ROBERT ALTMAN's extraordinary career has surprised, entertained and challenged audiences with vibrant, freewheeling films that stretch the boundaries of the medium.
In the 1950s in his native Kansas City, he began making industrial and documentary films at the Calvin
Company. His feature directorial debut, made in Kansas City, was the teenage gang drama
(1957). He next co-directed the documentary feature The James Dean Story (1957).
Altman then spent several years directing episodes of top television series, including
Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Millionaire, Bonanza, and Kraft Suspense Theatre.
His 1964 episode of the latter anthology series, about a serial killer, was expanded to the feature-length
Nightmare in Chicago.
Returning his focus to feature films, he directed the taut space drama Countdown
(1968) and the enigmatic thriller That Cold Day
in the Park (1969). His next film, M*A'*S*H (1970), was an irreverent black comedy about surgeons in a Korean War medical unit. It won the coveted Palme d'Or at the Cannes International Film Festival; was a global
box-office smash; and firmly established Altman as a major American director.
He next helmed the quirky fantasy Brewster McCloud (1970), followed by a ground-breaking reinvention of the American Western,
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971). The story hinged on the building of a frontier bordello, while Altman's filmmaking boldly synthesized overlapping dialogue, distinctive cinematography, and a soundtrack of Leonard Cohen songs.
In the years that followed, his films successfully explored such diverse themes as pulp noir (by inventively reworking Raymond Chandler in
The Long Goodbye ); The Depression (Thieves Like Us ); the communion of two male gamblers on a spree
(California Split ); and haunting explorations of the interior lives of women
(Images  and 3 Women ).
With the unforgettable Nashville(1975), Altman first displayed his unique talent for braiding the stories of a large ensemble cast, set in and around the burgeoning country-music scene in Nashville. This approach has also characterized a number of his other films, including the nuptials-themed
A Wedding (1978); Short Cuts (1993), the biting vision of love and death in L.A.; the Paris-based haute-couture farce
Pret-a-Porter/ Ready to Wear (1994); and now the U.K. period mystery Gosford
Unpredictable and versatile, his other films include biopics of Buffalo Bill (Buffalo
Bill and the Indians or Sitting Bull's History Lesson ) and the brothers Van Gogh
(Vincent and Theo ); a fictionalized private history of Richard M. Nixon (in
Secret Honor ); a romantic comedy (A Perfect Couple );
a social satire (HEALTH ); a comic-book adaptation (Popeye ); the popular film-industry odyssey
The Player (1992); cinematic homages to music (the gangster-themed Kansas
City  and its documentary companion piece, Robert Altman's Jazz '34:
Remembrances of Kansas City Swing ); and, most recently, contemporary comedies of Southern manners
(Cookie's Fortune  and Dr. T and the Women ).
Altman has also successfully adapted several stage works into different mediums. Among these are film versions of David Rabe's
Streamers (1983), Sam Shepard's Fool for Love (1985), and Christopher Durang's
Beyond Therapy (1987); telefilm versions of Harold Pinter's The Dumb
Waiter and The Room (both 1987); and, from Herman Wouk's original play, a television staging of
The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (19 88).
He won an Emmy Award for directing the bold HBO series Tanner '88 which placed a fictional
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