Bob Rafelson

Active - 1968 - 2002  |   Born - Feb 21, 1933   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Romance

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The nephew of famed playwright Samson Raphaelson, American director Bob Rafelson decided to forego the expensive education planned for him and take up cross-country vagabondage instead. He worked in a rodeo at 15, became an ocean-liner deckhand two years later, and a jazz drummer a year after that. He entered Dartmouth College, after which he worked as a deejay on an Armed Forces radio outlet. As a writer, Rafelson toiled in numerous New York-based TV shows, then travelled westward to try his luck in Hollywood. His breezy, patchwork writing style was perfectly suited to the Beatles-like TV sitcom The Monkees (1966-67), wherein Rafelson worked as writer, director, and coproducer (with Bert Schneider). In concert with then-partner Jack Nicholson, Rafelson penned the script for the surrealistic Monkees feature film Head (1968), which he also directed. The film was suitable impetus to the Columbia Pictures higher ups to bankroll another Rafaelson-Nicholson collaboration. Five Easy Pieces (1971), was an intensely personal and somewhat autobiographical study of a young man (Nicholson) whose alienation with the status quo causes him to chuck the security of his musical career and his wealthy family for a life of drifting. The critics loved Five Easy Pieces, but were less enthusiastic about the 1972 Rafelson/Nicholson concoction, King of Marvin Gardens, in which Nicholson played the establishment figure, while fellow 1970s icon Bruce Dern played the dreamer. Stay Hungry (1976) was a story of bodybuilding juxtaposed with the changes in the New South, boasting an early leading role for Arnold Schwarzenegger -- and the first-ever nude scene for costar Sally Field. Critics of Stay Hungry called Rafelson on the carpet for his credit-grabbing attempts to become an "auteur" director, even though these same critics had applauded Rafelson's auterism in his earlier productions. With The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981) -- again with Nicholson as star -- Rafelson lost much of his critical support for having the audacity to turn out a purely commercial product. Actually, Rafalson's improvisational style had gotten slicker as he gained more experience. Bob Rafelson's most recent film was Mountains of the Moon (1990) a lavish but still distinctly Rafelsonesque period piece about a 19th century "anti-establishment" rugged individualist, explorer Sir Richard Burton.

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