December 3, 2014–January 17, 2015
The Museum of Modern Art presents a comprehensive career retrospective of the maverick film and television director Robert Altman (1925–2006), comprising 50 programs, including theatrical features, television films, cable series, and rarely seen music videos, industrial shorts, and documentary pieces. Altman’s work over four decades, beginning in the 1970s, came to define the spirit of American independent film. His essential films include the groundbreaking anti-war satire M*A*S*H (1970); the unorthodox Western McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971); the disaffected portrait of Bicentennial America Nashville (1975); the film noir satire The Long Goodbye (1973); the avant-garde woman’s picture 3 Women (1977); the waggish Hollywood exposé The Player (1992); the adaptation of stories by Raymond Carver Short Cuts (1993); and his final work, A Prairie Home Companion (2006), a collaboration with radio personality Garrison Keiller. Distancing himself from mainstream Hollywood formulas, Altman produced films in what has been described as “anti-genres,” including revisionist takes on romantic comedy (A Perfect Couple, 1979), teen films (O.C. & Stiggs, 1984), psychological thrillers (Images, 1972), and historical dramas (Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson, 1976). His penchant for improvisation and the innovative use of natural, overlapping dialogue became directorial signatures, most elegantly realized in his later film Gosford Park (2001), which served as a model for writer Julian Fellowes’s successful ITV/PBS series Downton Abbey (2010–).
Altman’s passion for theater and the craft of acting is evident in the ensemble performance style that characterizes work like A Wedding (1978), the rarely screened Health (1980), and Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982), which he originated on stage. Other notable Altman films were adapted from such stage plays as David Rabe’s Streamers (1983), Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love (1985), Marsha Norman’s The Laundromat (1985), Christopher Durang’s Beyond Therapy (1987), and Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter (1987). His films provided career highlights for performers such as Cher, Paul Newman, Carol Burnett, Tim Robbins, Shelley Duval, Elliott Gould, Sally Kellerman, Keith Carradine, Lindsay Lohan, Lilly Tomlin, Michael Murphy, Geraldine Chaplin, Sissy Spacek, James Caan, Susannah York, Karen Black, Robert Duval, Glenda Jackson, Rene Auberjonois, Helen Mirren, Cynthia Nixon.
Popular music, in particular jazz, folk, and country, also figure prominently in the director’s work. Among the musicians with whom he worked are Leonard Cohen, John Williams, Stomu Yamashta, Harry Nilsson and Van Dyke Parks, Joshua Redman, Johnny Mandel, Patrick Doyle, and Mark Isham. The director’s major works for television, the pioneering cable mockumentary series Tanner ’88 (1988), created by Garry Trudeau for HBO, and its sequel Tanner on Tanner (2004), are genre-bending twists on cinéma vérité. Including cameo appearances by real-life politicians and media figures like Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, Michael Dukakis, Tom Brokaw, Linda Ellerbee, Martin Scorsese, and Charlie Rose, they set new standards for broadcast humor with their riffs on U.S. presidential elections and the tropes of reality TV.
In addition to Altman’s theatrical and television films, the retrospective will be distinguished by the addition of little-known early work to a number of the programs along with the features. These include industrial films he made in Kansas City in the 1950s, and musical shorts produced for the pioneering film jukebox system ColorSonic in 1966. The series concludes with a screening of the authorized feature-length EPIX documentary on Altman by director Ron Mann and Sphinx Productions. Finally, a number of Altman collaborators are being approached to appear at select screening events.
Related Film Screenings
1966. Directed by Robert Altman. Produced for Color-Sonic. Bobby Troup serenades a high-class styling session. Digital video presentation courtesy the Robert Altman Collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. 4 min.
1977. USA. Written and directed by Robert Altman. With Shelley Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Janice Rule, Robert Fortier, Ruth Nelson. Wide-eyed Pinky, newly employed at a geriatric center, latches on to a fellow nurse, the chatty and self-styled sophisticate Millie Lammoreaux. When the pair become roommates, Pinky’s idolization quickly irritates Millie until an act of desperation gives way to a sinister reversal of roles. Spacek and Duvall each brilliantly deliver their own portrait of modern loneliness, played out to the muted colors of the Southern California desert, in this strange and gripping psychodrama. Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox. Digital projection. 124 min.
The Kathryn Reed Story
1965. Directed by Robert Altman. The director’s home-movie valentine to his wife. Digital video presentation courtesy the Robert Altman Collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. 15 min.
A Perfect Couple
1979. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Altman, Alan F. Nicholls. With Paul Dooley, Marta Heflin, Tito Vandis. In the year that Blake Edwards’s bawdy sex comedy 10 stole the box office, Altman’s surprisingly good-natured riff on romantic comedy was largely neglected. A dating-weary middle-aged businessman from a staunchly Greek family takes up with a younger Bohemian musician in a traveling rock band, eventually choosing a life of uncertainty over loneliness. Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox. 110 min.
“Dinah Goes to a Wedding” [excerpt] (from Dinah!)
1978. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Dinah Shore interviews Altman on the set of A Wedding. Courtesy Retro Video, Inc. 10 min.
1978. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Altman, John Considine, Allan Nicholls, Patricia Resnick, based on a story by Altman, Considine. With Carol Burnett, Paul Dooley, Amy Stryker, Mia Farrow, Dennis Christopher, Lillian Gish, Desi Arnaz, Jr. The society wedding of “Muffin” Brenner and Dino Sloan Corelli goes from fiasco to farce in this comedy of manners. Altman purportedly set out to double the 24-person cast count from Nashville, giving himself ample subjects on both sides of the family—including Lillian Gish, as the bed-ridden matriarch—for the revelation of secrets throughout the day. No taboos are spared as secret pregnancies, radical politics, and drug habits come to the fore in this delightful free-for-all. Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox. 125 min.
Go to Health
1980. USA. Directed by Bill Tannen. With Dick Cavett, Henry Gibson, Carol Burnett. A rarely seen pseudo-documentary with Cavett interviewing the HealtH cast on set. Digital video presentation courtesy the Robert Altman Collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. 20 min.
1980. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Altman, Paul Dooley, Frank Barhydt. With Carol Burnett, Glenda Jackson, Lauren Bacall, James Garner, Alfre Woodard. Described as a “mess, but a glorious one” by The New York Times and “the world’s worst movie” by President Reagan, Altman’s most illusive feature is a free-form satire of the American political convention process. The director referenced 1950s presidential candidates Adlai Stevenson (Jackson) and Dwight D. Eisenhower (Bacall) in conceiving his lead characters. Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox. 105 min.
1979. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Altman and Frank Barhydt. With Paul Newman, Bibi Andersson, Vittorio Gassman, Fernando Rey. The prestigious international cast of this end-of-the-world sci-fi drama—shot on the grounds of the recently closed Expo ’67 in Montreal—is an indication of its art-film aspirations. An admirer of Ingmar Bergman, Altman would later joke about this film as one of his least successful efforts. Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox. 118 min.
1980. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Jules Feiffer. With Robin Williams, Shelley Duvall, Ray Walston, Paul Dooley. After a notorious five months on location on the rocky coast of Malta, Altman’s big-budget comic-strip musical was a critical disaster that set his career back for a decade—despite its box-office success. The breezy, off-kilter whimsy of Feiffer’s script is matched by Wolf Kroeger’s exceptional production design and Harry Nilsson’s subtly influential score. 35mm print courtesy the Robert Altman Collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. 114 min.
1992. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Michael Tolkin. With Tim Robbins, Greta Scacchi, Fred Ward, Cynthia Stevenson, Margery Bond. Tim Robbins stars in this waggish Hollywood exposé as a studio executive whose attempt to track down a screenwriter sending him hate mail results in an accidental murder and a sleazy web of lies. The crime plot doubles as an indictment of a depraved industry, as satire melds with dark comedy. A box-office success packed with star cameos and industry references, The Player announced Altman’s return to Hollywood after independent projects throughout the 1980s, but Altman never got too cozy: “As for Hollywood, they sell shoes and I make gloves. So we really aren’t in the same business.” Courtesy Academy Film Archive. 124 min.
A Honeymoon for Harriet
1950. USA. Directed by Maurice Prather. Screenplay by Robert Altman. Produced by the Calvin Company. With lotus Corelli, James Lantz. In this comedy, sponsored by International Harvester, a country wife discovers that new farm equipment is a higher priority than she is. Courtesy Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research. Digital projection. 21 min.
A Prairie Home Companion
2006. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Garrison Keillor. With Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Lindsay Lohan, Woody Harrelson, Kevin Kline. In the last of Altman’s backstage stories, performers of a popular radio show facing cancellation rally for its final broadcast, as sinister and angelic figures hover. The director’s final film is a meditation on death and a fittingly nostalgic tribute to the ensemble character of his work. 105 min.
Thieves like Us
1974. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Altman, Joan Tewkesbury, Calder Willingham. With Keith Carradine, Shelley Duvall, John Schuck, Bert Remsen, Louise Fletcher. Depression-era Mississippi becomes a textured, vivid character in this portrayal of chain-gang escapees who blunder through another spree of bank hold-ups. When Bowie (Carradine) is injured, he is nursed back to health by the sweet and simple Keechie (Duvall), beginning a tender but doomed romance. From the New Deal speeches and 1930s radio programs that comprise the diagetic score to the ubiquitous Coca-Cola bottles, Thieves like Us presents a poetic regional portrait. Courtesy Park Circus. 124 min.
1983. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by David Rabe, from his play. With Matthew Modine, Michael Wright, Mitchell Lichtenstein, David Alan Grier. Altman’s powerful adaptation of Rabe’s play revolves around four soldiers awaiting deployment to Vietnam. Suspicions of homosexuality spark heated words and antics in the barracks, as tensions and fears play out over the course of a frenzied evening. The claustrophobic one-room set stands in for postwar American society, where everything from highways to the draft brought people of different backgrounds together more than ever before—not always with harmonious results. Please note this rare 35mm print has foreign language subtitles. 118 min.
The Magic Bond
1956. USA. Written and directed by Robert Altman. With Joe Adelman, Owen Bush, Kermit Echols, James Lantz, Keith Painton. Produced by the Calvin Company. A promotional short for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Episodic lessons challenge apathy and neglect at a time when generational shifts were beginning to threaten traditional values. Courtesy Prelinger Archives. Digital projection. 28 min.
1983. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Donald Freed, Arnold M. Stone, based on their play. With Philip Baker Hall. The restless surveillance of Altman’s camera is key to this effective adaptation of Hall’s ferocious one-man stage portrayal of disgraced ex-president Nixon. His fictionalized railing against exile from the seat of power has been likened to the director’s volatile feelings of estrangement from Hollywood in the 1980s. 35mm print courtesy the Robert Altman Collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. 90 min.
Pot au Feu
1965. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Cooking up a joint French-style. Digital video presentation courtesy the Robert Altman Collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. 4 min.
Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
1982. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Ed Graczyk. With Sandy Dennis, Cher, Karen Black, Sudie Bond, Kathy Bates. A fan club reunion at a fading soda-fountain shrine to James Dean on the anniversary of his death becomes a meditation on gender, power, and female identity. As with other stage adaptations made during his periods of retreat from Hollywood, Altman challenges viewers to experience the interplay of visual storytelling and the spoken word. As he often did, the director focuses on a strong cast of women, and Cher’s stellar performance launched her screen career. Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by The Film Foundation and The Hollywood Foreign Press Association. 109 min.
O.C. & Stiggs
1987. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Ted Mann, Donald Cantrell. With Daniel H. Jenkins, Neill Barry, Paul Dooley, Jane Curtin, Martin Mull, Dennis Hopper, Melvin Van Peebles. Thirty years after The Delinquents, the director revisits teensploitation with a film loosely based on characters from National Lampoon magazine. With male leads lacking the endearing chemistry of Elliot Gould and Donald Sutherland in MASH, a project with comparatively irreverent and raucous situations, the film earns its place in the Altman canon as a meditation on distinctly American landscapes of wealth and consumption. Courtesy Park Circus. 109 min.
Fool for Love
1985. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Sam Shepard, from his play. With Shepard, Kim Basinger, Harry Dean Stanton, Randy Quaid. In a rundown desert motel in the American West, themes of incest and child abuse are touched upon when a cowboy (Shepard) attempts to reunite with a woman he claims is his sister. The visual elements of the film’s numerous flashbacks, executed with ceaselessly fluid camera movements across its sets and the surrounding landscape, become as meaningful an experience as the scripted narrative. Courtesy George Eastman House. 106 min.
Vincent and Theo
1990. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Julian Mitchell. With Tim Roth, Paul Rhys, Johanna ter Steege. Altman's foray into the period biopic follows Vincent van Gogh and Theo, his art-dealer brother who supported him financially and emotionally. The onscreen bond between by Tim Roth and Paul Rhys gives depth to this otherwise familiar topic, with each man stifled by bourgeois values in his own way. This portrait of an uncompromising artist rejected by the Academy elicits comparison to Altman himself, who spent the 1980s in the margins. The director’s fate changed more quickly than his subject’s; the following year, Altman returned to Hollywood success with The Player. Courtesy Park Circus. 133 min.
1987. Great Britain. Directed by Nicolas Roeg, Charles Sturridge, Jean-Luc Godard, Julien Temple, Bruce Beresford, Altman, Franc Roddam, Ken Russell, Derek Jarman, Bill Bryden. With Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Theresa Russell, Buck Henry, Bridget Fonda. Produced during his exile in Paris, “Les Boréades,” Altman’s episode in this anthology film of opera “greatest hits,” is set in a French madhouse—and is markedly less ambitious than those of his international colleagues. Courtesy Lightyear Entertainment. 90 min.
1987. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Altman, Christopher Durang, from the play by Durang. With Glenda Jackson, Jeff Goldblum, Julie Hagerty, Tom Conti, Christopher Guest. In this romantic farce, a liberal adaptation of Durang’s absurdist stage play about sex and psychiatry, a blind date between a lovelorn young woman and a bisexual young man triggers a series of raucous encounters between rival lovers. Set in New York but shot in Paris, the film lacks the crucial sense of place that typically grounds the director’s work. Courtesy Lakeshore Entertainment. 93 min.
McCabe and Mrs. Miller
1971. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Altman, Brian McKay. With Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, René Auberjonois, Michael Murphy. The director’s anti-Western taps into 1970s paranoia about the ruthlessness and long reach of corporate America. In the unforgiving frontier wilderness of Washington State in 1902, Christie’s cynical prostitute and Beatty’s hapless con man fall victim to deluded ambition, bravado, and despair. 120 min.
1971. USA. Directed by Marianne Dolan. Footage from the set of McCabe and Mrs. Miller documents the complex production demands—and the good times—of location work in adverse conditions. Digital video presentation courtesy the Robert Altman Collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. 9 min.
1993. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Frank Barhydt, Altman. With Julianne Moore, Matthew Modine, Fred Ward, Lily Tomlin, Tim Robbins, Tom Waits, Jack Lemmon, Robert Downey, Jr., Anne Archer. This ambitious Raymond Carver adaptation weaves together nine of the author’s stories, and with 22 principal characters, it features Altman’s most impressive ensemble cast. Set against the unstable landscape of Los Angeles, the messy personal lives of ordinary residents intersect and collide. Jazz vocals by singer Annie Ross provide unifying commentary. 35mm print courtesy the Robert Altman Collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. 187 min.
The Model’s Handbook
1956. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Eileen Ford, Jerry Ford. With Dorian Leigh. This promotional film provided how-tos for aspiring models and a behind-the-scenes look at the Ford Modeling Agency, for whom it was made. Altman intended the film as the first of a weekly series, but the project never took off. Courtesy Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research. Digital projection. 13 min.
Prêt-à-Porter (Ready to Wear)
1994. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Altman, Barbara Shulgasser. With Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni, Julia Roberts, Kim Basinger, Anouk Aimée, Sally Kellerman. This sprawling comedy, shot during Fashion Week in Paris, is a disorderly series of vignettes documenting the preening acolytes of high-fashion runway shows, featuring cameos from real-life designers and celebrities. Taking on an insular world foreign to him, Altman exerts his usual arsenal of absurdist humor and satire. The distributor anglicized the title for U.S. release in the belief that American audiences would be baffled by the French phrase. 35mm print courtesy the Robert Altman Collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. 132 min.
Robert Altman’s Jazz 34
1997. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. With James Carter, Joshua Redman, Craig Handy, David Murray, Russell Malone, Harry Belafonte. This improvisational jam session in the spirit of 1930s Kansas City swing, filmed on the set of Altman’s 1996 theatrical feature Kansas City, includes a re-creation of the legendary Coleman Hawkins-Lester Young “battle of the saxes.” 35mm print courtesy the Robert Altman Collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. 72 min.
1996. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay Frank Barhydt, Altman. With Jennifer Jason Leigh, Miranda Richardson, Harry Belafonte, Steve Buscemi. Inspired by 1930s gangster films and Altman’s childhood memories of Kansas City, this jazz-infused crime drama is centered on the kidnapping of a politically connected socialite and the dangerous negotiations with a black mob leader that follow. Leigh’s performance, modeled on blonde Hollywood icon Jean Harlow, proved controversial for some critics. 35mm print courtesy the Robert Altman Collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. 116 min.
The Gingerbread Man
1998. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Al Hayes, based on a story by John Grisham. With Kenneth Branagh, Embeth Davidtz, Robert Downey, Jr., Robert Duvall. Altman’s aspirations for a fiery creative collision with John Grisham were likely thwarted by the resulting film, but the bedroom-to-courtroom intrigue is heightened by the director’s rich development of detail—including glimpses into Savannah, Georgia’s economic disparities and the evolving weather phenomena that punctuate the moody narrative. Cinematography by the esteemed Changwei Gu and a score by electronic composer Mark Isham also figure among the film’s strengths. 35mm print courtesy the Robert Altman Collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. 115 min.
1999. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Anne Rapp. With Glenn Close, Julianne Moore, Liv Tyler, Chris O’Donnell, Charles S. Dutton, Patricia Neal. When Miss Jewel Mae “Cookie” Orcutt—played, in a rare screen appearance, by Patricia Neal—ends her tired, widowed life, it causes a stir in Holly Springs, Mississippi. The reactions and recourses of her eccentric family and friends unfold slowly—much like the pace of the small Southern town—which makes for a delightful film, thanks to the strength of the cast. Courtesy Focus Features. 118 min.
Dr. T & the Women
2000. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay Anne Rapp. With Richard Gere, Helen Hunt, Farrah Fawcett, Kate Hudson, Laura Dern. Much like a beleaguered Fellini protagonist, Gere’s wealthy Texas gynecologist is at the center of a woman’s world. When the effects of his wife’s mental illness, a pending divorce, sexually awakened daughters, a budding affair, and the unwanted attention of his patients merge, the doctor’s life spins out of control. Courtesy Swank Motion Pictures, Inc. 122 min.
2001. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Julian Fellowes. With Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Kristen Scott Thomas, Ryan Phillippe, Clive Owen. The master of the house invites distinguished guests for a weekend shooting party—and is murdered in the dark of night. This English-manor whodunit, Altman’s most successful film since MASH, boasts a knockout cast of British stage and screen talent. Julian Fellowes’s cleverly layered script—pitting the babble of the landed against the gossip of the servants’ quarters—won an Academy Award and served as a model for Fellowes’s successful series Downton Abbey (2010–). 137 min.
1970. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Ring Lardner Jr., based on the novel by Richard Hooker. With Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Tom Skerritt, Sally Kellerman, Robert Duvall, Corey Fischer. Set in a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War, MASH chronicles the romantic escapades, after-hours tricks, and behind-the-battle-lines sports adventures of three hedonistic surgeons. Altman debuted several of his now-signature techniques—overlapping dialogue, tight close-ups, and rich performances by an ensemble cast—creating a carefully constructed sense of chaos. This antiwar dispatch earned an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Altman’s star began to rise with the arc of the counterculture. 116 min.
1966. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Produced for Color-Sonic. Lili St. Cyr lounges seaside. Digital projection. 4 min.
2003. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Barbara Turner, based on a story by Turner and Neve Campbell. With Campbell, Malcolm McDowell, James Franco. The travails of an ambitious ballerina (Campbell, who also coproduced the film) serve as the foreground for this portrait of the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago, filmed over the course of a year and featuring real Joffrey dancers. The Company is a film about the creative process itself, aptly rendering the painstaking discipline, tireless work, and personal sacrifice demanded of the dancers, and the transcendent result that is collective performance. These challenges parallel those Altman faced over four decades as a filmmaker; Roger Ebert declared it “the closest that Robert Altman has come to making an autobiographical film.” 35mm print courtesy the Robert Altman Collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. 112 min.
Television Program 4: Basements
Both digital video presentations courtesy the Robert Altman Collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive
1987. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. With Linda Hunt, Annie Lennox, Julian Sands, Donald Pleasance. In the second half, an adaptation of Pinter’s first play, paranoia and violence result when a series of unwanted visitors intrude on an eccentric woman’s claustrophobic living space. 49 min.
1987. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Harold Pinter. With John Travolta, Tom Conti. Altman’s adaptation of the playwright’s early “comedies of menace” was originally broadcast as the first half of a Pinter double-bill titled Basements. Two British hitmen wait in the kitchen of an old mansion for an unseen employer to provide their next assignment. 60 min.
Television Program 5
Both digital video presentations courtesy the Robert Altman Collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive.
1982. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Frank South. With Guy Boyd, Alfre Woodard. The mystery of how two disconnected lives intertwine is gradually revealed in a series of monologues that Altman originally brought to the stage. 60 min.
1985. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Marsha Norman. With Carol Burnett, Amy Madigan, Michael Wright. In this character study, loneliness binds two women during a late-night encounter, despite differences of age and class. 60 min.
Tanner ’88 (episodes 1–2)
1988. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Teleplay by Garry Trudeau. With Michael Murphy, Cynthia Nixon, Pamela Reed. Altman considered this cinéma-vérité-style HBO cable series, which follows a fictional Democratic presidential candidate on the real-life 1988 campaign trail, his most creative accomplishment.
“The Dark Horse.” Congressman Jack Tanner gears up for the New Hampshire Primary. 60 min.
“For Real.” With an entourage of reporters in tow, the campaign tour begins with an assassination attempt in Nashville. 32 min.
Tanner ’88 (episodes 3–5)
1988. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Teleplay by Garry Trudeau. With Michael Murphy, Cynthia Nixon, Pamela Reed, Cleavon Little, Rebecca De Mornay. Altman increasingly added chance into the show’s scripts and improvisation into the filming process.
“The Night of the Twinkies.” Tanner’s old friendship with a civil rights minister is compromised by his overeager staff. 32 min.
“Moonwalker and Bookbag.” The candidate is arrested at an anti-Apartheid rally. 31 min.
“Bagels with Bruce.” Troubled by unsolicited policy initiatives by his daughter, Tanner receives advice about the media and self-control from congressman Bruce Babbitt. 31 min.
Program 94 min.
Tanner ’88 (episodes 6–8)
1988. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Teleplay by Garry Trudeau. With Michael Murphy, Cynthia Nixon, Pamela Reed, Linda Ellerbee. The false sense of authenticity achieved by the director and Doonesbury cartoonist Trudeau became a model for the reality-TV programming that dominates much of cable today.
“Child’s Play.” Hoping to improve his celebrity profile, Tanner travels to Los Angeles. 31 min.
“The Great Escape.” A television debate with Jesse Jackson proves to be an explosive highlight of the campaign. 32 min.
“The Girlfriend Factor.” Drugs policy and revelations about his romantic life preface Tanner’s disturbing visit to a low-income neighborhood in Detroit. 32 min.
Program 95 min.
Tanner ’88 (episodes 9–11)
1988. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Teleplay by Garry Trudeau. With Michael Murphy, Cynthia Nixon, Pamela Reed. The series was a career high for Murphy, whose history as an Altman performer spanned 40 years.
“Something Borrowed, Something New.” Things heat up with wedding plans, a family visit, and a provocative cabinet list. 32 min.
“The Boiler Room.” With his campaign losing ground, Tanner makes last-ditch efforts to challenge Michael Dukakis. 32 min.
“The Reality Check.” Tanner ponders his future as a third-party candidate. 31 min.
Tanner on Tanner
2004. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Teleplay by Garry Trudeau. With Michael Murphy, Cynthia Nixon, Pamela Reed, Aasif Mandvi. This four-part sequel to Tanner ’88 is a satire on documentary filmmaking, shot during the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Now an ambitious filmmaker enjoying privileged status as the daughter of a failed presidential candidate, Alex (Nixon) is forced to choose between her integrity and her father’s political future. Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Michael Moore, Charlie Rose, and Martin Scorsese all appear as themselves. Courtesy Sandcastle5. 109 min.
Television Program 6
Digital video presentations courtesy the Robert Altman Collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive.
The Caine Mutiny Court Martial
1988. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Herman Wouk. With Eric Bogosian, Jeff Daniels, Brad Davis, Peter Gallagher. Altman’s final military drama—and the last of his stage adaptations—is a remake of Wouk’s model trial drama about ambition and loyalty following a mutinous incident at sea. 100 min.
1975. Directed by Robert Altman. Screenplay by Joan Tewkesbury. With Ronee Blakley, Henry Gibson, Lily Tomlin, Keith Carradine, Barbara Harris. From the music capital of the nation, Altman delivers a kaleidoscopic portrait of 1970s America in one of his career highlights. The intersecting lives of two dozen characters—music stars of all stripes, tone-deaf wannabe, underhanded politico, insufferable reporter—deliver a disaffected view of show business and its close cousin, electoral politics. Featuring original songs performed live by members of the cast, Nashville got to the heart of American life in all its madcap glory, becoming an instant, freewheeling classic. Courtesy Paramount Pictures. Digital projection. 159 min.
Television Program 7
"Together" (from Alfred Hitchcock Presents)
1958. Teleplay by Robert C. Dennis. With Joseph Cotten, Christine White, Sam Buffington. This melodrama about a murderer trapped with his victim might be viewed as a rehearsal for the self-imposed containment of a President confronting his misdemeanors in Altman’s Secret Honor. Courtesy NBCUniversal. 30 min.
“A Lion Walks Among Us” (from Bus Stop)
1961. Teleplay by Ellis Kadison, from the novel The Judgment, by Tom Wicker. With Fabian, Diane Foster, Richard Anderson, Philip Abbott. The director’s presentation of pop star Fabian as a psychopathic murderer was so provocative in its day that it led to a Congressional Investigation of violence in broadcast television. Courtesy The Paley Center for Media and Twentieth Century Fox. 60 min.
2014. Canada. Directed by Ron Mann. Screenplay by Len Blum. With Paul Thomas Anderson, Robin Williams, Lily Tomlin, Elliott Gould, Julianne Moore, Sally Kellerman, Michael Murphy. Mann’s heartfelt documentary explores definitions of “Altmanesque” using the testimony of collaborators, film and television excerpts, home movies, and Altman’s own words. 95 min.
The Perfect Crime
1955. USA. Robert Altman. 29 min.
1957. USA. Robert Altman. 72 min.
Television Program 1
“Nightmare in Chicago” (adapted from Kraft Suspense Theatre: Once Upon a Savage Night)
1964. USA. Robert Altman. 80 min.
“Survival” (from Combat!)
1963. Robert Altman. 47 min.
Pot au Feu
1965. USA. Robert Altman. 4 min.
Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
1982. USA. Robert Altman. 109 min.
Television Program 2
Silent Thunder (from Bonanza)
1960. USA. Robert Altman. 50 min.
All the President’s Women (from Gun)
1997. USA. Robert Altman. 60 min.
1951. USA. Robert Altman. 26 min.
The James Dean Story
1957. USA. Robert Altman. 81 min.
1956. USA. Robert Woodburn. 58 min.
1992. USA. Robert Altman. 124 min.
The Sound of Bells
1952. USA. Robert Altman. 22 min.
1968. USA. Robert Altman. 101 min.
Television Program 3
“Some of the People, Some of the Time” (from Route 66)
1961. USA. Robert Altman. 60 min.
“The Young One” (from Alfred Hitchcock Presents)
1957. USA. Robert Altman. 30 min.
1966. USA. Robert Altman. 4 min.
That Cold Day in the Park
1969. USA. Robert Altman. 113 min.
1966. USA. Robert Altman. 4 min.
1970. USA. Robert Altman. 116 min.
Behind the Scenes of Brewster McCloud [excerpt]
1970. USA. Robert Altman. 5 min.
1970. USA. Robert Altman. 105 min.
1971. USA. Marianne Dolan. 9 min.
McCabe and Mrs. Miller
1971. Robert Altman. 120 min.
2001. USA. Marianne Dolan. 9 min.
1972. USA. Robert Altman. 101 min.
2001. USA. Robert Altman. 137 min.
1966. USA. Robert Altman. 4 min.
The Long Goodbye
1973. USA. Robert Altman. 112 min.
1947. USA. Edward L. Marin. 90 min.
Thieves like Us
1974. USA. Robert Altman. 124 min.
1948. USA. Richard Fleischer. 62 min.
1974. USA. Robert Altman. 108 min.
Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson
1976. USA. Robert Altman. 123 min.
1966. Robert Altman. 4 min.
1977. USA. Robert Altman. 124 min.
“Dinah Goes to a Wedding” [excerpt] (from Dinah!)
1978. USA. Robert Altman. 10 min.
1978. USA. Robert Altman. 125 min.
1979. USA. Robert Altman. 118 min.
Altman Book Signing
In conjunction with the Museum’s comprehensive Robert Altman retrospective, the coauthors of Altman (Abrams, 2014)—Kathryn Reed Altman, the director’s wife, and Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan—join screenwriter Joan Tewkesbury and actor Michael Murphy for a special book signing. Lavishly illustrated with previously unseen family photographs, production shots, and film stills from the Altman Archive, the 335 page book is a memoir, a celebration of the director, and a monographic survey of work by the iconic independent filmmaker, featuring tributes and texts by Michael Murphy, E. L. Doctorow, Jules Feiffer, James Franco, Pauline Kael, Alan Rudolph, Lily Tomlin, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., and others.
The signing will be followed by a screening of Nashville. (Tickets required)
1975. Robert Altman. 159 min.