Long recognized as a true auteur in American cinema despite his rather confrontational on set demeanor, director Robert Altman brought an ironic and irreverent perspective to his films that often deconstructed classic film genres like Westerns, crime dramas, musicals and classic whodunits. His films were filled with unexpected quirks, overlapping dialogue - often improvised - and an acutely iconoclastic point of view that was deftly used to skewer long-standing American values. Following a rather inauspicious entry into moviemaking by way of industrial films, Altman cut his teeth in television on shows like "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (CBS/NBC, 1955-1965) before making his mark on American cinema with "M*A*S*H" (1970), a loose and irreverent look at a group of hedonistic army surgeons and nurses that tapped into the angst of the antiwar generation growing up under the shadow of the Vietnam War. Altman next turned his attention to revitalizing the Western with "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" (1971), before earning the enmity of critics who blasted the director for his irreverent caricature of Philip Marlowe in "The Long Goodbye" (1973). But he earned back their admiration tenfold with "Nashville" (1975), a multi-layered satire that followed 24 main characters in numerous intersecting storylines that ably weaved a tapestry depicting the folly of pursuing fame in America. After that critical success, which was later widely considered to be his best film, Altman hit a long, slow slide that ended in the commercial and critical debacle known as "Popeye" (1980). The director spent the ensuing decade making interesting low-budget indies like "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean" (1982), "Secret Honor" (1984) and "Vincent and Theo" (1990) before returning to the Hollywood fold with a biting satire, "The Player" (1992), which savaged the very industry that embraced his return. Altman helmed another multi-character piece, "Short Cuts" (1993), a darkly comic look at relationships surviving contemporary Los Angeles that recalled his efforts on "Nashville" two decades prior. Following another brief creative lull that saw "Ready to Wear (Pret-a-Porter)" (1994) and "Kansas City" (1996) added to his canon, the director earned high praise and fawning reverence for the comedy-of-manners wrapped around a country manor whodunit, "Gosford Park" (2001), which underscored arguably one of the most important cinematic careers of the late 20th century.