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In Focus: Robert Altman

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ROBERT ALTMANFeb. 20, 1925 - Nov. 20, 2006 When Robert Altman finally snagged an Oscar in 2006, it was an honorary award for nearly four decades of work rather than the academy's Best Director nod. No matter: Altman himself graciously said he was happy to be recognized for the body of his work, and there's justice given this maverick filmmaker's prolific output and the number of genuine masterpieces. First among them was his 1970 hit, "M*A*S*H." A veteran TV director, Altman was 14th on the list of candidates considered to direct the wartime black comedy; when he finished, even screenwriter Ring Lardner Jr. barely recognized what Altman had forged with his quicksilver style and improvisational brio. The director followed with a burst of signature works including "Brewster McCloud," "McCabe & Mrs. Miller," "California Split," "The Long Goodbye" and "Nashville," all '70s classics. His commercial fortunes were checkered in the '80s but Altman's standing among his peers remained impeccable. Superstars took pay cuts and second billing to work with him, regardless of the budget or box office prospects, and he continued to craft terrific movies through the turn of the millennium. He completed his filmography with a charming adaptation of Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" while privately coping with cancer. (Image: Picturehouse)
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