3 Women (1977) - News Poster



Director Robert Altman Dies at 81

Director Robert Altman Dies at 81
Robert Altman, the legendary director behind such modern classics as MASH, Nashville, The Player, and Gosford Park, died Monday night in Los Angeles; he was 81. The cause of death was not immediately disclosed, and a statement released Tuesday afternoon stated that Altman died from complications due to cancer; the news release also said that Altman had been in pre-production for a film he was slated to start shooting in February. When he was presented with an honorary Academy Award just last year, Altman revealed that he had been the recipient of a heart transplant within the past ten years, a fact he hadn't made public because he feared it would hinder his ability to get work. One of the most influential and well-respected directors of modern cinema, Altman's work was marked by a naturalistic approach that favored long, unbroken tracking shots and overlapping dialogue (as well as storylines), as well as improvisation, usually among a large ensemble cast. Though now regarded as one of the premier American filmmakers, Altman had a career that reached both popular and critical highs as well as lows, as he burst onto the scene in the early '70s with very acclaimed films, but had a string of commercial and critical failures as well. All told, he received five Oscar nominations for directing MASH, Nashville, The Player, Short Cuts and most recently Gosford Park. Other numerous awards include two Cannes Film Festival wins (for The Player and MASH), a Golden Globe (for Gosford Park) and an Emmy (for the TV series Tanner 88). Born in Kansas City, Altman attended Catholic schools as well as a military academy before enlisting in the Air Force in 1945. After being discharged, Altman tried his hand at acting and writing in both Los Angeles and New York before returning home to Kansas City, where he started making industrial films for the Calvin Company. After numerous false starts, Altman finally made the full move to Hollywood, and in 1957 directed his first theatrical film, The Delinquents. Though it didn't start him on the road to fame, the film was good enough to secure Altman work in television, particularly for Alfred Hitchcock and his Alfred Hitchcock Presents television series. In 1969, Altman was offered the script for MASH, which had been rejected by numerous other filmmakers. The movie, a black comedy set during the Korean War (and a thinly veiled attack on the then-raging Vietnam War), was a rousing commercial and critical success, scoring Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Director and, most famously, inspiring the successful TV sitcom, which took on a very different tone. His films after MASH included the revisionist western McCabe and Mrs. Miller and the updated California noir The Long Goodbye, but it was 1975's Nashville, a multi-layered film centered around the country music capital and the wildly divergent Americans who converged there, that would be his next major success, also receiving Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Director. After Nashville, Altman more often than not found himself on the opposite end of the spectrum, with films such as the acclaimed but sometimes puzzling 3 Women as well as the commercial flop A Wedding and, most notoriously, the Robin Williams version of Popeye, which was technically a hit but seen as an artistic failure. Altman worked constantly through the '80s - his films included Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, Streamers, Secret Honor, and Fool for Love - but it wasn't until the HBO series Tanner 88, about a fictional candidate's run for the presidency, that he found favor again. In the early '90s, the one-two punch of The Player (a biting Hollywood satire) and Short Cuts (based on the stories of Raymond Carver) put him back on the map, but he followed those with the less well-received Pret-a-Porter, The Gingerbread Man, and Cookie's Fortune. True to the ups-and-downs of his career, Altman was back on top with Gosford Park, a British-set ensemble film that combined comedy, drama and mystery, and marked his first Best Picture nominee since Nashville. His last films included a revisit to the world of Tanner 88 with Tanner on Tanner, and just this year, A Prairie Home Companion, based on the radio show by Garrison Keillor. Upon receiving his honorary Oscar last year, Altman appeared to be in fine health, but reportedly directed most of A Prairie Home Companion from a wheelchair, with the Altman-influenced director Paul Thomas Anderson on hand. Altman is survived by his third wife, Kathryn, their two sons, and a daughter and two other sons from two previous marriages. --Mark Englehart, IMDb staff

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