Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
February 21
Bob Rafelson February 21, 1933
Bob Rafelson born

Bob Rafelson, born on this day in New York in 1933, seems the perfect subject for a “Where Are They Now?” article. In the late 60s and early 70s, he was one of the hot directors of the New Hollywood movement, but for the past 30-odd years his profile in the film world has been notably low. Rafelson first made his mark creating the band The Monkees for the TV show of the same name, and then repositioned himself (and the group) with the wacky, psychedelic spin-off movie Head (1968), before striking gold by producing (with his partner Bert Schneider) Easy Rider. The success of that movie gave him creative freedom on his next two films, Five Easy Pieces and The King of Marvin Gardens, two classic movies starring Rafelson’s friend and frequent star Jack Nicholson. After this, however, Rafelson dropped off the map: he directed only one further film in the 1970s (Stay Hungry), made just two features in the 1980s (The Postman Always Rings Twice and Black Widow), and another three in the 90s (Mountains of the Moon, Man Trouble and Blood and Wine). (In addition to these, he has recently directed a few TV movies and two contributions to the German Erotic Tales series.) The explanation for Rafelson’s withdrawal may be as simple as his penchant for taking the route less traveled: at 15, he dropped out of an expensive private school to work in a rodeo, then worked as a deckhand on an ocean liner and as a jazz drummer in Mexico. And, as Rafelson says (as himself) in his 1981 short film Modesty, “If it happens that people respond to your work in your lifetime, well, you’re very lucky. …But if you don’t get the applause, well, there are other things. I mean, after all, there’s your life to live.”


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February 21, 1986
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