Robert Altman Dies at 81
The director of such acclaimed films as M*A*S*H, Nashville, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Short Cuts, and The Player, Altman was a five-time Academy Award nominee for Best Director. He never won a competitive award, but he received a Lifetime Achievement Oscar this year. His last movie, A Prairie Home Companion, starring Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, and Lindsay Lohan, was released this past summer.
Born February 20, 1925 in Kansas City, Missouri, Altman served as a bomber pilot in World War II and studied engineering at the University of Missouri in Columbia before he began making industrial films in Kansas City. His first feature film, The Delinquents (1957), was followed by several years of work in television, during which he directed episodes of such popular series as Bonanza and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
In addition to his film and television credits, Altman directed the short-lived 1982 Broadway production of Ed Graczyk's Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, with a cast that included Cher, Kathy Bates, Karen Black, and Sandy Dennis; he also helmed the film version with the same cast. Earlier this year, he directed a London stage production of Arthur Miller's Ressurection Blues, starring Jane Adams, Neve Campbell, Maximillian Schell, and John Wood.
One of his most popular films was Gosford Park, which earned a total of seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress for both Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith. The movie won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Julian Fellowes, whose work was based on an idea credited to Altman and Bob Balaban; and Altman won a Golden Globe Award for his direction.
His many other credits include the film versions of David Rabe's Streamers (starring Matthew Modine and David Alan Grier), Sam Shepard's Fool for Love (co-starring Shepard and Kim Basinger), and Christopher Durang's Beyond Therapy (starring Jeff Goldblum and Glenda Jackson). Altman also directed a 1988 TV movie version of Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial that starred Eric Bogosian, Jeff Daniels, Brad Davis, and Peter Gallagher.