He Was 'One of the Most Important Cinematic Artists of His Era'

Bob Rafelson dead at 89
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 25, 2022 2:03 AM CDT
He Was 'One of the Most Important Cinematic Artists of His Era'
American film director, writer and producer Bob Rafelson is seen in this 1981 photo.   (AP Photo/File)

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, the AP reports. He was 89. Rafelson died at his home in Aspen on 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. The Monkees also appeared in his feature directorial debut, Head, which would be the first of many collaborations with Jack Nicholson.

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 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. “I may have thought I started his career,” Nicholson told Esquire in 2019, “but I think he started my career.”

Rafelson 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 proudest of the 1990 film he directed, Mountains of the Moon, a biographical movie that told the story of two explorers, Sir Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke, as they searched for the source of the Nile, his wife said. Rafelson's own adventures to places like Morocco, India, southeast Asia, Mexico, and Guatemala influenced his work, she said: “He loved nothing more than disappearing into strange pockets of the world."

(More obituary stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.