The 11th Commandment is never embarrass your employer, according to respected director Peter Bogdanovich.
That was one of a handful of nuggets of wisdom the personable down-to-earth creative visionary offered up to a captive audience last night at the New Beverly Cinema.
In fact - the director of classic hits such as "What's up Doc?" and "Paper Moon" - pulled out all the stops at a Q & A at the packed theatre (at times drawing on rich memories from a storied past) to illustrate a point, inject a bit of comic relief, or simply inspire an audience mostly populated by aspiring young filmmakers keen on his impressive body of work.
In fact, Mr. Bogdanvich should have been a stand-up comedian.
After all, the Hollywood legend's timing is impeccable.
His ability to conjure up the right turn of phrase to expess an idea - or ferret out the ironies of life at whim - is uncanny, too.
But, it was his honestly and straightforward shoot-from-the-hip manner that impressed me the most.
For instance, when I asked Bogdanovich if there was any one actor who stood out as problematic during the course of his career, he responded dryly in an almost aside.
"Funny you should ask that. Cher."
The audience roared.
Mask (in which Cher assumed the lead role) was screening next on a double-bill that showcased "Paper Moon" starring Tatum O'Neil and her real-life father Ryan.
"Cher was a pain in the a**," he quipped without skipping a beat.
In what respect, I asked, quick on the uptake.
"She had these suffering eyes. But, it was all self-pity."
But, clearly the iffy experience was not all based on personality issues.
When a fan asked Bogdanovich to elucidate his thoughts on the traditional method of shooting a "master shot", then going for massive coverage, he made a couple of insightful remarks.
Cher, he noted, had difficulty sustaining a performance for more than thirty seconds.
Oftentimes, he'd have to get the Pop Icon back on track because she tended to drift from the center of things.
"Cher, we're over here," he'd jibe subtly.
Actually, when the lights went down and the images flickered up on the screen, I noticed - for the first time - that scenes with Cher featured in 'em never lasted more than half a minute.
On the heels of this Diva trivia, Bogdanovich noted his preference for continuous shots.
"The camera should observe the players and never influence the audience."
In "Noises Off" - he proudly noted - a fifteen page sequence was shot continuously without one cut.
Filmgoers present roundly applauded the challenging filmmaking accomplishment.
Bogdanovich poignantly recalled that when he asked good buddy Orson Welles about continuous shots - verses a "master" and coverage - that the Citizen Kane director chuckled.
"It's what separates the men from the boys."
Bogdanvoich was quite close to Welles and often turned to film great for advice.
It appears, he was a mentor, of sorts.
Although the O'Neil/O'Neil starrer was being adapted from a book - Addie Pray - Bogdanovich was inclined to sift through old tunes of the era for a title he found more appealing.
"It's only a Paper Moon" struck a positive note when he stumbled across it.
"Paper Moon, that's it," he made a mental note to himself.
But, the Studio Execs "hated it".
Addie Pray was a bestseller, after all, and the studio needed the brand name recognition to push the project in the theatres.
The studio suits were adamanant.
"It has to be titled Addie Pray."
Frustrated, Bogdanovich called up Orson and asked what he thought of "Paper Moon".
"It's great.You don't have to release the movie at all, just the title."
He recalled creative and professional differences with the studios in respect to the making of the Mask, too.
Originally, Bruce Sprinstein offered up five or six songs about to be released on the new album, Born in the U.S.A.
Universal dickered over the matter, then passed on the soundtrack idea.
"It was all about greed, envy, ego - 'ya know - the seven deadlies," Bogdonovich asserted.
Well, what a mistake!
Bruce's album became the biggest hit of the season.
In addition, the studio cut two scenes - one which featured Cher's character singing "Little Egypt"with her son by a roaring campfire - and another where a handful of bikers lowered a dead compadre's motorcycle into the open grave to be buried alongside the owner.
"I was pissed," he lamented.
The film Universal turned out was depressing.
So, when Universal and Bogdanovich each arrived in Cannes to promote "Mask" that year, there were two press conferences.
At one, Universal plugged the cut version they stood behind.
In another bitter session with the press elsewhere, Bogdanovich screamed bloody murder that Universal had totally botched the project.
In addition to the scenes and songs that were cut, Bogdanovich was not pleased with the way the color turned out on the big screen, either.
"I told Laszlo Kovacs (cinematographer) that I wanted the picture sharp. And, the footage was great originally."
However, in spite of this, the studio allegedly keyed the color up about five points to give the project a more disney-like quality.
Bogdanovich thought the "look" sucked.
Eventually, after "Mask" made the rounds and ended its run, Bogdanovich engaged in rigorous talks with studio execs to package his own Director's "cut" (which was the version that screened last night to a discerning audience at the New Beverly Cinema) .
But, the whole process of editing that cut was problematic, from the get-go.
When he first approached the studio, the powers-that-be reported back that the negative copies for the scenes were lost.
"Can we use the positive cut," Bogdanovich asked innocently.
"Yes. But we don't have those."
I know, he laughed, "I stole 'em."
So, with a bit of cajoling and arm-twisting, the studio agreed to work with the positive cuts.
In fact, Universal spent $100,000.00 to clean up the scenes to Bogdonovich's liking.
Sprinstein also got back on board and offered up the tunes for free.
How could Universal balk in view of the fortuitous turn of events unfolding each day?
Subsequently, the Springstein hits were cleverly weaved into key scenes here and there throughout Mask, and have enlivened the sound track considerably.
There were many fond behind-the-scenes memories of "Paper Moon" with regard to actress Tatum O'Neil, as well.
After all, Tatum - unlike Cher - was a real trooper.
Because the end of act one in the script established the relationship between Mose and Addie, Bogdonovich pushed for (and got) continuous takes without cuts.
"She was eight years old and it nearly killed her. In spite of all those props to handle, and the tricky ongoing dialogue back and forth with Ryan, the kid pulled it off like a real pro. She won the Oscar."
The seasoned director chuckled when a fan asked about Madeline Kahn.
Bogdanovich chose to reminisce about an amusing scene between Kahn and Tatum set on a hill at the side of a quaint country road.
In a conversation in the picturesque rural setting, Kahn's character was supposed to use the word "tits" to get her frustration across. But Madelaine didn't want to use "that" word.
"What word would you prefer, " Bogdanovich queried.
"How about breasts?"
"Okay," he responded casually.
He didn't even argue the point.
On the first day of filming, the key elements of the scene were shot and put in the can.
In a turn-around the second day, the crew prepared to shoot the remainder of the footage, which featured the "offending" terminology for the female anatomy.
Just before shouting out roll 'em, Bogdanovich strolled up and whispered in Kahn's ear.
"Say 'tits' just one time, please?"
Then, he walked off without looking back.
When it came time to utter the unspeakable, Kahn pulled if off with surprising results.
"After she says 'tits' a divine laugh pops out."
And, the expression on her face was priceless, too.
"It was fresh. No takes or rehearsing. What we call a moment in motion."
I expect Bogdanovich has many techniques up his sleeve to get actors into the swing of things.
"When directing I am always connecting to acting. When acting, never connecting to directing."
Bogdanovich noted that in Kansas, he was not sure how Paper Moon would end.
But, loose ends - yet to be resolved - steered him in the right direction.
"In comedy, three is the magic number," he explained to the rapt filmgoers.
"There is the set up, then the pay off."
At the near-end of the shoot in Kansas, Bogdanovich suddenly realized that issues pertaining to "the" $200.00, a photo of the "Paper Moon" and Addie, and a broken-down truck - although set up earlier in the film - and not been "paid off".
Once the revelation befell him, it became a sort-of eureka moment!
At this juncture, the end scenario fell into place.
Peter Bogdonovich was born the son of immigrants fleeing from the Nazis.
His mother was descended from a wealthy Jewish Family in Austria, while his father was a humble painter and pianist.
Bogdanovich studied the craft of acting under Stella Adler when he was approximately sixteen years of age and went on to appear in TV shows that were proliferating in the new medium and on stage in summer stock.
His love of film blossomed when he was called upon to program movies for the East Coast's Museum of Modern Art (NYC).
Through that illustrious post, Bogdanovich was able to screen work of directors and film greats he held in high regard such as John Ford, Howard Hawks, and Allan Dwan.
He wrote for Esquire briefly and admits he was influenced by French critics of the day.
At one screening in Hollywood, shortly after a move to the West Coast, Bogdanovich was viewing a film when he discovered that Roger Corman was sitting nearby.
The two struck up a conversation.
Taken by the charismatic young man - Corman offered him his first important jobs directing for projects such as - Targets and Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women.
On record, Bogdanovich had this to say about his partnership with the director.
"I went from getting the laundry to directing the picture in three weeks. Altogether, I worked two weeks – preproduction, shooting, second unit, cutting, dubbing – I haven't learned as much since."
Films to date include The Last Picture Show (1971), What's up Doc? (1972), Daisy Miller (1973), At Long Last Love (1975), Mickelodeon (1976), They All laughed (1982), Illegally Yours (1986).