The Killing of the Unicorn

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The Killing of the Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten 1960-1980
AuthorPeter Bogdanovich
CountryUnited States
PublisherWilliam Morrow
Publication date

Killing of the Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten 1960-1980 is a book by Peter Bogdanovich detailing the relationship between Bogdanovich and Dorothy Stratten, the making of They All Laughed and Stratten's murder. There is also criticism of Hugh Hefner and Playboy and its treatment of women.[1]

Bogdanovich says he wrote the book "for himself. I wanted to understand what happened to her. I felt I couldn't move forward with my life, creative or otherwise until I did. I also wanted other young women, including my teenage daughters, to know about this web, this trap Dorothy had fallen into."[2] Bogdanovich says the book was meant to be delivered to William Morrow in August 1982 "but new facts kept coming to light and so it was delayed. I did more and more rewriting. In all, I suppose, I wrote the book five times."[3]

While he was writing the book two films about the Stratten murder came out, Star 80 and Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten Story.


A review in People magazine called the book:

[A] sometimes provocative but relentlessly self-serving version of Stratten's life and death ... blames Hefner's hedonistic philosophy for Dorothy's death and just about all of society's ills except the size of the federal deficit ... Hefner is portrayed as an insensitive, petty sexmonger and egomaniac. Bogdanovich insists that a postmidnight interlude in a hot tub between Hef and a reluctant Dorothy irreparably damaged her psyche. Bogdanovich portrays himself as Mr. Sensitive and a goody-goody.[4]

The New York Times wrote "Bogdanovich says perhaps more than he should ... [the book is] part-tribute, part self justification, part accusation."[5] The Chicago Tribune called it "a shabby little shocker".[6]

Fall Out[edit]

Private eye Marc Goldstein later sued Bogdanovich for $10 million for being libeled in the book.[7]

The book led to a court case in Britain when the Sun printed extracts from the book despite exclusive publication rights being granted to another newspaper.[8][9]

In 1985 Hugh Hefner suffered a stroke and blamed it on part on stress caused by Bogdanovich's allegations against him in the book.[10]

The same year Bogdanovich declared bankruptcy, claiming he owed $6.6 million in debts against assets of $1.5 million. He blamed this mostly on costs of distributing They All Laughed.[11] His interest in the book was assigned to his principal creditor, the First Los Angeles Bank.[12]

Bogdanovich later married Stratten's sister Louise.[13]

Bogdanovich later said he "got paid, you know, not a lot of money" for the book "and it was much reviled upon its appearance. We got one good review from Charles Champlin ... we were in the bestseller list for a couple of weeks; a few weeks, but there was a tremendous sort of groundswell of animosity towards me that was fueled by various sections of the community. And the book was very anti-Playboy and just a lot of enemies came up and decided to kill me."[14]


  1. ^ Peter Bogdanovich's Star-Crossed Days: The Stratten Story: His Paean to a Playmate By Stephanie Mansfield. The Washington Post (1974-Current file) [Washington, D.C] 25 Sep 1984: C1.
  2. ^ Fast Track: Runners Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 23 Sep 1984: i8.
  3. ^ MOVIES: STRATTEN'S GHOST STILL HOVERS OVER BOGDANOVICH Mann, Roderick. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 08 July 1984: y16.
  4. ^ "Picks and Pans Review: The Killing of the Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten, 1960-1980", People, September 10, 1984 Vol. 22 No. 11 accessed 17 June 2013
  5. ^ Review 7 -- No Title Gold, Sylviane. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 23 Sep 1984: BR29.
  6. ^ Tempo/Arts: Shabby litte shocker: Bogdanovichz's 'Unicorn' Tempo reader Gorner, Peter. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 09 Aug 1984: d11C.
  7. ^ Private Eye Accuses Bogdanovich of Libel Rainey, James; Jones, Jack. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 27 Oct 1984: b6.
  8. ^ Cleared Sun editor to carry on spoiliing The Guardian (1959-2003) [London (UK)] 25 May 1985: 2.
  9. ^ Cleared editor defiant The Irish Times (1921-Current File) [Dublin, Ireland] 25 May 1985: 4.
  10. ^ Hefner Says He Suffered a Stroke, Blames Bogdanovich Jones, Jack; Stewart, Robert W. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 20 Mar 1985: b18.
  11. ^ Bogdanovich Files for Bankruptcy: Film's Failure Led to $6.6 Million in Debts Bankrupt By David Crook Los Angeles Times. The Washington Post (1974-Current file) [Washington, D.C] 19 Dec 1985: C1.
  12. ^ BOGDANOVICH'S BANKRUPT MEMORIAL: BANKRUPT MEMORIAL Crook, David. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 19 Dec 1985: i1.
  13. ^ Bogdanovich Weds Sister of His Murdered Lover Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 03 Jan 1989: V2.
  14. ^ "Interview with Peter Bogdanovich Chapter 5". Directors Guild of America.