It was a bleak picture painted by Peter Bogdanovich in Los Angeles Superior Court last week. The director of “The Last Picture Show” and “Paper Moon” petitioned for bankruptcy after a jury hit him with a $4.2 million penalty for failing to make payments on a $1.9 million house he had pledged to buy.

Bogdanovich was pleading poverty after a succession of film flops failed to boost his flagging career. Bogdanovich’s personal and professional problems were aggravated, he said, by the death of actor River Phoenix, who starred in the director’s last effort, “The Thing Called Love,” a Paramount release that did little box office business.

Bogdanovich also encountered rough times after the death of Dorothy Stratten, who starred in his 1981 flop “They All Laughed.” She was murdered by her former husband. Bogdanovich, who is now married to Stratten’s younger sister, filed for bankruptcy in 1985 after recutting and attempting to distribute the film himself.

Attorneys for the owners of the Mulholland Drive home were not buying Bogdanovich’s sob story, however. They presented testimony that the director and his wife drive matching Mercedes, and that his haircuts cost $250, his wardrobe $67,000, and his leather clogs $323, and are pressing their case.

Bogdanovich’s attorneys defended their client’s personal expenditures, arguing that a certain standard of living is necessary to be taken seriously as a player in Hollywood.

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