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Robert Altman: The Oral Biography | [Mitchell Zuckoff]

Robert Altman: The Oral Biography

Robert Altman - visionary director, hard-partying hedonist, eccentric family man, Hollywood legend - comes roaring to life in this rollicking cinematic biography, told in a chorus of voices that can only be called Altmanesque.
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Publisher's Summary

Robert Altman - visionary director, hard-partying hedonist, eccentric family man, Hollywood legend - comes roaring to life in this rollicking cinematic biography, told in a chorus of voices that can only be called Altmanesque.

His outsized life and unique career are revealed as never before: here are the words of his family and friends, and a few enemies, as well as the agents, writers, crew members, producers, and stars who worked with him, including Meryl Streep, Warren Beatty, Tim Robbins, Julianne Moore, Paul Newman, Julie Christie, Elliott Gould, Martin Scorsese, Robin Williams, Cher, and many others. There is even Altman himself, in the form of his exclusive last interviews.

After an all-American boyhood in Kansas City, a stint flying bombers through enemy fire in World War II, and jobs ranging from dog-tattoo entrepreneur to television director, Robert Altman burst onto the scene in 1970 with the movie M*A*S*H. He revolutionized American filmmaking, and, in a decade, produced masterpieces at an astonishing pace: McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Thieves Like Us, The Long Goodbye, 3 Women, and, of course, Nashville. Then, after a period of disillusionment with Hollywood - as well as Hollywood's disillusionment with him - he reinvented himself with a bold new set of masterworks: The Player, Short Cuts, and Gosford Park. Finally, just before the release of the last of his nearly 40 movies, A Prairie Home Companion, he received an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement from the Academy, which had snubbed him for so many years.

Mitchell Zuckoff - who was working with Altman on his memoirs before he died - weaves Altman's final interviews, an incredible cast of voices, and contemporary reviews and news accounts, into a riveting tale of an extraordinary life. Here are a series of revelations that force us to reevaluate Altman as a man and an artist.

©2009 Mitchell Zuckoff; (P)2009 Random House

What the Critics Say

“A brilliantly researched, near-cinematic evocation. . . . Altman never gave up creating his cinematic portraits of people on the margins—con artists, prostitutes, gamblers, theives, clowns, movie executives—if only to shed light on the falsity behind his country’s seemingly indefatigable, desperate pursuit of success.” (The New Yorker)

“Scrupulously intelligent and entertaining. . . . Noisy, funny, slightly ill considered, a bit chaotic, and wholly believeable. In short, Altmanesque.” (The New York Times Book Review)

“I just now put [Robert Altman] down feeling heartbroken but happily and deeply inspired. . . . Wonderful.” (Wes Anderson)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (37 )
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  •  
    J. Clarke 12-12-09
    J. Clarke 12-12-09

    max31

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    "Better Than The Book, With An All-Star Altman Cast"

    The best audiobook I've listened to in a long time.

    When Robert Altman died a few years ago, it put into doubt the book that he and Mitchell Zuckoff had been working on. It's hard, however, to imagine how their collaboration could be better than this. Robert Altman's discussions of his movie career are included throughout, but the observations by the other narrators make this audiobook better than the book could be.

    Many participants in his movies are quoted at length. In many cases, the narration is done by the actors themselves. For example, Tim Robbins talks about the way he was hired for his starring role in the movie, The Player. Altman's wife, Kathryn, and several of their sons are the actual narrators for their sections. The result is a rich look at his life, as seen by Robert Altman and the people who knew him.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wise & Careful Shopper 10-17-10
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    "Enthralling!"

    I bought this book at full price, and as the read began, felt certain I had made a huge mistake. Contrary to the very misleading description given for this item, 98% of the voices of the celebrity narrators listed-- including Robert Altman, himself --are fudged by 3-4 professional audiobook readers, NOT contributed by the actors, directors and producers themselves. The listing of narrators certainly should be changed to protect buyers.

    Nevertheless, this is a great audiobook, fully captivating, throughout every one of its 18+ hours. In fact, I liked it so much, that the minute it ended, I played it again, start to finish. It is that insightful, informative and entertaining. The actual voices of Altman's wife, Kathryn, and those of his daughters and sons, along with the stunningly good portrayal of Robert Altman's voice by actor, Michael Murphy, are well worth the price of admission. If you weren't an Altman fan before, this will make you want to rent each of his movies in turn, to experience what you've missed of his extraordinary talent on screen. There will never be another like him and he is missed!

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott USA 05-02-12
    Scott USA 05-02-12 Member Since 2006

    “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…The man who never reads lives only one.” (George R. R. Martin)

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    "A Tribute to one of Hollywood’s Last Mavericks"
    What made the experience of listening to Robert Altman the most enjoyable?

    I liked that most of his films were talked about in depth. Also, because it is packed with anecdotes from family members, actors, and crewmembers who mostly read their own accounts.


    What other book might you compare Robert Altman to and why?

    I've listened to and read many actor and filmmaker biographies and this is probably one of the best, if not the best. I'd compare it to David Carradine's 'Endless Highway.'


    What about the narrators’s performance did you like?

    I liked that many of the narrators were actually reading their own anecdotes from the book. I think this elevates the experience over reading the written version.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Not really. It's very long and that's good. I didn't want to stop listening most of the time but to listen to the entire book in one sitting is a bit much.


    Any additional comments?

    I think that this audiobook is one of the best examples of having a listening experience that is greater than the written version because it is packed with anecdotes from family members, actors, and crewmembers who mostly read their own experiences. Altman was a larger-than-life figure who had appetites that matched his filmmaking talents and this is a fitting tribute to one of Hollywood’s last great mavericks. I would highly recommend this title to anyone who is interested in film or listens to biographies about filmmakers.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jody R. Nathan Tulsa, OK USA 09-09-10
    Jody R. Nathan Tulsa, OK USA 09-09-10 Member Since 2002
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    "Great listen"

    I thought this was a wonderful book. Altman seems like a character in one of his movies. Ok, he is not a very attentive father and he has drinking problems, but he seems to have had a great time doing mostly just what he wanted. It was nice to hear the different opinions of him from the people he worked with and around. Narration is good, Not a good listen for children -- some strong language and some discussion of affairs. Now I will have to watch his movies again!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Debra 11-04-11
    Debra 11-04-11 Member Since 2005

    Tell us about yourself!

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    "Where are the Pictures?"

    This is an interesting and informative book. However, the hard back book contains hundreds of pictures. The biggest challenge that I have with audio books do not include a document or an Adobe file to download with the pictures included in the book. This is a big drawback for me as a long time subscriber, which needs to be resolved to compete with the all the downloadable book options available to keep subscribers like myself in the future. I hope they find a resolution to this problem. I have seen these files available for very few of the books, however there are some.

    Enjoyable book and some of the personal information jumps around so it is hard to follow, entertaining.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jacqui Largs Bay, Australia 06-23-11
    Jacqui Largs Bay, Australia 06-23-11 Member Since 2010
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    "Disappointed"

    This could have been very interesting but saying who is speaking EVERT time someone said something was very annoying. I don't beleive it was the actual actors narrating it, and it didn't matter, it was disjointed.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    bookworm 12-04-14
    bookworm 12-04-14

    bookworm

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    "enjoyed it very much"
    What made the experience of listening to Robert Altman the most enjoyable?

    narration by many who knew and worked with him


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Altman who else it speaks for itself


    What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    the actual words of those who made up the book


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    all of it moved me


    Any additional comments?

    get it listen to it then listen to it again.. I did

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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