On August 14, 1980, actress/model Dorothy Stratten was murdered by her husband Paul Snider with a fatal shotgun blast to her face. Afterward, he shot and killed himself.
What was the real motive?
Since then, there’s been a great deal of conjecture as to why he did it. Is there any new evidence? Clues? Yes.
There have been different accounts for the events leading up to the homicide/suicide.
…From “Star 80” a 1983 theatrical film,
…From Playboy magazine, where Dorothy posed from 1979-1980 becoming Playmate of the Year ’80.
…From the Village Voice article “Death of a Playmate” by Teresa Carpenter.
…And from her lover/director Peter Bogdanovich.
Dorothy Stratten with Peter Bogdanovich
Briefly, let’s examine their accounts.
“Star 80’s” story details Paul Snider as the drive and ambition behind Dorothy – the man who pushes her into the limelight. Once she achieved success, those around her advised Dorothy to dump her husband. He had become an embarrassment: he was loud, pushy, arrogant, a manipulator with a savage temper.
Founder/editor of Playboy, Hugh Hefner said Paul killed Dorothy because “he was losing his meal ticket and his only claim to fame.”
The Village Voice article indicts the Playboy empire itself – saying that Snider, in a sense, enacted his own snuff film to the point where he had sex with her corpse.
Lastly, Peter Bogdanovich. Bogdanovich saw in Dorothy a new, bright and shining light – a twenty year old “Aphrodite”, an ingenue he could shape and form into a star. He had just filmed her in “They All Laughed” and was ready to do more. They were already living together.
Peter never met Dorothy’s husband which says a lot. From what he knew, he regarded Paul as “small-time” and thought he could “buy him off” with $50,000 – $100,000 in order to start his own talent agency.
Snider and Stratten
What really happened. It’s true Paul Snider was sleazy, an ex-pimp from Vancouver who was using Dorothy to become rich and famous. It’s also true those higher up on the food chain sought to get rid of him. Hugh Hefner, unwisely, barred Snider from the Playboy Mansion, three days before her murder. Peter Bogdanovich advised Dorothy to cut all ties with her husband, financial and otherwise. A poster Snider had made of her was not approved by his decision. He described it as “garish and tacky.” This was, in my opinion, the beginning of the end, as Snider, who knew his marriage was in trouble, at least sought to manage her. Dorothy felt sorry for her husband, knew he was outmatched by big-league Hollywood and wanted to support him.
In the summer of 1980, rumor had spread of the Bogdanovich-Stratten affair. Likewise, Snider was aware of it. He had her followed by a detective.
In August 1980, Dorothy made plans for a divorce. She had moved in with Peter Bogdanovich, but she wanted to speak with Paul first. Alone. Peter hired a lawyer for her who asked for a flat $7,500 divorce settlement. [This statement was found in her purse.] Snider, who thought he’d hit the a million dollar jackpot with his new wife was being cut off with what I’m sure he thought was chump-change. This is what I believe sent him over the edge…being sent back to Canada with no wife, and not enough money to last him beyond a few months. The disgrace.
Whose idea was it for that $7,500? Bogdanovich? The lawyer? Whomever it was, was the catalyst.
After Paul Snider killed his wife, it’s presumed he raped her, then killed himself. The rape is an assumption. No one knows if she agreed to it or if this occurred after death. (A bloody hand-print was found on her buttocks.) A bondage device may or may not have been used.
What’s now known is that Paul Snider found a phone number in his now deceased wife’s purse – the phone number for Polly Platt, Peter’s ex-wife. At four p.m., he called it, demanding to know where Bogdanovich was. Platt refused to tell him and hung up. This is proof Snider waited for at least four hours for Peter, wrongly assuming he knew where Dorothy was. Peter, in fact, did not know where Dorothy was until six when her sister Louise told him. He did not learn of her death until 11:45 p.m. when Hefner phoned him.
More than likely Dorothy Stratten had the premonition Paul might want to kill Peter, when she told him it was finally over and that she sacrificed herself for him.
Regrets. Peter Bogdanovich states he couldn’t imagine anybody hurting Dorothy because he couldn’t imagine hurting her himself. This seems incredibly naïve. Looking back, he wishes he’s let Snider have the “damned poster to stop his mounting fury.” So why didn’t he? Why did Hefner and Bogdanovich go out of their way to humiliate Snider?
In 1981, Bogdanovich ceased his friendship with Hugh Hefner and four years later, partially blamed “Hef” for Dorothy’s death by “establishing a publication which degrades women.” (What he called “the fourth side of the triangle.”) Additionally, Peter alleged a coerced sexual encounter with Hefner and Stratten in the mansion’s grotto. (Based on the account of Patrick Curtis, who later recanted.)
In 1983, Peter would also condemn “Star 80” which cast Muriel Hemingway who looks nothing like her. The film centers more around Paul Snider, played with charismatic aplomb by Eric Roberts.
Scene from “Star 80”
Peter Bogdanovich’s character (barely there) is made to look weak and foolish. The Dorothy character, according to him was made to appear as “the dumb blonde of a thousand fictions” and contained none of the charm and beauty of the real woman.
Peter Bogdanovich and Louise Stratten
In 1985, Dorothy’s sister Louise married Peter which ended in divorce in 2003. Louise stated publicly that she didn’t blame anyone for her sister’s death, except Paul Snider.
Text © 2022 – ERN