Sunday, August 16, 2015

Book review - "Robert Altman: The Oral Biography" by Mitchell Zuckoff (2009)

Patrick McGilligan wrote a wonderful biography of Altman but this is awesome too - an oral biography seems to suit the director because he was so keen to make his film sets and life one big party. Zuckoff has the benefit of working on this shortly after Altman's death, so people's memories are fresh but they can be honest because he's dead.

Altman had an incredible life - Kansas City upbringing, party boy youth, genuinely impressive war service as a bomber in the Pacific, early Hollywood dalliance ending unsatisfactorily, making corporates and industrials in Kansas City, becoming a genuinely great TV director (including Fabian's best performance, "A Lion Walks Among Us"), blowing many opportunities with his personality but always getting a second (then third, fourth and so on) chance due to his talent, breaking into features and becoming a legend with MASH.

Few directors' careers had more ebbs and flows than Altman's but he always managed to survive - if he would drop his budget, try new genres, move to Broadway and cable. Actors love for him meant he actually bounced back in the 1990s - he seemed to thrive in the world of independent cinema. A tiring man to fall in love with but he eventually found the perfect wife. Not a great father either - but what a legacy.

This is a terrific book.

No comments: