Robert Altman

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Robert Altman (1992)

Robert Bernard Altman (born February 20, 1925 in Kansas City , Missouri , USA , † November 20, 2006 in Los Angeles , California , USA ) was an American director , author and film producer . From 1970, his films are the cinema of the New Hollywood Act. During his 55-year career, Altman made a total of 86 films, produced 39 film adaptations and wrote 37 screenplays.

life and work

Altman was the son of Helen and Bernard Clement Altman, a wealthy insurance worker. His grandfather was the German-born building contractor Frank G. Altman, who built the Altman Building , a five-story mall in downtown Kansas City that was demolished in 1974. As an adolescent, he attended two Catholic schools, Rockhurst High School and Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington , Missouri. In 1945 he registered with the United States Army Air Forces , the predecessor institution of the US Air Force founded in 1947 , with the prospect of becoming a volunteer B-24 pilot. After the war ended, he returned to his hometown of Kansas and began working for an industrial film production company in 1947.

Altman began his career as a film director in the early 1950s with sports documentaries and nearly a hundred directorial work for television , including episodes from the television series Bonanza and Alfred Hitchcock's Alfred Hitchcock Presents . His cinematic beginnings were still in the era of the fading classic Hollywood cinema. In the science fiction Countdown: Start zum Mond from 1968, he introduced the technique of overlapping dialogues into his work, a stylistic device that has already been used by film greats such as Frank Capra , Howard Hawks and Lewis Milestone , but here his dismissal by the studio Chef Jack L. Warner . It was only when he was banned from Hollywood that Altman was determined to produce independent and unusual films. He then avoided and criticized Hollywood's studio system , which in turn ignored him.

His cinematic breakthrough came with the military satire M * A * S * H of 1970 and, five years later, the US society portrait Nashville . Both films earned Robert Altman Oscar nominations and at the same time promoted New Hollywood , which he and a few other directors established as a counter-movement to Hollywood politics, which was purely aimed at commercial success. The films that Altman appeared in the 1970s were not very successful at the box office, but they gave him a special place in film history among the directors of New Hollywood . His working method, which is based on auteur cinema, and the productions that focus on the film as such played a role in particular. This was also noticeable in the short preparation phases - at least one film per year was the rule. Another stylistic feature of his films is the combination of different storylines and person constellations, which often only reveal a connection at second glance. A black, not immediately recognizable, humor often comes into play in the films.

In the 1980s he turned his attention to the theater. It was only with the 1992 Hollywood satire The Player and the successful episode film Short Cuts (1993) that Altman was able to win back a larger audience. Both, like Gosford Park in 2001, earned him Oscar nominations. Despite a total of seven nominations as director and producer, he was denied an Academy Award in one of the regular categories. At the 78th Academy Awards on March 5, 2006 Altman was finally honored with an honorary Oscar for his creative work.

Altman was an avowed cannabis smoker and jazz lover - with Kansas City he created a cinematic monument to jazz . A medical prognosis of his imminent death in the mid-1990s and a heart transplant prompted him to radically change his eating habits. He died of leukemia at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles at the age of 81 . He had known about the disease for eighteen months, but kept it quiet for fear of losing orders. Altman was married a total of three times. He left his wife, Kathryn Reed Altman, with whom he had been married since 1957, two children from this marriage, as well as four other children and twelve grandchildren.

Filmography (selection)

Robert Altman (1982)



Film awards

  • 2006 honorary Oscar for life's work
American Film Institute
  • 2002 AFI Film Award for Director of the Year ( Gosford Park (2001))
  • 1993 BAFTA Award for Best Director for The Player (1992)
  • 2002 Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film for Gosford Park (2001), together with Bob Balaban and David Levy
Bodil Awards
  • 1977 Bodil for best (non-European) film Nashville (1975)
  • 1993 Bodil for the best (non-European) film The Player (1992)
  • 1995 Bodil for the best (American) film Short Cuts (1993)
Cannes Film Festival
Emmy Awards
  • 1989 Emmy for outstanding directorial work ( Tanner '88 episode "The Boiler Room" (1988))
Golden Globes
  • 2002 Golden Globe for best director for Gosford Park (2001)
Independent Spirit Awards
  • 1994 Independent Spirit Award for Best Director of Short Cuts (1993)
  • 1994 Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay ( Short Cuts (1993)), together with Frank Barhydt
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award
  • 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award
Venice Film Festival
  • 1993 Golden Lion for Short Cuts, together with Three Colors: Blue
  • 1996 Golden Lion for life's work


Web links

Commons : Robert Altman  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Honey, this will survive me . In: Die Zeit , No. 48/2006.
  2. Black faces . In: Berliner Zeitung , October 2, 1996. "Hollywood and jazz: Robert Altman tries to put music in the right light."
  3. 'S * M * A * S * H' hit man dies H'wood maverick Altman was 81 . In: New York Post , November 22, 2006.
  4. ^ Director Robert Altman dead at 81 . ( Memento of December 21, 2006 on the Internet Archive ) CNN , November 22, 2006.