By RICK LYMAN
Robert Altman, one of the most adventurous and influential American directors of the late 20th century, a filmmaker whose iconoclastic career spanned more than half a century but whose stamp was felt most forcefully in one decade, the 1970s, died Monday in Los Angeles. He was 81. His death, at a hospital, was confirmed today by a friend, the singer Annie Ross. The cause was not announced. Mr. Altman had a heart transplant in the mid-1990s, a fact he publicly revealed for the first time last March while accepting an honorary Oscar at the Academy Awards ceremony.
A risk-taker with a tendency toward mischief, Mr. Altman is perhaps best remembered for a run of masterly films — six in five years — that propelled him to the forefront of American directors and culminated in 1975 with what many regard as his greatest film, “Nashville,” a complex, character-filled drama told against the backdrop of a presidential primary.
They were free-wheeling, genre-bending films that captured the jaded disillusionment of the 70s. The best known was “MASH,” the 1970 comedy set in a field hospital during the Korean war but clearly aimed at antiwar sentiments engendered by Vietnam. Its success, both critically and at the box office, opened the way for Mr. Altman to pursue his ambitions. (more…)