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New Hollywood era director Rafelson passes away


By AP
Published : 25 Jul 2022 08:54 PM

Bob Rafelson, an influential figure in the New Hollywood era of the 1970s who was nominated for two Oscars for “Five Easy Pieces,” has died. He was 89.

Rafelson died at his home in Aspen Saturday night surrounded by his family, said his wife, Gabrielle Taurek Rafelson.

Rafelson was responsible for co-creating the fictional pop music group and television series “The Monkees” alongside the late Bert Schneider, which won him an Emmy for outstanding comedy series in 1967.

But he was perhaps best known for his work during the New Hollywood era, which saw a classical studio system giving way to a batch of rebellious young voices and fresh filmmaking styles, and helped usher in talents like Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Francis Ford Coppola and Steven Spielberg.

Rafelson directed and co-wrote “Five Easy Pieces,” about an upper-class pianist who yearns for a more blue-collar life, and “The King of Marvin Gardens,” about a depressed late-night-radio talk show host. Both films starred Jack Nicholson and explored themes of the American dream gone haywire. “Five Easy Pieces” got Rafelson two Oscar nominations in 1971, for best picture and screenplay.

He also produced seminal New Hollywood classics including Peter Bogdanovich’s “The Last Picture Show” and Dennis Hopper’s “Easy Rider.”

Coppola once called him “one of the most important cinematic artists of his era” and his fans include Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson.

Rafelson was born in New York City and was a distant relative of “The Jazz Singer” screenwriter Samson Raphaelson, who he said took an interest in his work. At Dartmouth he also became friends with legendary screenwriter Buck Henry.

He developed an interest in Japanese cinema and the films of Yasujiro Ozu, especially “Tokyo Story,” while serving in the US Army in Japan.