Robert Bernard Altman (February 20, 1925 – November 20, 2006) was an American film director known for making films that are highly naturalistic, but with a stylized perspective. In 2006, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized his body of work with an Academy Honorary Award.
His films MASH and Nashville have been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
Early life and career
Altman was born in Kansas City, Missouri
, the son of wealthy insurance man/gambler Bernard Clement Altman, who came from an upper-class
family, and Helen Mathews, a Mayflower
descendant from Nebraska
. Altman's ancestry was German
, English and Irish
; his paternal grandfather, Frank Altman, Sr., changed the family name from "Altmann" to "Altman". Altman had a strong Catholic
upbringing. He attended St. Peter's School for elementary school. He later attended high school at Rockhurst High School
and Southwest High School in Kansas City, and was then sent to Wentworth Military Academy and Junior College
in nearby Lexington, Missouri
, where he graduated from high school and junior college. In 1943, at the age of 18, Altman joined the United States Army Air Forces
(USAAF) and flew as a co-pilot on B-24
bombers during World War II
. It was while training for the Army Air Corps in California
that Altman had first seen the bright lights of Hollywood
and became enamored of it. Upon his discharge in 1946, Altman began living in Los Angeles
and tried out acting, writing and directing.
Altman tried acting briefly, appearing in a nightclub scene as an extra in the Danny Kaye vehicle The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. He then wrote a vague storyline (uncredited) for the United Artists picture Christmas Eve, and sold to RKO the script for the 1948 motion picture Bodyguard, which he co-wrote with Richard Fleischer. This sudden success encouraged Altman to move to the New York area and forge a career as a writer. There, Altman found a collaborator in George W. George, with whom he wrote numerous published and unpublished screenplays, musicals, novels, and magazine articles. Altman was not as successful this trip, but back in Hollywood, he tried out one more big money-making scheme. His pet care company soon went bankrupt, and in 1949 Altman returned to his friends and family in Kansas City, broke and hungry for action, and itching for a second chance to get into movies. During this time, Altman also enrolled at the University of Missouri to study engineering but quit after three years.
Industrial film experience
To get experience as a filmmaker, in the absence of film schools, Altman joined the Calvin Company
, the world's largest industrial film
production company and 16mm film laboratory, headquartered in Kansas City. Altman, fascinated by the company and their equipment, started as a film writer, and within a few months began to direct films. This led to his employment at the Calvin Company as a film director for almost six years. Until 1956, Altman directed 60 to 65 industrial short films, earning $250 a month while simultaneously getting the necessary training and experience that he would need for a successful career in filmmaking. The ability to shoot rapidly on schedule and to work within the confines of both big and low budgets would serve him well later in his career. On the technical side, he learned all about "the tools of filmmaking": the camera, the boom mic, the lights, etc.
However, Altman soon tired of the industrial film format and sought more challenging projects. He occasionally went to Hollywood and tried to write scripts, but then returned months later, broke, to the Calvin Company. According to Altman, the Calvin people dropped him another notch in salary each time. The third time, the Calvin people declared at a staff meeting that if he left and came back one more time, they were not going to keep him.
First feature film
In 1956 Altman left the Calvin Company. He was soon hired by Elmer Rhoden Jr.
, a local Kansas City movie theater exhibitor, to write and direct a low-budget exploitation film
on juvenile crime, titled The Delinquents
, which would become his first feature film. Altman wrote the script in one week and filmed it with a budget of $63,000 on location in Kansas City in two weeks. Rhoden wanted the film to kick-start his career as a film producer. Altman wanted the film to be his ticket into the elusive Hollywood circles. The cast was made up of the local actors and actresses from community theater who also appeared in Calvin Company films, Altman family members, and three imported actors from Hollywood, including the future Billy Jack
, Tom Laughlin
. The crew was made up of Altman's former Calvin colleagues and friends with whom Altman planned to make his grand "Kansas City escape." In 1956, Altman and his assistant director Reza Badiyi
left Kansas City for good to edit The Delinquents
in Hollywood. The film was picked up for distribution for $150,000 by United Artists and released in 1957, grossing nearly $1,000,000.
was no runaway success, but it did catch the eye of Alfred Hitchcock
, who was impressed and asked Altman to direct a few episodes of his Alfred Hitchcock Presents
television series. From 1958 to 1964, Altman directed numerous episodes of television series, including Combat!
and Route 66
, and wrote and directed a 1961 episode of Maverick
about a lynching called "Bolt From the Blue" featuring Roger Moore
. One 1961 episode (titled "A Lion Walks Among Us") of Bus Stop
which he directed was so controversial, due to an ending in which a sadistic murderer (played by teen idol
pop star Fabian
) is not apprehended or even punished for his crime, that Congressional hearings were held, and the show was cancelled at the end of the season.
Altman co-composed the hit single "Black Sheep" by country music recording artist John Anderson.
Altman then struggled for several years after quarreling with Jack Warner
, and it was during this time that he first formed his "anti-Hollywood" opinions and entered a new stage of filmmaking. He did a few more feature films without any success, until 1969 when he was offered the script for MASH
, which had previously been rejected by dozens of other directors. Altman directed the film, and it was a huge success, both with critics and at the box office. It was given the Grand Prix for the Best Film
at the 1970 Cannes Film Festival
. It was Altman's highest grossing film. Altman's career took firm hold with the success of MASH
, and he followed it with other critical breakthroughs such as McCabe & Mrs. Miller
(1971), The Long Goodbye
(1973), Thieves Like Us
(1974) and Nashville
(1975), which made the distinctive, experimental "Altman style" well known.
As a director, Altman favored stories showing the interrelationships between several characters; he stated that he was more interested in character motivation than in intricate plots. As such, he tended to sketch out only a basic plot for the film, referring to the screenplay as a "blueprint" for action, and allowed his actors to improvise dialogue. This is one of the reasons Altman was known as an "actor's director", a reputation that helped him work with large casts of well-known actors.
He frequently allowed the characters to talk over each other in such a way that it is difficult to make out what each of them is saying. He noted on the DVD commentary of McCabe & Mrs. Miller that he lets the dialogue overlap, as well as leaving some things in the plot for the audience to infer, because he wants the audience to pay attention. He uses a headset to make sure everything pertinent comes through without attention being drawn to it. Similarly, he tried to have his films rated R (by the MPAA rating system) so as to keep children out of his audience – he did not believe children have the patience his films require. This sometimes spawned conflict with movie studios, who do want children in the audience for increased revenues.
Altman made films that no other filmmaker and/or studio would. He was reluctant to make the original 1970 Korean War comedy MASH because of the pressures involved in filming it, but it still became a critical success. It would later inspire the long-running TV series of the same name.
In 1975, Altman made Nashville, which had a strong political theme set against the world of country music. The stars of the film wrote their own songs; Keith Carradine won an Academy Award for the song "I'm Easy".
The way Altman made his films initially didn't sit well with audiences. In 1970, following the release of MASH, he attempted to expand his artistic freedom by founding Lion's Gate Films (not to be confused with the current, unrelated Canada-based entertainment company Lionsgate). The films he made for the company include Brewster McCloud, A Wedding, 3 Women, and Quintet.
Later career and renaissance
In 1980, he attempted a musical, Popeye
, based on the comic strip/cartoon of the same name
, which starred Robin Williams
in his big-screen debut. The film was seen as a failure by some critics, but it did make money, and was in fact the second highest grossing film Altman directed to that point (Gosford Park
is now the second highest). During the 1980s, Altman did a series of films, some well-received (Secret Honor
) and some critically panned (O.C. & Stiggs
). He also garnered a good deal of acclaim for his presidential campaign "mockumentary
" Tanner '88
, for which he earned an Emmy Award
and regained critical favor. Still, popularity with audiences continued to elude him. He played the taxi driver in George Carlin
's 1988 show What am I doing in New Jersey
In 1981, finding Hollywood increasingly uninterested in funding and distributing the films he wanted to make, Altman sold his Lion's Gate studio and production facility to producer Jonathan Taplin.
Altman's career was revitalized when he directed 1992's The Player, a satire of Hollywood, which was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Director, though Altman did not win. He was, however, awarded Best Director by the Cannes Film Festival, BAFTA, and the New York Film Critics Circle, and the film reminded Hollywood (which had shunned him for a decade) that Altman was as creative as ever.
After the success of The Player, Altman directed 1993's Short Cuts, an ambitious adaptation of several short stories by Raymond Carver, which portrayed the lives of various citizens of the city of Los Angeles over the course of several days. The film's large cast and intertwining of many different storylines harkened back to his 1970s heyday and won Altman the Golden Lion at the 1993 Venice International Film Festival and earned another Oscar nomination for Best Director. In 1998, Altman made The Gingerbread Man, critically praised although a commercial failure, and in 1999 Cookie's Fortune, another critical success.
In 2001, Altman's film Gosford Park gained a spot on many critics' lists of the ten best films of that year. It also won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay (Julian Fellowes) plus six more nominations, including two for Altman as Best Director and Best Picture.
Working with independent studios such as the now-shuttered Fine Line, Artisan (which was absorbed into Lionsgate), and USA Films (now Focus Features), gave Altman the edge in making the kinds of films he has always wanted to make without outside studio interference. A movie version of Garrison Keillor's public radio series A Prairie Home Companion was released in June 2006. Altman was still developing new projects up until his death (Including a film based on 1997's Hands on a Hard Body: The Documentary).
After five Oscar nominations for Best Director and no wins, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded Altman an Academy Honorary Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2006. During his acceptance speech for this award, Altman revealed that he had received a heart transplant approximately ten or eleven years earlier. The director then quipped that perhaps the Academy had acted prematurely in recognizing the body of his work, as he felt like he might have four more decades of life ahead of him.
In the 1960s, Altman lived for nine years with his second wife in Mandeville Canyon
in Brentwood, California
, according to author Peter Biskind in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls
(Touchstone Books, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1998). He then moved to Malibu
but sold that home and the Lion's Gate production company in 1981. "I had no choice", he told the New York Times
. "Nobody was answering the phone" after the flop of Popeye
. He moved his family and business headquarters to New York, but eventually moved back to Malibu where he lived until his death.
City Councilmember Sharon Barovsky, who lives down the street from the Altman home on Malibu Road, remembered the director as a friend and neighbor. "He was salty... but with a great generosity of spirit", she said. Barovsky added that Malibu had a special place in the director's heart. "He loved Malibu", she said. "This is where he came to decompress."
He had claimed that he would move to Paris, France, if George W. Bush were elected, but he did not leave the United States after Bush was elected, saying later that he had actually meant Paris, Texas. He noted that "the state would be better off if he (Bush) is out of it. Altman was an outspoken marijuana user, even serving as a member of the NORML advisory board. Altman was one of several famous people (along with individuals as Noam Chomsky and Susan Sarandon) who signed the Not In My Name declaration opposing the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Altman died on November 20, 2006 at age 81 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
, in Los Angeles
. According to his production company in New York, Sandcastle 5 Productions, he died of complications from leukemia
. Altman is survived by his wife, Kathryn Reed Altman; six children, Christine Westphal, Michael Altman
, Stephen Altman (his set decorator of choice for many films), Connie Corriere, Robert Reed Altman
and Matthew Altman; 12 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
Paul Thomas Anderson dedicated his 2007 film There Will Be Blood to Altman.
TV movies and miniseries
- Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1957–58)
- ep. 3-9: "The Young One" (air-date December 1, 1957)
- ep. 3-15: "Together" (a.d. January 12, 1958)
- M Squad (1958) ep. 1-21: "Lover's Lane Killing" (a.d. February 14, 1958)
- The Millionaire aka If You Had A Million (1958–59)
- :directed by Altman
- ep #148 / 5-14: "Pete Hopper: Afraid of the Dark" (a.d. December 10, 1958)
- ep #162 / 5-28: "Henry Banning: The Show Off" (a.d. April 1, 1959)
- ep #185 / 6-14: "Jackson Greene: The Beatnik" (a.d. December 22, 1959)
- :written by Altman
- ep #160 / 5-26: "Alicia Osante: Beauty and the Sailor" (a.d. March 18, 1959)
- ep #174 / 6-3: "Lorraine Dagget: The Beach Story" [story] (a.d. September 29, 1959)
- ep #183 / 6-12: "Andrew C. Cooley: Andy and Clara" (a.d. December 8, 1959)
- Whirlybirds (1958–59)
- ep. #71 / 2-32: "The Midnight Show" (a.d. December 8, 1958)
- ep. #79 / 3-1: "Guilty of Old Age" (a.d. April 13, 1959)
- ep. #80 / 3-2: "A Matter of Trust" (a.d. April 6, 1959)
- ep. #81 / 3-3: "Christmas in June" (a.d. April 20, 1959)
- ep. #82 / 3-4: "Til Death Do Us Part" (unknown air-date, probably April 27, 1959)
- ep. #83 / 3-5: "Time Limit" (a.d. May 4, 1959)
- ep. #84 / 3-6: "Experiment X-74" (a.d. May 11, 1959)
- ep. #87 / 3-9: "The Challenge" (a.d. June 1, 1959)
- ep. #88 / 3-10: "The Big Lie" (a.d. June 8, 1959)
- ep. #91 / 3-13: "The Perfect Crime" (a.d. June 29, 1959)
- ep. #92 / 3-14: "The Unknown Soldier" (a.d. July 6, 1959)
- ep. #93 / 3-15: "Two of a Kind" (a.d. July 13, 1959)
- ep. #94 / 3-16: "In Ways Mysterious" (a.d. July 20, 1959)
- ep. #97 / 3-19: "The Black Maria" (a.d. August 10, 1959)
- ep. #98 / 3-20: "The Sitting Duck" (a.d. August 17, 1959)
- U.S. Marshal (original title: Sheriff of Cochise) (1959)
- ep. 4-17: "The Triple Cross"
- ep. 4-23: "Shortcut to Hell"
- ep. 4-25: "R.I.P." (a.d. June 6, 1959)
- :uncertain; some sources cite Altman on these episodes; no known source cites anybody else
- ep. 4-18: "The Third Miracle"
- ep. 4-31: "Kill or Be Killed"
- ep. 4-32: "Backfire"
- ep. "Tapes For Murder"
- ep. "Special Delivery"
- ep. "Paper Bullets"
- ep. "Tarnished Star"
- Troubleshooters (1959) (13 episodes)
- Hawaiian Eye (1959) ep. 8: "Three Tickets to Lani" (a.d. November 25, 1959)
- Sugarfoot (1959–60)
- ep. #47 / 3-7: "Apollo With A Gun" (a.d. December 8, 1959)
- ep. #50 / 3-10: "The Highbinder" (a.d. January 19, 1960)
- Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse (1960)
- ep. "The Sound of Murder" (a.d. January 1, 1960)
- ep. "Death of a Dream"
- The Gale Storm Show aka Oh! Susanna (1960) ep. #125 / 4-25: "It's Magic" (a.d. March 17, 1960)
- Bronco (1960) ep #41 / 3-1: "The Mustangers" (a.d. October 17, 1960)
- Maverick (1960) ep. #90: "Bolt From the Blue" (a.d. November 27, 1960)
- The Roaring '20's (1960–61)
- ep. 1-5: "The Prairie Flower" (a.d. November 12, 1960)
- ep. 1-6: "Brother's Keeper" (a.d. November 19, 1960)
- ep. 1-8: "White Carnation" (a.d. December 3, 1960)
- ep. 1-12: "Dance Marathon" (a.d. January 14, 1961)
- ep. 1-15: "Two a Day" (a.d. February 4, 1961)
- ep. 1-28&29: "Right Off the Boat" Parts 1 & 2 (a.d. May 13/20, 1961)
- ep. 1-31: "Royal Tour" (a.d. June 3, 1961)
- ep. 2-4: "Standing Room Only" (a.d. October 28, 1961)
- Bonanza (1960–61)
- ep. 2-13: "Silent Thunder" (a.d. December 10, 1960)
- ep. 2-19: "Bank Run" (a.d. January 28, 1961)
- ep. 2-25: "The Duke" (a.d. March 11, 1961)
- ep. 2-28: "The Rival" (a.d. April 15, 1961)
- ep. 2-31: "The Secret" (a.d. May 6, 1961)
- ep. 2-32 "The Dream Riders" (a.d. May 20, 1961)
- ep. 2-34: "Sam Hill" (a.d. June 3, 1961)
- ep. 3-7: "The Many Faces of Gideon Finch" (a.d. November 5, 1961)
- Lawman (1961) ep. #92 / 3-16: "The Robbery" (a.d. January 1, 1961)
- Surfside 6 (1961) ep. 1-18: "Thieves Among Honor" (a.d. Jan 30, 1961)
- Peter Gunn (1958) ep. 3-28: "The Murder Bond" (a.d. April 24, 1961)
- Bus Stop (1961–62)
- ep. 4: "The Covering Darkness" (a.d. October 22, 1961)
- ep. 5: "Portrait of a Hero" (a.d. October 29, 1961)
- ep. 8: "Accessory By Consent" (a.d. November 19, 1961)
- ep. 10: "A Lion Walks Among Us" (a.d. December 3, 1961)
- ep. 12: "... And the Pursuit of Evil" (a.d. December 17, 1961)
- ep. 15: "Summer Lightning" (a.d. January 7, 1962)
- ep. 23: "Door Without a Key" (a.d. March 4, 1962)
- ep. 25: "County General" [possibly failed pilot] (a.d. March 18, 1962)
- Route 66 (1961)
- ep. #40/2-10: "Some of the People, Some of the Time' (a.d. December 1, 61)
- ep. 3-17: "A Gift For A Warrior" (a.d. January 18, 1963) - often incorrectly cited, Altman did not direct this
- The Gallant Men (1962) pilot: "Battle Zone" (a.d. October 5, 1962)
- Combat! (1962–63)
- ep. 1-1: "Forgotten Front" (a.d. October 2, 1962)
- ep. 1-2: "Rear Echelon Commandos" (a.d. October 9, 1962)
- ep. 1-4: "Any Second Now" (a.d. October 23, 1962)
- ep. 1-7: "Escape to Nowhere" (a.d. December 20, 1962)
- ep. 1-9: "Cat and Mouse" (a.d. December 4, 1962)
- ep. 1-10: "I Swear By Apollo" (a.d. December 11, 1962)
- ep. 1-12: "The Prisoner" (a.d. December 25, 1962)
- ep. 1-16: "The Volunteer" (a.d. January 22, 1963)
- ep. 1-20: "Off Limits" (a.d. February 19, 1963)
- ep. 1-23: "Survival" (a.d. March 12, 1963)
- Kraft Suspense Theater (1963)
- ep 1-8: "The Long Lost Life of Edward Smalley" (also writer) (a.d. December 12, 1963)
- ep 1-9: "The Hunt" (also writer) (a.d. December 19, 1963)
- ep 1-21: "Once Upon a Savage Night"
- :released as TV-Movie "Nightmare in Chicago" in 1964
- The Long Hot Summer (1965) pilot
- Nightwatch (1968) pilot: "The Suitcase"
- Premiere (1968) ep. "Walk in the Sky" (a.d. July 15 1968)
- Saturday Night Live (1977) ep. #39 / 2-16 "h: Sissy Spacek", seg. "Sissy's Roles" (a.d. March 12, 1977)
- Gun (aka Robert Altman's Gun) (1997) ep. 4: "All the President's Women" (a.d. May 10 1997)
- :this episode, along with another, was released on DVD as Gun: Fatal Betrayal; subsequently, the entire six-episode series was released
Early independent projects
In the early Calvin years in Kansas City during the 1950s, Altman was as busy as he ever was in Hollywood, shooting staggering amounts of film, whether for Calvin or for the many independent film projects he pursued in attempts to break into Hollywood or into the television industry:
- Fashion Faire (1951) - A half-hour fashion parade that Altman wrote and directed in Kansas City, and hawked to several major TV networks as a pilot for a possible fashion series.
- The Model's Handbook (1952) - Yet another failed TV pilot, hosted by modeling legend Eileen Ford and her husband Gerald, and featuring model Dorian Leigh. The pilot, produced in Kansas City and never aired, included demonstrations of recommended exercises for aspiring models, as well as fashion and dieting tips.
- The Pulse of the City (1952-54) - Altman and a Calvin co-worker wrote, created, and took turns directing this fifteen-minute anthology series that was a sort of poor man's Dragnet, shot in Kansas City using local actors. Altman managed to sell the already-produced fifteen episodes to the independent DuMont Television Network, who ran it in syndication for a couple of years, usually right up against Dragnet in their prime-time schedule.
- Catholic Bishop's Fund commercials - In 1953, Altman abruptly left the Calvin Company without prior notice and traveled to Hollywood to seek his fortune in movies and TV. He ended up directing a couple of TV spots for the Catholic Bishop's Fund out there, and was never paid, causing him to go broke and eventually return to Kansas City and Calvin.
- Corn's-A-Poppin' (1954) - Altman co-wrote the screenplay for this poorly-received low-budget musical comedy produced in Kansas City and directed by a Calvin co-worker.
Selected Calvin industrial films
Out of approximately 65 industrial films directed by Altman for the Calvin Company, all less than 30 minutes long, eleven are notable for their relationship to the director's later work, or for garnering national film festival or instructional category awards:
- Honeymoon for Harriet (1950) - An entertaining comedy concerned with the efforts of a young farm bride to persuade her husband to spend money for a honeymoon rather than for new equipment for the farm. Sponsored by International Harvester.
- Modern Football (1951) - Stresses the importance of knowledge of the rules and demonstrates recommended techniques to be used in the game of football. Filmed on location in Mesa, Arizona, in conjunction with a cooperating high school football team. Sponsored by Wheaties and Wilson Sporting Goods, and distributed by the Official Sports Film Service to high school football teams and coaches throughout the U.S.
- The Dirty Look (1951) - A sales training and promotion short sponsored by Gulf Oil, starring William Frawley (then riding high on the I Love Lucy TV series) as a barber. Won several awards.
- King Basketball (1952) - Centered around interpretation of the basketball rules demonstrated by skilled high school and university players. Sponsored by Wheaties and Wilson Sporting Goods, and distributed by the Official Sports Film Service to high school basketball teams and coaches throughout the U.S.
- The Last Mile (1952)- Warns against the dangers involved when construction crews start to turn an old road into a safe modern highway. Includes a dramatic sequence depicting a convicted killer walking "the last mile" to the electric chair. Sponsored by Caterpillar Tractor. Won an honorary certificate from the National Safety Council in 1953.
- The Sound of Bells (1952) - Santa Claus visits a lonely service station on Christmas Eve, and in exchange for a free tank of gas promises the owner a flood of new customers, giving the owner plenty of opportunities to brush up on his salesmanship and customer relations. Shows fundamentally how tire sales are added by being tire-conscious and aware that gas and oil customers must ride on tires. Sponsored by B.F. Goodrich.
- Modern Baseball (1953) - Defines the rules used by the much-maligned baseball umpire. Slow motion and animation are used to demonstrate the calls on force plays, appeal plays, obstruction by fielder, interference with fielder, and other touchy matters. Sponsored by Wheaties and Wilson Sporting Goods, and distributed by the Official Sports Film Service to high school baseball teams and coaches throughout the U.S.
- The Builders (1954) - A dramatized incident about a university dean of architecture who encourages a graduate student whose seemingly impractical architectural designs have been unfavorably received by his professor. Presents a history of the development of wire netting and discusses the advantages of using welded wire reinforcing fabric in various types of construction work. Sponsored by the Wire Reinforcement Institute.
- Better Football (1954) - Shows several game situations in football and their relation to the rules. The importance of knowledge of the rules is emphasized by a story about a team which has to learn "the hard way." William Frawley plays their wisecracking coach. Sponsored by Wheaties and Wilson Sporting Goods, and distributed by the Official Sports Film Service to high school football teams and coaches throughout the U.S.
- The Perfect Crime (1954) - Shows how more adequate highways can promote traffic safety and prevent accidents. Includes a dramatic sequence depicting the robbery of a grocery store and the brutal murder of a mother and child. Sponsored by Caterpillar Tractor and the National Safety Council. Shown widely on national television, and won numerous awards and accolades from festivals and safety groups.
- The Magic Bond (1955) - The Veterans of Foreign Wars as a fraternal and social organization, with emphasis on their projects that benefit community life and cohesion. Includes a mostly improvised dramatic sequence concerning a squadron of soldiers trapped in a farmhouse in Europe during World War II. Was distributed widely throughout the U.S., and shown on many television stations, to promote and improve the VFW's public image.
- The director's commentary on the McCabe & Mrs. Miller DVD, while focusing on that film, also to some degree covers Altman's general methodology as a director.
- Judith M. Kass. Robert Altman: American Innovator early (1978) assessment of the director's work and his interest in gambling. Part of Leonard Maltin's Popular Library filmmaker series.
- Patrick McGilligan's biography of Altman, Jumping Off the Cliff (St. Martin's Press, 1989) is greatly detailed in its writing about the Altman family's involvement in early Kansas City, Altman's childhood, his first films, and the workings of his mind and personality. This book is the source of this article's information on Altman's childhood, military service, and early years of filmmaking in Kansas City, and an overall source (though not definitive) for his television credits.
- The English band Maxïmo Park have a song named "Robert Altman", a b-side to their single "Our Velocity"
- The Criterion Collection has released several of Altman's films on DVD (Short Cuts, 3 Women, Tanner '88, Secret Honor) which include audio commentary and video interviews with him that shed light on his directing style.