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When love was a tale of two sisters


Dorothy Stratten and Peter Bogdanovich. Photo - Shutterstock

Peter Bogdanovich admitted that he was obsessed by movie starlet Dorothy Stratten. The director, who was the golden boy of Hollywood's new-wave film-makers, snapped up the delicate blonde for his 1980 picture They All Laughed — and instantly fell in love with her.

Dorothy was 18 when they became lovers. Bogdanovich was a handsome 40-year-old who had made a fortune with such hits as The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon (starring father and daughter Ryan and Tatum O'Neal).

His private life was as eventful as his career. While making The Last Picture Show he had met 19-year-old fashion model Cybill Shepherd. Bogdanovich left his wife, Polly and two children and moved in with Cybill.

The relationship lasted less than a year and Peter Bogdanovich was on his own again when he met and fell in love with Dorothy Stratten. By the time They All Laughed was completed, Stratten and Bogdanovich were having a passionate affair and he was planning to marry her.

There was only one increasingly dark cloud on the horizon for the loved-up pair ... Dorothy Stratten was married already. The previous year she had met and married a small-time theatrical agent in her home-town of Vancouver and almost immediately realised she had made a terrible mistake.

She didn't love Paul Snider — looking back, she never had, but she had to admit that if it hadn't been for his faith in her she would probably still be Dorothy Hoogstraten, working night shifts in the Dairy Queen Diner, decked out in a tacky red uniform.

Dorothy had first met Snider, 10 years her senior, in the winter of 1978 when she had served him with a Strawberry Sundae Supreme.
 
He was a flashy small-time operator on the fringes of show-business, and his speciality was convincing gullible small-town girls that he could make them into models or even movie stars.

Paul Snider lost no time in asking Dorothy on a date and convincing her that he could make her a top model and movie star.      
The couple married and moved to Los Angeles where Dorothy's looks began attracting the attention of movie scouts ... and finally of cult film director Peter Bogdanovich.

Dorothy told friends she had finally found the love of her life and now was desperate to get rid of Paul Snider. "I want to divorce him and marry Peter," she said.

When in June 1980 she finally told her husband she wanted a divorce, Paul Snider asked Dorothy to meet him and, against Peter Bogdanovich's advice, she agreed.  The date of the meeting was August 14, 1980 in the former marital home. In the meantime, Peter Snider bought a gun.

A neighbour saw Dorothy arrive at the house and she was never seen alive again. An hour later, after shots had been heard, police broke into the house and found Dorothy Stratten and her husband dead on the living room floor.

Forensic examination showed that Paul Snider had shot his wife through the head and then committed suicide.

Those closest to the tragedy were devastated. Peter Bogdanovich wept at the graveside when Dorothy Stratten was buried near the grave of Marilyn Monroe. He said: "We were going to marry. She was a lovely girl and would have become a big star."

Nearly two years after Dorothy's murder, Peter Bogdanovich was till in deep mourning. "I'm a widower," he said. "I don't know if I can ever love as totally and completely as I loved Dorothy."

Then, four years later Hollywood was astounded to find that Bogdanovich had secretly married ... Dorothy's younger sister. Louise Stratten, 20, was very different from her sister, quiet reclusive and attractive but not stunningly beautiful. Bogdanovich said he had been attracted by her "purity and grace".

Back in Vancouver the girls' mother received the news with astonishment and dismay. "I think he wants Louise because of a guilt trip," she said. "This happened to my other daughter, who got her head blown off, and it's going to happen to this one. "If he is in love with one daughter how can he be in love with the other?"

Louise told friends that she had always idolised the director even when he was involved with her sister. "After Dorothy died we were brought together by tragedy," she said. "Peter helped me through many difficult times."

Despite the 20-year age gap, the unlikely marriage seemed a happy one. Louise said how much she owed to Bogdanovich — she revealed that he had paid to send her to private school and had financed plastic surgery to repair her damaged nose.

Her husband said Louise had great acting talent and he intended to make her a star of a forthcoming movie. "I love her dearly," he said. "I want her to reach her true potential."

Then suddenly after 12 years of marriage, came a new and unexpected drama. Without telling her husband, Louise filed for divorce. "I married too young," she said. "To Peter I will always be Dorothy's sister. I have never found my own identity."

Today at 74, Peter Bogdanovich has never married again. "I'm not looking for another relationship," he says. "The love of my life remains in the past. Dorothy changed my life as no other person has."

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