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By Leonard Klady Klady@moviecitynews.com

GROSS BEHAVIOR: Good Night, Sweet Princess

When director John Ford was in his declining days Polly Platt went to pay a final visit. The great man was virtually bed ridden, physically unkempt but nonetheless still sharp of mind. They chatted as the afternoon sun beamed through the mostly shuttered blinds and at a certain point he paused in the midst of a story, gave her a sharp gaze and said, “what’s all this about you and Peter?”

Platt, without going into the gory details, gave him the broad strokes of how husband Peter Bogdanovich became besotted with his discovery Cybill Shepherd during the filming of The Last Picture Show. Ford took it all in and when she finished let out a sigh and bellowed, “the man’s a fool,” and added, “darling, anytime you want you can move in with me.”

I probably felt the same way as Ford though I never made such an invitation. For close to 30 years she was a friend and the news of her death Wednesday has shaken me to the core. She was the oddest combination of frailty and vulnerability on the one hand and acute focus and concentration on the other that I have ever encountered.

It had been about a year since I last talked to her. She told me about the Roger Corman documentary she was working on and was about to tell her my favorite Roger anecdote (courtesy of Bruce Dern). But before I could get a word out she jumped in with “gotta go.”

At that point she may have already moved out of Hollywood. I can only imagine the pain of her last days. She hadn’t told many of her condition and it wasn’t uncommon not to hear from her for months. Polly had struggled with her own personal demons and it was best to give her the space to work things out in her time. She always bounced back.

Polly was resilient and generous.

When another friend was going through difficult times, she listened to the tale of woe I detailed. “Give me her number, she needs to hear a sympathetic voice,” was her response. What was exchanged in that subsequent conversation remains their secret. All I know is that one got the sympathetic voice that had been sorely missing.

Polly Platt was an agile mind. She was better than good at a lot of things and that served her both well and ill. Her career credit list rarely fully reflected what she did. Her contributions to such films as The Last Picture, Paper Moon and Terms of Endearment were considerably more substantive than costume or production designer that were officially listed. That didn’t make her unique in a town that extends and withholds true contributions. But those who were on the ground knew that a lot of things simply would never have gotten done without her prodding and persistence.

We were at the Austin Film Festival years ago (my invitation certainly had to have been the result of her overtures to its organizers) at a screening of a short by a young filmmaker named Wes Anderson. It was called Bottle Rocket and both of us were impressed by its power and finesse. I came back and told friends about this stunning early work. Polly returned and marched into Jim Brooks’ office and told him that they were going to make a film with this talent. If memory serves, Brooks’ deal at Sony allowed his shingle to “put” films with budgets of less than $10 million. Bottle Rocket, the feature, cost $6.5 million.

Gracie Films _ Brooks’ company where Polly was a senior production executive _ was a fruitful period of her career. She nurtured such diverse talents as Cameron Crowe and Matt Groening among others.

But like so many aspects of her life a day came where she said “gotta go.”

Polly was all about the work. She was a first rate producer; she was a great designer; she was a crackerjack writer. Her script for Lieberman in Love was a major factor in its winning best live-action short at the 1996 Oscars.

And she would have been a first class director. There were several projects she came close to directing and we’re all the poorer that they never quite coalesced.

Aside from laziness I was putting off picking up the phone and calling her because I was politicking to get her the career achievement award from the Los Angeles Film Critics. That’s the call I wanted to make; a small and deserved recognition that would have 1) one thrilled her and 2) driven her crazy writing an acceptance speech.

In my mind I’d already begun to cut the tribute reel and lineup the list of invitees who would have been so pleased to watch her squirm and shine.

Life just won’t be as much fun without Polly Platt. There’s a hole in my heart that’s never going to be filled completely by the laughter and joy she provided.

9 Responses to “GROSS BEHAVIOR: Good Night, Sweet Princess”

  1. antonia bogdanovich says:

    Len – my sisters and I are crying uncontrollably from this piece. You are amazing and you captured her perfectly. Really. We miss you so much Mom

  2. Kevin Linke says:

    Very sad reading this. One of the best filmmakers and storytellers out there will be forever missed. Her contributions are completely incalculable, and the future inspirations will stand out. A true genius, we have all lost.

  3. Suzan Ayscough says:

    Hey Len, Thanks for writing such a moving tribute to Polly. Nicely done; it captures her sweet and caring disposition, and how much she will truly be missed. Best ~ Suze

  4. Sashy & Antonia my sincerest condolences to you. Your beautiful mother’s love for all- and especially for the two of you-, her generosity of spirit, kindness and brilliance can never be taken away by the terrible disease that stole her life. Len, we can still cut the reel.

  5. klady says:

    hi maryilene

    when do we start

    best
    len

  6. Greg Baine says:

    I am an actor and an avid movie fan. I have been watching films my whole life and often knodded in recognition of the name Polly Platt. Knowing nothing of the individual.

    Then the Los Angeles Times features a glowing article on this POLLY PLATT.

    Then later in the day I check Movie City News, where Len has posted another glowing article on Ms. Polly.

    Seems to me, lucky, those who knew her and loved her. And seems to me, lucky, that they shared her spirit with readers.

    Rest. In peace.

  7. Maryilene says:

    Len,

    Let’s do it. Shoot me an email or give me a call.

    So necessary and so deserved.

  8. klady says:

    hi maryilene

    email me at klady@moviecitynews.com

    thanks
    len

  9. Nina says:

    She was brilliant – a kind and gentle heart. So sorry to learn of this sad news. She will be missed.

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“Chad Harbach spent ten years writing his novel. It was his avocation, for which he was paid nothing, with no guarantee he’d ever be paid anything, while he supported himself doing freelance work, for which I don’t think he ever made $30,000 a year. I sold his book for an advance that equated to $65,000 a year—before taxes and commission—for each of the years of work he’d put in. The law schools in this country churn out first-year associates at white-shoe firms that pay them $250,000 a year, when they’re twenty-five years of age, to sit at a desk doing meaningless bullshit to grease the wheels of the corporatocracy, and people get upset about an excellent author getting $65,000 a year? Give me a fucking break.”
~ Book Agent Chris Parris-Lamb On The State Of The Publishing Industry

INTERVIEWER
Do you think this anxiety of yours has something to do with being a woman? Do you have to work harder than a male writer, just to create work that isn’t dismissed as being “for women”? Is there a difference between male and female writing?

FERRANTE
I’ll answer with my own story. As a girl—twelve, thirteen years old—I was absolutely certain that a good book had to have a man as its hero, and that depressed me. That phase ended after a couple of years. At fifteen I began to write stories about brave girls who were in serious trouble. But the idea remained—indeed, it grew stronger—that the greatest narrators were men and that one had to learn to narrate like them. I devoured books at that age, and there’s no getting around it, my models were masculine. So even when I wrote stories about girls, I wanted to give the heroine a wealth of experiences, a freedom, a determination that I tried to imitate from the great novels written by men. I didn’t want to write like Madame de La Fayette or Jane Austen or the Brontës—at the time I knew very little about contemporary literature—but like Defoe or Fielding or Flaubert or Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky or even Hugo. While the models offered by women novelists were few and seemed to me for the most part thin, those of male novelists were numerous and almost always dazzling. That phase lasted a long time, until I was in my early twenties, and it left profound effects.
~ Elena Ferrante, Paris Review Art Of Fiction No. 228

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