Alex Altman Biography & Facts
Robert Bernard Altman (; February 20, 1925 – November 20, 2006) was an American film director, screenwriter, and producer. Altman is known as a five-time nominee of the Academy Award for Best Director and an enduring figure from the New Hollywood era, comparable to such directors as Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Sidney Lumet, and Francis Ford Coppola. Altman was considered a "maverick" in making films with a highly naturalistic but stylized and satirical aesthetic, unlike most Hollywood films. He is consistently ranked as one of the greatest and most influential filmmakers in American cinema.
His style of filmmaking covered many genres, but usually with a "subversive" twist which typically relied on satire and humor to express his personal views. Altman developed a reputation for being "anti-Hollywood" and non-conformist in both his themes and directing style. Actors especially enjoyed working under his direction because he encouraged them to improvise, thereby inspiring their own creativity.
He preferred large ensemble casts for his films, and developed a multitrack recording technique which produced overlapping dialogue from multiple actors. This produced a more natural, more dynamic, and more complex experience for the viewer. He also used highly mobile camera work and zoom lenses to enhance the activity taking place on the screen. Critic Pauline Kael, writing about his directing style, said that Altman could "make film fireworks out of next to nothing." Altman's most famous directorial achievements include M*A*S*H (1970), McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), The Long Goodbye (1973), Nashville (1975), 3 Women (1977), The Player (1992), Short Cuts (1993), and Gosford Park (2001).
In 2006, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized Altman's body of work with an Academy Honorary Award. He never won a competitive Oscar despite seven nominations. His films M*A*S*H, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, and Nashville have been selected for the United States National Film Registry. Altman is one of three filmmakers whose films have won the Golden Bear at Berlin, the Golden Lion at Venice, and the Golden Palm at Cannes (the other two being Henri-Georges Clouzot and Michelangelo Antonioni).
Altman was born on February 20, 1925, in Kansas City, Missouri, the son of Helen (née Matthews), a Mayflower descendant from Nebraska, and Bernard Clement Altman, a wealthy insurance salesman and amateur gambler, who came from an upper-class family. Altman's ancestry was German, English and Irish; his paternal grandfather, Frank Altman, Sr., anglicized the spelling of the family name from "Altmann" to "Altman". Altman had a Catholic upbringing, but he did not continue to follow or practice the religion as an adult, although he has been referred to as "a sort of Catholic" and a Catholic director. He was educated at Jesuit schools, including Rockhurst High School, in Kansas City. He graduated from Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington, Missouri in 1943.
Soon after graduation, Altman joined the United States Army Air Forces at the age of 18. During World War II, Altman flew more than 50 bombing missions as a co-pilot of a B-24 Liberator with the 307th Bomb Group in Borneo and the Dutch East Indies.Upon his discharge in 1947, Altman moved to California. He worked in publicity for a company that had invented a tattooing machine to identify dogs. He entered filmmaking on a whim, selling a script to RKO for the 1948 picture Bodyguard, which he co-wrote with George W. George. Altman's immediate success encouraged him to move to New York City, where he attempted to forge a career as a writer. Having enjoyed little success, he returned to Kansas City in 1949; where he accepted a job as a director and writer of industrial films for the Calvin Company. Altman directed some 65 industrial films and documentaries for the Calvin Company. Through his early work on industrial films, Altman experimented with narrative technique and developed his characteristic use of overlapping dialogue. In February 2012, an early Calvin film directed by Altman, Modern Football (1951), was found by filmmaker Gary Huggins.
Altman's first forays into TV directing were on the DuMont drama series Pulse of the City (1953–1954), and an episode of the 1956 western series The Sheriff of Cochise. In 1956, he was hired by a local businessman to write and direct a feature film in Kansas City on juvenile delinquency. The film, titled The Delinquents, made for $60,000, was purchased by United Artists for $150,000, and released in 1957. While primitive, this teen exploitation film contained the foundations of Altman's later work in its use of casual, naturalistic dialogue. With its success, Altman moved from Kansas City to California for the last time. He co-directed The James Dean Story (1957), a documentary rushed into theaters to capitalize on the actor's recent death and marketed to his emerging cult following. Both works caught the attention of Alfred Hitchcock who hired Altman as a director for his CBS anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents. After just two episodes, Altman resigned due to differences with a producer, but this exposure enabled him to forge a successful TV career. Over the next decade Altman worked prolifically in television (and almost exclusively in series dramas) directing multiple episodes of Whirlybirds, The Millionaire, U.S. Marshal, The Troubleshooters, The Roaring 20s, Bonanza, Bus Stop, Kraft Mystery Theater, Combat!, as well as single episodes of several other notable series including Hawaiian Eye, Maverick (the fourth season episode "Bolt From the Blue" also written by Altman and starring Roger Moore), Lawman, Surfside 6, Peter Gunn, and Route 66.
By the 1960s, Altman established himself as a TV director due to his ability to work quickly and efficiently on a limited budget. Though he was frequently fired from TV projects for refusing to conform to network mandates, Altman always was able to land new assignments. In 1964, the producers decided to expand "Once Upon a Savage Night", one of his episodes of Kraft Suspense Theatre, for release as a TV movie under the title Nightmare in Chicago.
Two years later, Altman was hired to direct the low-budget space travel feature Countdown, but was fired within days of the project's conclusion because he had refused to edit the film to a manageable length. He did not direct another film until That Cold Day in the Park (1969), which was a critical and box-office disaster.
During the decade, Altman began to express political subtexts within his works. In particular, he expressed antiwar sentiments regarding the Vietnam War, Because of this, Altman's career would somewhat suffer as he came to be associated with the anti-war movement.
In 1969, Altman was offered the script for MASH, an adaptation of a little-known Korean War-era novel satirizing life in the armed services; more than a dozen other filmmakers had pas.... Discover the Alex Altman popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Alex Altman books.