More Bad News

Exhibited at The Golden Thread Gallery/ Project Space in Belfast. Opened 5th March 2020, re-opened after Covid-19 lockdown period from 2nd – 19th September.

Gallery Press Release: One red herring and one MacGuffin. MacGuffin: an object, event, or character in a film or story that serves to set and keep the plot in motion, despite usually lacking intrinsic importance. As popularised by Alfred Hitchcock.

This exhibition was intended to be a painter’s homage to Peter Bogdanovich’s 1971 movie ‘The Last Picture Show’. It has necessitated very different twists and turns along the way as McKenzie began to research Bogdanovich’s life and oeuvre in more depth. It ultimately led to McKenzie questioning how one reconciles the love of great art (referring to the movies) and its often nasty underbelly.

The song ‘You Oughta Be In Pictures’, written in 1934, was to become the unofficial anthem of the American film industry. It was notably sung by the actors and audience at the end of the 1973 Oscars, led by John Wayne. This had been preceded by Sacheen Littlefeather ‘refusing’ Marlon Brando’s award on his behalf, in protest at the treatment and portrayal of Native Americans. Littlefeather had also appeared in Playboy magazine around this time and, like Marilù Tolo who had featured in Penthouse in 1969, saw this as the only viable way of promoting her career.

The research that fanned out from ‘The Last Picture Show’ led McKenzie to discover the following things: that Bogdanovich’s Yugoslavian father had been a painter; that the founder of Penthouse magazine, Bob Guccione, had been a failed painter; that the theme of ‘representing’ Native Americans featured in the paintings of Bogdanovich’s father, in Marlon Brando’s refusal to collect his Oscar for ‘The Godfather’ (a film which Bogdanovich had turned down the opportunity to direct) and also in Orson Welles’ last unmade film ‘The Other Side of the Wind’ (in which Bogdanovich appears, and also in which Welles’ Yugoslavian partner Oja Kodar ‘plays’ a Native American); that Bogdanovich’s relationship with former Playboy model Dorothy Stratten coincided with her brutal murder by her estranged husband; that Bogdanovich lay the blame for this squarely at the door of Playboy’s Hugh Heffner; that in a bid to out-rival Playboy, Bob Guccione lost a fortune and had to sell-off his priceless art collection.

Through the researching of these co-incidental (yet very much connected) events, McKenzie discovered that a film treatment called ‘More Bad News’ was found with one of the auctioned Guccione paintings, behind the backing of a Renoir bather. The name on the film treatment’s title page, Aby E. Robins, is an anagram of Serbian Boy… Serbian is Peter Bogdanovich’s first language.