‘Five Easy Pieces’ director was 89 – The Hollywood Reporter


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Bob Rafelson, writer, director, producer and maverick who set the tone for the swinging psychedelic 1960s with Monkey, then a pioneer of one of the most influential eras in independent film history, has died. He was 89.

Rafelson, who has collaborated with Jack Nicholson on seven films, including classics. Easy Rider (1969) Five Easy Pieces (1970) and King of Marvin’s Gardens (1972), died Saturday night of natural causes at his home in Aspen, Colorado, his wife Gabrielle said. Hollywood Reporter.

Rafelson was nominated for an Oscar for co-writing and producing. Five Easy Pieces and then put the breakthrough hit of Peter Bogdanovich as an encore, Last screening (1971).

Together with his late partner Bert Schneider, Rafelson created Monkeyan NBC test show that debuted in 1966. He conceived a program that mimicked The Beatles’ exuberance, specifically the free energy of their 1964 film. Hard day night.

Produced by Raybert Productions, the series follows the comic misadventures of a struggling musical quartet who seek fame and fortune while living in Malibu. The four were selected in an open casting call announced by full-page ads, including one in THR. Stephen Stills was among the hundreds who auditioned. For years, it was an urban legend that Charles Manson also tried it. The final picks were Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork.

Colorful, dynamic and filled with farce and stupidity, Monkey embodied the rebellious feelings of the younger generation. Although it only lasted two seasons and 58 episodes, it became a pop culture phenomenon (and earned Rafelson and Schneider an Emmy Award in 1967 for Outstanding Comedy Series).

In addition to directing the sitcom as a producer and then executive producer, Rafelson directed several episodes. He is also credited with writing two of the band’s tour shows.

The quartet, based more on personality than musical ability, really had talent. Jones was an English singer and actor who became famous for playing The Artful Dodger on Broadway. Oliver. Nesmith and Tork were skilled with the guitar and were aspiring songwriters. Dolenz, former child actor best known for the 1950s NBC series circus boy, had a great pop voice (and learned to play the drums). But since they weren’t a natural match, Rafelson and Schneider cleverly hired music producer Don Kirshner to oversee the music.

Kirchner, in turn, turned to some of the best songwriters of the time. Contributors included Neil Diamond, Carol King, Harry Nilsson, John Stewart, Carol Baier Sager, Neil Sedaka, and the team of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. The Monkees’ first four albums reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts, and the group’s six singles reached the top ten, including “Last Train to Clarksville”, “I’m a Believer”, “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “Daydream Believer”. “.

The musical legacy left behind by The Monkees is arguably the band’s biggest influence.

After the series was canceled in 1968, Rafelson brought The Monkees to the big screen. Chapter (1968), his big-screen directorial debut, as he and Schneider signed a five-picture deal with Columbia.

“His partners and friends talked Bob into not making a film with The Monkeys,” his wife noted in a 2011 story in The keeper about the group. “They felt like he had done his job with them, and their audience was already retreating. But Bob felt that he wanted to complete the cycle. He felt that the truth about the Monkeys’ history had not been told – their manipulations, protests and essential talents. He felt true history, in the abstract [form]would be more than worthy of a story.

For the script, Rafelson teamed up with Nicholson, then a B actor and aspiring writer. The duo reportedly developed the storyline during a marijuana session in Ojai, and Nicholson then turned it into a screenplay while under the influence of LSD.

Originally called Changes, the name was changed in deference to the drug culture of the time. Rafelson and Schneider liked it and joked that they could advertise their next film with the slogan “From the guys who gave you Chapter“.

Critics found the film to be a rambling, bewildering stream-of-consciousness excursion that deconstructed the pop image that made The Monkees stars.

With an unusual cast that included Victor Mature, Annette Funicello, Teri Garr, Frank Zappa and Sonny Liston. Chapter poked fun at a variety of topics, including war, American values, and the fakeness of Hollywood. Monkees fans were alienated as the group lashed out at the characters they played on television. The adult audience they were trying to impress had long since lost interest in what they considered a superficial pop group. Chapter was a box office disappointment and brought the Monkees’ popularity to a halt.

Later The keeper In the article, writer Dorian Lynskey added, “But Rafelson genuinely believed it would work. “Bob was disappointed because he hoped the film would outperform the band’s name,” says Gabriel. He soon realized his mistake. At the Greenwich Village screening, the hipsters, attracted by the cryptic posters, left as soon as The Monkeys appeared. The reviews were wild. Out of his $790,000 budget, he only recouped $16,111.”

The film has developed a cult following over the years, fueled by word of mouth that it is best appreciated in its altered form.

Answer to Chapter did not stop Rafelson. A second feature film from Raybert Productions was filming at the same time and nearing release. It was Easy Rider.

Directed by Dennis Hopper from a screenplay by Hopper, Peter Fonda and Terry Southern. Easy Rider rocked Hollywood when it hit theaters in the summer of 1969.

Counterculture commentary on America, Easy Rider Fonda and Hopper star as hippie weed dealers who, after a big win and an encounter with a drunken lawyer (Nicholson), hit the road to go cross-country on their motorcycles. Along the way, they encounter good and bad nations.

Celebrating the freethinking and love of drugs of the 60s generation, Easy Rider was picked up by young moviegoers. Made for less than half a million dollars, it was the third highest-grossing film of the year and established Nicholson as a star.

Easy Rider also proved to the studios that their boring big-budget star formula needed to be replaced. And Rafelson was just getting started.

Raybert hired a third partner, Stephen Blauner, and changed its name to BBS Productions (after Bob, Burt and Steve). Meanwhile, Rafelson focused on his second function, Five Easy Pieces. True to its penchant for the outsider, the film tells the story of drifter Bobby Dupy (Nicholson) who turns his back on his life of privilege and his talent as a prodigy to work on an oil rig. When his father falls ill, he must return home to face what he rebelled against. In addition to directing and producing, Rafelson co-wrote the screenplay with Carol Eastman.

Five Easy Pieces was hailed as a cinematic masterpiece. Roger Ebert named it his best film of 1970 and it was nominated for four Academy Awards. Nicholson received his second Oscar nomination, securing his lead actor status.

BBS Productions continued to usher in a new wave of indie cinema with success such as Last screening; Drive, he said (1971), Nicholson’s directorial debut; Oscar-winning anti-war documentary Hearts and minds (1974); and under the direction of Rafelson King of Marvin’s Gardens (1972) starring Nicholson and Bruce Dern as brothers in a fairy tale set in Atlantic City.

After completing a production contract with Columbia, BBS Productions stopped and Rafelson focused on making his own films. These efforts included stay hungry (1976) featuring newcomer Arnold Schwarzenegger and The postman always rings twice (1981), which starred Nicholson and Jessica Lange in an edgy and violent remake of the 1942 MGM melodrama.

“If my films have anything in common,” he said Los Angeles Times in 1986: “The thing is, they tend to focus on characters who are struggling to overcome the burden of tradition in their lives.”

It can be said that his career hit a snag when he punched a Fox executive in the jaw and was fired from his job as director Robert Redford in brubaker (1980). He left the business in 2002.

Robert Rafelson was born on February 21, 1933 in New York. His father made ribbons for hats, and his uncle was Samson Rafaelson, who wrote the story and the Broadway play that formed the basis of Al Jolson’s play. jazz singer (1927).

As a teenager, Rafelson rebelled against his father and refused to follow him into the textile business. “I was one of those guys who took on everyone,” he told reporters. once in 1997. “I started leaving home at 14.”

Rafelson’s travels took him to Arizona, where he became a rodeo rider, and to Acapulco, where he performed as a jazz musician. He studied philosophy at Dartmouth before being drafted into the US Army. While in Japan, he worked as a disc jockey, translated Japanese films, and became an advisor to Shochiku Co., providing opinions on films he thought might do well in American theaters.

When Rafelson returned home, he took a job at the post office of producer David Susskind’s company. He worked his way up to reader and then editor of Susskind’s anthology series. Game of the week and adapted several series. In 1961, he wrote part of a CBS fact-based drama. Witness.

In 1962, Rafelson came to Hollywood and worked as an associate producer on such ABC shows as The Greatest Show on Earthstarring Jack Palance and Channing. For the latter, he clashed with MCA mogul Lew Wasserman over the show’s creative direction. The argument ended with Rafelson sweeping the contents of Wasserman’s desk all over the floor, and he was fired.

But shortly after, he became a producer on an NBC adaptation of Screen Gems. The dumbest ship in the armyand it was here that he met Schneider. The following year they formed Raybert and Screen Gems soon sold their idea to Monkey.

Rafelson’s later directorial credits included Black Widow (1987) starring Debra Winger and Teresa Russell; adventure tale Mountains of the Moon (1990); two more films starring Nicholson, Problems with men (1992) and blood and wine (1997); as well as No good deed (2002).

In 1986, he directed the music video for Lionel Richie’s mega-hit “All Night Long”.

In high school, Rafelson began dating Toby Carr and they married in 1955. She worked as a production designer with Rafelson on Five Easy Pieces, King of Marvin’s Gardens as well as stay hungry. They had two children. Peter is a songwriter best known for Madonna’s 1986 hit “Open Your Heart”; Julie died at the age of 10 when a propane stove exploded at the Rafelson home in Aspen.

Survivors also include his sons with Gabrielle, Ethan and Harper; sister-in-law Karen; and nephew.

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