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Directors such as Steven Spielberg,Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese may have dominated the 1970’s labeledas “New Wave,” however if it wasn’t for directors such as Robert Altman toblaze the way almost a decade earlier with creative filming styles and innovativeoverlapping dialogue techniques, that would become his signature trademark,risks that we now take for granted might not have ever been ventured.   Altman’s career in film began in the late 1940’s not with directing butwith co-writing a film called TheBodyguard with George W. George. But it was when he moved back to his hometown of Kansas City was when he learned the craft of being a directory byworking for the Calvin Company as a director of industrial films for fiveyears. After his time with the Calvin Company his directed a number of episodefor various television shows including the KraftMystery Theater, Bonanza and Maverick.

In 1963 Altman founded Lion’s Gate production company and produced his firstfeature length film Countdown. Thiseventually led to his most critically and financially recognized film M*A*S*H. This film cemented Altman as avisionary director with his hallmark style which included improvisation andoverlapping dialogue. M*A*S*H wasnominated for six Academy Awards, and won the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or.Although it was a box office success, Altman was only paid $75,000 and saw nomoney from the television series based on the film.1  Throughout the 1970’s Altman continued to make critically but notnecessarily financially successful films including Brewster McCloud, Thieves Like Us, The Long Goodbye.

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The exceptionwas Nashville, it has been argued to be the best film of the 1970’s which includedan ambitious venture with 20+ major characters. But it paid off by being both abox office and critical success. Although he continued to direct many filmsnone of them reached the success he had with either Nashville or M*A*S*H.   During the early 1980’s Altman collaborated with Disney on the live-actionfilm Popeye, starring Robin Williamsand Shelley Duvall. Despite having a generous $20 million dollar budget thefilm was an artistic and commercial flop and Altman’s career in Hollywood was ruined.He sold his production company and turned his attention to stage directing. Forthe remainder of the decade he expanded both his knowledge and creativity intheater and television. It was during this period Altman directed his firstopera at the University of Michigan.

  During the 1990’s he made a return to Hollywood but never attainted thesuccess he had like he did with his films from the 1970’s. In 2006 The Academyof Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized his body of work with an AcademyHonorary Award. It should be noted that even though the bulk of Altman’s filmswere either commercial and/or critical failures he has nonetheless made a longlasting impression that has impacted the film industry for decades to come.      1″Robert Altman American Director” Encyclopaedia Britannica on 28 Jan.


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