Robert Altman: Jumping Off the Cliff: A Biography of the Great American Director

Patrick McGilligan, Author St. Martin's Press $24.95 (652p) ISBN 978-0-312-02636-3
Based on prodigious research including dozens of interviews, this perceptive unauthorized biography pierces the mystique surrounding the maverick film director. Altman has encouraged his image as the lone genius in revolt against Hollywood, yet McGilligan ( Cagney ) shows how much his breakaway films of the 1970s--from McCabe and Mrs. Miller to California Split --depended on an unsung collaboration with his ``talent trust'' of friends and cohorts. Egomania, paranoia, drugs, temper tantrums, a ``party-animal lifestyle'' and isolation have plagued the wild boy from Kansas City, Mo., according to those interviewed here. McGilligan dutifully traces Altman's long apprenticeship, first making Midwestern industrial films, later as a relatively anonymous L.A. director of TV series ( Alfred Hitchcock Presents ; Whirlybirds ; The Millionaire ; Bonanza ; etc.). But, as he tracks the guarded director's career from M*A*S*H through the flops, fizzes and brilliant flashes of the late 1970s and '80s, the inner man remains frustratingly elusive. Photos. (May)
Reviewed on: 08/01/1989
Release date: 08/01/1989
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 978-0-312-05505-9
Paperback - 676 pages - 978-0-312-30467-6
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