Numerous sources are reporting the death of Polly Platt, a prolific Hollywood polymath whose talents were expressed through set and costume design, production for movies like Broadcast News, and most famously, her work with ex-husband Peter Bogdanovich, with whom she worked side by side on many of his early films. Platt had ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease), and died at the age of 72.
In the late 1960s, Platt moved to Hollywood with Bogdanovich and got swept up alongside him as he became involved in Roger Corman’s coterie—according to IMDB, working as an uncredited costume designer on The Wild Angels, and even serving as Nancy Sinatra’s stunt double, also uncredited . Platt’s off-screen marriage to Bogdanovich flourished into a successful on-screen collaboration with the Boris Karloff-starring thriller Targets, which she co-wrote with him (with an uncredited assist from Samuel Fuller). She handled production design on Targets and numerous Bogdanovich films thereafter beginning with The Last Picture Show, with some sources (including Bogdanovich) suggesting that Platt was the one who actually went through Larry McMurtry’s novel and devised a script that could tell the story in a chronological fashion.
Unfortunately, helping Bogdanovich get The Last Picture Show off the ground proved to be the undoing of her marriage, as he left her during filming for his star Cybill Shepherd. (Their marriage and divorce was later loosely dramatized as the 1984 Drew Barrymore-starring comedy Irreconcilable Differences.) Yet despite their separation, Platt and Bogdanovich maintained a working relationship, collaborating on What’s Up, Doc? and again on Paper Moon, which Bogdanovich chose to do on Platt’s recommendation. She was also the one who suggested casting Ryan O’Neal’s actual daughter Tatum, even though she had never acted before. Tatum went on to win an Oscar for her performance.
Platt received her own Oscar recognition after being nominated for her art direction work on 1983’s Terms Of Endearment, kicking off an even longer partnership with producer James L. Brooks that included Broadcast News (which scored her another Oscar nod when it was nominated for Best Picture), Say Anything… (in which she also had a rare acting role as the mother of Lily Taylor’s character), the Terms Of Endearment sequel The Evening Star, The War Of The Roses, the Nick Nolte comedy I’ll Do Anything, and Wes Anderson’s debut Bottle Rocket. Her other production design credits include the 1976 version of A Star Is Born, The Bad News Bears, Young Doctors In Love, The Witches Of Eastwick, and Steve Martin’s The Man With Two Brains.
Platt was also an accomplished screenwriter on her own; her credits include the Brooke Shields-starring Pretty Baby, the William Inge adaptation Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff, and 1994’s A Map Of The World.
Earlier this year saw the debut of what would prove to be her last producing credit; fittingly, it was the documentary Corman’s World: Exploits Of A Hollywood Rebel, bringing full circle her relationship with the movie industry, one that rarely gave her the credit she was due. Though often in the shadows of her male collaborators, hopefully she will be remembered as a frequent power behind the throne.