely with James Brooks on Broadcast News (1987) and introduced him to the work of Matt Groening, planting the seeds for a series of cartoons that would become The Simpsons. When Platt passed away, Brooks told the Los Angeles TimesRebecca Keegan that movies are “a team sport, and she made teams function. She would assume a maternal role in terms of really being there. The film was everything, and ego just didn’t exist.” Platt produced Cameron Crowe’s debut feature, Say Anything . . . (1989), as well as Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket (1996). As impressive as these credits are, Platt’s “personal life was the stuff of a Great American Novel,” writes Longworth, “full of romances, heartbreak, alcoholism, and the challenges of adapting to cataclysmic cultural change as an independent, professional woman—and single mom.”

Two quick notes before turning to the news. Over the weekend, Quentin Tarantino, who has never been much of a John Ford fan, posted a piece for the New Beverly in which he argues that there’s less of the Hollywood legend’s influence in The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon than is commonly assumed. And at the Notebook, Christina Newland writes an appreciation of Jeff Bridges, suggesting that, in the early 1970s, the young actor’s “golden retriever quality easily could have confined him to ‘all-American boy’ roles and limited him as he aged, but the template he had found in The Last Picture Show would help to give the image more shading.”

The Latest

The Venice Biennale, “arguably the most important art event in the world,” as ARTnews editor Alex Greenberger puts it, and the Architecture Biennale have both been postponed, but Luca Zaia, who presides over the Italian region of Veneto, insists that the film festival, scheduled to run from September 2 through 12, is still on. Variety’s Manori Ravindran reports that there hasn’t yet been an official response from the festival’s organizers, but we have to keep in mind that Zaia’s response to the current crisis has made him a rising star within the right-wing opposition to the national government led by Giuseppe Conte. “The ‘Veneto model’ is being studied around the world after a well-coordinated program of testing and tracing was credited for helping the region experience a dramatically lower mortality rate than its neighbors,” noted Miles Johnson in the Financial Times earlier this month.

But Zaia’s full-speed-ahead confidence is not shared by organizers of other festivals, even those scheduled to take place after Venice. For Deadline, Tom Grater reports on a virtual roundtable of freshly appointed festival directors hosted late last week by Cinetic Media founder John Sloss. Both New York’s Eugene Hernandez and Sundance’s Tabitha Jackson are facing unprecedented challenges as they plan their first editions, while Carlo Chatrian is just now coming off his first year as the Berlinale’s artistic director. “This year is so unpredictable,” says Chatrian, while Jackson wonders, “Utah in January in flu season, what are the realities of that? Trying to plan this far out when changes are happening every week . . . it’s a moment. But everyone is willing us to succeed.”

Karlovy Vary, in the meantime, has unveiled “KVIFF at Your Cinema,” a program of sixteen films that will roll out to nearly a hundred theaters in the Czech Republic from July 3 through 11, which is when this summer’s festival was supposed to have taken place.

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