If you watch Turner Classic Movies, you no doubt have seen advertisements for a podcast (an audio program available on computers or mobile devices) called “The Plot Thickens”, a story about director Peter Bogdonovich. I am typically not a podcast listener, but midst the shutdown boredom, I took a chance. I listened on Apple podcasts), but the program is available on a number of other podcast services as well.
Once “The Plot Thickens” began (it has seven 28 to 45-minute segments) I couldn’t stop listening. TCM host Ben Mankewitz questions the 80-year-old Bogdonovich and narrates the story. The technical aspects of this podcast are so wonderful, I felt right at home..in the 60s, 70s, 80s..and so on. Background sounds and interviews with story participants are carefully weaved into the story.
Who is Peter Bogdonovich? I knew his name because I am almost his age, and he and his movies (he’s an award winning director) have been in the news off and on throughout my life. If you are too young to recognize the Bogdonovich name, I commend this podcast to you just to enhance your understanding of film history. TCM says, in fact, that “The Plot Thickens” is the first season in a planned series of podcasts highlighting film history. Yes, I had forgotten much that I once knew about Peter Bogdonovich and in this podcast I also learned much that I had never known.
Ben Mankiewicz does an excellent job as interviewer and narrator. We also learn a bit about Mankiewicz’s own background that I had never known. We hear from a number of the people in the story, in part because Bogdonovich recorded conversations with many of the movie directors he admired. Orcon Welles is part of the story in a big way, something that was a complete surprise to me.
For those who do remember Bogdonovich, you may recall his entry on the movie scene with “The Last Picture Show”, a critically acclaimed movie that some say was his best. He made other films after that, enjoying fame and notoriety. A womanizer, Bogdonovich had a long romance with Cybill Shipherd and another romance with young Dorothy Stratton, who was killed in a murder suicide and whose death sent the director in a tailspin. Yes, all of this is film history; it is also Hollywood gossip and a lesson in life.
Bogdonovich is also a writer, actor and TV director, and somehow he has survived. All of this very interesting life is recounted in the podcast. Not only will the story take you far far away from today’s news, its effectiveness as a means of communication may also inspire you to become a podcast maker. At the end of each chapter, Mankiewicz thanks all the people who helped make the podcast, and the list is long. In my view, Bogdonovich and the group from TCM deserve ten stars.