On Monday The Hollywood Reporter announced Peter Bogdanovich will write and direct an adaptation of Kurt Andersen’s monolithic novel Turn of the Century. What lovely news.
It’s been a white since we’ve had a big-screen feature from Bogdanovich, and it’s about time. The Cat’s Meow, his reimagining of the Ince yachting incident, was released in 2001, almost a decade ago. Since then, he’s been busy with everything from Sopranos to Tom Petty, and though many may not know it, Bogdanovich has used the time to turn out some terrific work. Directed by John Ford, televised by Turner Classic Movies in 2006, will surely become one of the most essential studies of John Ford in either book or film form, and will gain in importance as Ford’s legacy becomes more and more wound up in the past. While Ford’s contemporaries, giants like Hawks and Cukor, will have an easier time reaching audiences of the future – their sensibilities being so sharp and forever modern – visitors to Ford Country, I’m sure, will need more of a roadmap. Directed by John Ford will be just that.
Bogdanovich would be the first to admit that he learned landscapes from John Ford. Films like The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon, and Nickelodeon are full of expansive vistas, the sort of evocative, mythic terrains we think of when we think of Fort Apache or The Searchers. Even They All Laughed, Bogdanovich’s dazzling New York comedy, contains a Fordian fascination with topography. Some of those low-angle shots of John Ritter framed against shining skyscrapers bring to mind Ford’s famous depictions of John Wayne beaming against the desert sky. Monument Valley has been usurped by Times Square, but the effect is the same: setting is emotion.
This is all to say that a bit of Ford, a touch of Hawks, and a generous helping of Bogdanovich could – if the Movie Gods decree it – fuse to make Turn of the Century a very good thing. Peter Bogdanovich is at home in a crowd, and a rollicking, expansive satire like Turn of the Century, with its cast of thousands and epic scope, may very well provide him with the sort of omnibus ingredients that have buttressed his handful of masterworks.
At least I hope it does. Bogdanovich certainly deserves another terrific piece of time. “An’ that’s the thing,” Jimmy Stewart said to him, “that’s the great thing about the movies…After you learn – and you’re good and Gawd helps ya and you’re lucky to have a personality that comes across – then what you’re doing is – you’re giving people little…little, tiny pieces of time…that they never forget.”
Turn of the Century is scheduled to begin shooting next spring in New York.