R.I.P. Bob Rafelson, director and co-creator of The Monkees

Famous for his collaborations with Jack Nicholson, Rafelson directed Hollywood hits and cult classics.

The Everett Collection

Bob Rafelson’s first brush with showbusiness came in Japan. He was stationed there after being drafted into the Army in the 1950s. He worked as a disc jockey and helped edit English subtitles on Japanese films. Watching the work of Japanese directors had a profound effect on him and influenced his own filmmaking style years later.

After returning to the States, Rafelson got a job helping to adapt the scripts of famous playwrights for the TV show Play of the Week. In the mid-Sixties, Rafelson partnered with producer Bert Schneider to form production house Raybert (which later became BBS) and the company had an immediate hit in 1966 with The Monkees.

Monkees drummer Micky Dolenz remembered the hip producer at his audition, mistaking Rafelson for another actor at first. According to Variety, Dolenz said in a statement, “One day in the spring of 1966, I cut my classes in architecture at L.A. Trade Tech to take an audition for a new TV show called ‘The Monkees.’ The co-creator/producer of the show was Bob Rafelson. At first, I mistook him for another actor there for the audition. Needless-to-say, I got the part and it completely altered my life.”

Though The Monkees put Rafelson on the map, he almost squandered that good will with the strange, psychedelic movie Head. Now a cult classic, the film took TV’s favorite fab four, Peter, Davy, Micky and Mike, on a wild journey through different times, places and genres. Along with co-starring teen icon Annette Funicello, the movie also featured cameos from Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson – who wrote the screenplay with Rafelson.

Head was a box office and critical bomb but it helped establish many important creative relationships for Rafelson. He went on to produce road trip classic Easy Rider featuring Hopper and Nicholson, then directed Five Easy Pieces, giving Nicholson one of his most famous roles. Rafelson directed Nicholson many more times, including in The King of Marvin Gardens and the 1981 remake of The Postman Always Rings Twice costarring Jessica Lange.

In 1976, Rafelson directed the weight-lifting drama Stay Hungry starring Jeff Bridges, Sally Field and a young Mr. Olympia winner named Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Though Rafelson gravitated toward heavy dramas later in his career, he kept is the fun side that helped make The Monkees a success. In 1983, he directed the colorful music video for Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long (All Night)” and reunited with Jack Nicholson for the 1992 comedy Man Trouble.

Bob Rafelson retired from Hollywood in the early 2000s. He was 89.

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LalaLucy 22 months ago
Bob was a cool guy with an excellent eye towards talent. Very glad he gave Micky a chance, too, along with Mike, Peter, and Davy. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer Monkees connections remain. 😔
Rick 22 months ago
Thanks for the Monkees, Mr. Rafelson.
AgingDisgracefully 22 months ago
I'll remember him today by asking, "What do you MEAN, no substitutions?"
tootsieg 22 months ago
Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider chose the perfect musicians/actors to portray The Monkees. All four were just perfect for lack of a better word. I “loved”Mickey because he was funny and my best friend “loved” Peter.
RIP Mr. Rafelson.
texasluva 22 months ago
Breaking news: Tony Dow has just passed away today. He was 77.
HelenReed texasluva 22 months ago
He did not passed away false News
texasluva HelenReed 22 months ago
I posted this even before MeTv posted after all the news media also did. I know he is still alive. I was just posting breaking news that came over the internet from a dozen news outlets.
15inchBlackandWhite 22 months ago
I remember him being interviewed in a Monkees documentary about the band pushing out Don Kirshner as producer because they wanted to perform their own material. Rafelson said "Not everyone is driven to be #1, and in this case the guys were much happier being #2." Wry humor there.
LoveMETV22 22 months ago
R.I.P Bob Rafelson. Thank You for your contributions to "The Monkees". It was nice the tribute
Micky Dolenz posted over the weekend:
" Regrettably, Bob passed away last night but I did get a chance to send him a message telling him how eternally grateful I was that he saw something in me.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart my friend."
harlow1313 22 months ago
Sigh, all the cool people are dying off. Soon, there will be none...
ma2lyssa harlow1313 22 months ago
You're right. Now we've lost Tony Dow.
gerardarcade 22 months ago
Correction: although "Head" did not receive unanimous approval, several outlets, including Variety, Time Out and celebrated New Yorker critic Pauline Kael gave the movie glowing reviews. And your assertion that Rafelson 'squandered goodwill" by making "Head" is ludicrous. Schneider and Rafelson bankrolled the money made from Head to finance and produce the (other) cult classic, "Easy Rider", utilizing the talents of both Hopper and Nicholson. The Monkees' psychedelic artifact is one more argument for their induction into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.
LalaLucy gerardarcade 22 months ago
Well said. I very much agree.
Peter_Falk_Fan 22 months ago
Very accomplished person. "The Monkees" won him an Emmy in 1967 (Outstanding Comedy Series).

R.I.P. Bob Rafelson.
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