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Robert Altman

Robert Altman

Few directors in recent American film history have gone through as many career ups and downs as Robert Altman did. Following years of television work, the rambunctious midwesterner set out on his own as a feature film director in the late 1950s, but didn’t find his first major success until 1970, with the antiauthoritarian war comedy M*A*S*H. Hoping for another hit just like it, studios hired him in the years that followed, most often receiving difficult, caustic, and subversive revisionist genre films. After the success of 1975’s panoramic American satire Nashville, Altman once again delved into projects that were more challenging, especially the astonishing, complex, Bergman-influenced 3 Women. Thereafter, Altman was out of Hollywood’s good graces, though in the eighties, a decade widely considered his fallow period, he came through with the inventive theater-to-film Nixon monologue Secret Honor and the TV miniseries political satire Tanner ’88. The double punch of The Player and the hugely influential ensemble piece Short Cuts brought him back into the spotlight, and he continued to be prolific in his output into 2006, when his last film, A Prairie Home Companion, was released months before his death at the age of eighty-one.