Bert Schneider was one of the most important film producers/executives in Hollywood history. Schneider, along with his partners Bob Rafelson and Stephen Blauner, headed a production company called BBS Productions, which produced (among other films) the following classics: “Easy Rider” (1969), “Five Easy Pieces (1970), “The Last Picture Show” (1971), and “Hearts and Minds” (1974). The BBS philosophy was, as long as filmmakers kept their budgets relatively low, the company would give them tremendous artistic freedom, a freedom that resulted in some radical, legendary movies that defined what was called “The New Hollywood” … movies that also happened to be very successful at the box office.
However, there was a dark side to Schneider. Per the accounts in Peter Biskind’s book “Easy Riders Raging Bulls” and other places, Schneider could be cruel … not only cuckholding friends and berating anyone he felt was his inferior (specifically screenwriters), but also indulging in extreme substance abuse. Also, Schneider’s earnestness in supporting progressive causes sometimes led him down some dark paths.
This terrific article about Schneider, written for Salon.com by Kate Coleman, chronicles Schneider’s relationship with Black Panther Huey Newton. There’s a lot of debate about Newton and his legacy. I don’t know enough about Newton to say what’s true and what isn’t. But despite whatever good he may have done, Newton was a troubled man and I don’t believe all of his troubles were the result of government conspiracies. A really fascinating and dark tale about friendship and an era when “radical chic” sometimes blinded well-intentioned people.
You may or may not know who Polly Platt is / was, but Platt was a dynamic creative force in Hollywood from the late 1960s through the 1990s. She was married to (and then famously divorced from) acclaimed director Peter Bogdanovich and was production designer (and, as many people believe, contributed significantly more creatively) on all of his early 1970s masterpieces/hits (“Targets,” “The Last Picture Show,” “What’s Up Doc?,” “Paper Moon”). She wrote the screenplay for Louis Malle’s controversial English language debut film “Pretty Baby.” She was the art director on “Terms of Endearment” and co-produced many of James L. Brooks’s films, including “Broadcast News” and “War of the Roses.” She was the producer of Cameron Crowe’s classic “Say Anything.” And, she was responsible for plucking Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson out of nowhere, producing their stunningly hilarious debut “Bottle Rocket” in 1996.
Her marriage to and divorce from Bogdanovich was fictionalized in the conventional, but clever Hollywood satire from 1984 “Irreconcilable Differences” (with Shelley Long playing the Platt character and Drew Barrymore playing her daughter).
Platt sadly died in July 2011, but her contribution to American film over the last 50 years can not be underestimated. For more on the Platt story, please read Peter Biskind’s classic book on 1970s Hollywood “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls” and more significantly, Rachel Abramowitz’s exhaustive look at women in Hollywood from the 1960s through the new millenium, “Is That a Gun In Your Pocket?”
Below are trailers for her greatest films:
The Last Picture Show (1971)