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Robert Altman: Still Going Strong

He moves slowly. His posture is slumped. But when it comes to making movies, 80-year-old Robert Altman has a young man's fire.

The director recently completed shooting a movie based on humorist Garrison Keillor's popular radio show "A Prairie Home Companion" — on budget and three days ahead of schedule.

But there's little time to rest. Altman says he already has two more projects lined up — "Hands on a Hardbody," about contestants who win a car by touching it the longest, and a movie version of "Resurrection Blues," one of the late Arthur Miller's last plays.

"I'll be doing this as long as I last and as long as people allow me to do it," says the white-goateed Altman, who appears fresh and clear-eyed after a nap on the last night of major shooting on the "Prairie Home" movie.

Altman has more than 30 movies to his credit and five Academy Award nominations for directing, though he hasn't won an Oscar. With his ensemble casts and use of overlapping dialogue — which gives viewers the feeling of eavesdropping on real conversations — Altman blazed a cinematic trail in the 1970s with "M-A-S-H" and "Nashville."

After stumbling with "Popeye" in 1980, Altman came back with "The Player" (1992), a Hollywood satire; "Short Cuts" (1993), a collection of Raymond Carver short stories; and the murder mystery "Gosford Park" (2001).

Altman got his start in television on "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." He's hard-pressed to remember his influences, but knows what he would avoid:

"I would see a film and I'd think it's so bad, I'm never going to do this. So most of that influence that I've had is by directors whose names I don't know."

On February 20th, 1925 in Kansas City, Missouri, Robert Altman was born to B.C. (an insurance salesman) and Helen Altman. He entered St. Peters Catholic School at the age six, and spent a short time at a Catholic high school. From there he went to Rockhurst high school. It was then that he started exploring the art of exploring sound with the cheap tape recorders available at the time. He was then sent to Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington, MO where he attended through Junior College. In 1945, he enlisted in the Air Force and became a copilot of a B-24. After his discharge from the military, he went to work for the Calvin Co. It was here (while working on documentaries, employee training films, industrial and educational films, and advertisements) that he learned much about film making. He broke into the feature film while still at Calvin with Delinquents, The (1957), and by 1965 he had left the Calvin Co., traveling to Hollywood to direct Alfred Hitchcock's TV show. From here he went on to direct a large number of television shows, until he was offered the script for MASH (1970) in 1969. He was hardly the producer's first choice - more than fifteen other directors had already turned it down. This wasn't his first movie, but it was his first success. Since then a lot of his movies have been successful, although he has also directed his share of unsuccessful movies since then as well.

Robert Altman Filmography
A Prairie Home Companion (2006)
Paint (2005)
Tanner on Tanner (2004) (TV)
The Company (2003)
Gosford Park (2001)
Dr T and the Women (2000)
Cookie's Fortune (1999)
The Gingerbread Man (1998)
"Gun" (1997/II) TV Series
Kansas City (1996)
Jazz '34 (1996)
Prêt-à-Porter (1994)
Short Cuts (1993)
The Real McTeague (1993) (TV)
Black and Blue (1993) (TV)
The Player (1992)
McTeague (1992) (TV)
Vincent & Theo (1990)
The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (1988) (TV)
"Tanner '88" (1988) (mini) TV Series
Aria (1987) (segment "Les Boréades")
O.C. and Stiggs (1987)
Basements (1987) (TV)
Beyond Therapy (1987)
Fool for Love (1985)
The Laundromat (1985) (TV)
Secret Honor (1984)
Streamers (1983)
Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982)
Two by South (1982) (TV)
Popeye (1980)
HealtH (1980)
Rattlesnake in a Cooler (1980) (TV)
A Perfect Couple (1979)
Quintet (1979)
A Wedding (1978)
3 Women (1977)
Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson (1976)
"Saturday Night Live" (1975) TV Series (segment "Sissy's Roles") (episode 2.16)
Nashville (1975)
California Split (1974)
Thieves Like Us (1974)
The Long Goodbye (1973)
Images (1972/I)
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
Brewster McCloud (1970)
MASH (1970)
That Cold Day in the Park (1969)
"Premiere" (1968) TV Series (episode "Walk in the Sky")
Countdown (1968)
"The Long, Hot Summer" (1965) TV Series (pilot episode)
The Katherine Reed Story (1965)
Pot au feu (1965)
Nightmare in Chicago (1964) (TV)
"Kraft Suspense Theatre" (1963) TV Series (episode "The Hunt") (episode "The Long, Lost Life of Edward Smalley") (episode "Once upon a Savage Night")
"The Gallant Men" (1962) TV Series (pilot episode)
"Combat!" (1962) TV Series
"Bus Stop" (1961) TV Series (episode "...And the Pursuit of Evil") (episode "Accessory by Consent") (episode "County General") (episode "The Covering Darkness") (episode "Door Without a Key") (episode "A Lion Walks Among Us") (episode "Portrait of a Hero") (episode "Summer Lighting")
"Route 66" (1960) TV Series (one episode)
"Surfside 6" (1960) TV Series (episode 1.18 "Thieves Among Honor")
"Hawaiian Eye" (1959) TV Series (episode 1.08 "Three Tickets to Lani")
"Bonanza" (1959) TV Series (episode "Bank Run") (episode "The Dream Riders") (episode "The Duke") (episode "The Many Faces of Gideon Flinch") (episode "The Rival") (episode "Sam Hill") (episode "The Secret") (episode "Silent Thunder")
"Troubleshooters" (1959) TV Series
"Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse" (1958) TV Series (episode "The Sound of Murder")
"Lawman" (1958) TV Series (episode 3.16 "The Robbery")
"Bronco" (1958) TV Series
"Peter Gunn" (1958) TV Series
"U.S. Marshal" (1958) TV Series (episode 2.14 "The Triple Cross")
"Maverick" (1957) TV Series (episode 4.11 "Bolt from the Blue")
"Sugarfoot" (1957) TV Series (episodes 3.07, 3.10)
The James Dean Story (1957)
The Delinquents (1957)
"Whirlybirds" (1957) TV Series (episode "The Midnight Show") (episodes 3.06, 3.10)
"The Gale Storm Show" (1956) TV Series (episode 4.25)
The Magic Bond (1956)
"Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (1955) TV Series (episodes 3.09, 3.15)
"The Millionaire" (1955) TV Series (episode 6.14)
The Perfect Crime (1955)
Better Football (1954)
The Builders (1954)
The Dirty Look (1954)
How to Run a Filling Station (1953)
The Last Mile (1953)
King Basketball (1952)
The Sound of Bells (1952)
Modern Football (1951)

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