Robert Altman dead at 81

Robert Altman, the renowned filmmaker behind M*A*S*H* and The Player, as well as countless TV episodes, died of undisclosed causes Monday night in a Los Angeles hospital, according to his production company, Sandcastle 5 Productions. He was 81.

Altman was born February 20, 1925, the son of a Kansas City insurance salesman. As a young man, he became enamored of the Kansas City jazz scene, a setting he later documented in the film Kansas City.

During WWII, Altman was a bomber pilot. Upon returning from the war, he began making industrial films, and eventually moved on to TV, directing episodes of classic 1960s TV shows such as Bonanza and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

He achieved acclaim with the antiwar black comedy M*A*S*H*. After the film became a smash hit, a highly successful TV series was made, which Altman derided.

"They made millions and millions of dollars by bringing an Asian war into Americans' homes every Sunday night," Altman told reporters in 2001. "I thought that was the worst taste."

Altman's long and varied career saw many ups and downs.

The 1975 political musical drama Nashville remains one of the director's most beloved works, while the 1979 Paul Newman science fiction film Quintet, about a second ice age, confounded critics and fans of the genre. The 1980 film adaptation of Popeye, starring Robin Williams in his first move role, was a big budget flop. In 1992, Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert called The Player, starring Tim Robbins as a ruthless Hollywood studio executive, "hilarious and heartless in about equal measure, and often at the same time."

Altman was nominated for his fifth Academy Award for 2001's Gosford Park. However, the director never won an Oscar until 2006, when he accepted a Lifetime Achievement award.

"No other filmmaker has gotten a better shake than I have," a thoughtful Altman said during his acceptance speech. "I'm very fortunate in my career. I've never had to direct a film I didn't choose or develop. My love for filmmaking has given me an entree to the world and to the human condition."

Comments (7)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
Nobody remembers his various television directing assignments before 1970. He clashed with a lot of producers on "his" way of directing TV episodes, and lost a lot of jobs because of his defiance in knowing how to guide a script to the small screen and make it count. And he KNEW. A good example of Altman's approach to TV is the "KRAFT SUSPENSE THEATER" episode "The Hunt" [Decemeber 19, 1963/NBC], starring Mickey Rooney as a sadistic sheriff who arrests an innocent surfer {played by James Caan} on a trumped-up charge, just so he can have the pleasure of tracking him down and killing him when he "allows" him to escape. This was syndicated for years as part of the retitled "CRISIS" anthology series by MCA/Universal....and where is it shown today? I don't think NBC/Universal even KNOWS they have this in their archives. More examples of Altman's TV work should be honrored as well!!
Reply
Flag
Robert Altman is a legend filmmaker. Some of the films he ever made are my favorite. I'm very sad at his passing. I hope his death could mean a possive thing. His last movie "A Prarie Home Companion," a film that I certain will make my Top 10 list, will give him his Best director nomination, plus more nominations.
Reply
Flag
:(
Reply
Flag
Robert Altman a lengend
Reply
Flag
What wonderful memories you have given us with your many films and television work. RIP
Reply
Flag

Like TV.com on Facebook