Biographical Sketch

"I am really sorry that I can't be in Ann Arbor when 'The Player' is being shown. As you know, I have a special place in my Psyche for your city."    Robert Altman, 1992.

Robert Bernard Altman (1925-2006) was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, and maintained a soft spot for Midwestern directness throughout his life.  

This exhibit would not have been possible without the incredible Altman Archive, and the family, friends, and colleagues of Robert Altman who worked tirelessly for decades to assemble and preserve these materials so that there is a documentary heritage of Robert Altman’s work.



Photograph of Robert Altman as a young boy with his mother, Helen Altman.

We dedicate this exhibit, with gratitude, to

The Robert Altman Estate & Mrs. Kathryn Reed Altman

Robert Altman made films.  He made films as a director, but he also had his own production companies and sometimes served as the producer or screenwriter for films.  By working mainly outside the studio system he was able to control nearly every aspect of the films he made.  After directing television shows for a time, his first major movie success was M*A*S*H in 1970.  His last film was A Prairie Home Companion in 2006.  In between there were picks and pans, ups and downs, but always the Altman touches in everything he did.  Working apart from major studios and often within his own production companies also meant that he both accumulated and owned the records of his productions.  Thank goodness he realized early on that it would be a good idea to hang on to these records.


Kathryn Reed Altman, ca. 1960.


Robert Altman wasn’t born in Michigan, didn’t attend the University of Michigan, and never lived in Michigan, apart from a few months in the early 1980s.  But he is inextricably linked to our state and to the University of Michigan because we have the privilege and honor of housing and preserving the Robert Altman Archive.

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Robert Altman on the University of Michigan campus, 1982.

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