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The Religious Affiliation of
Robert Altman
acclaimed American director


Robert Altman is listed on the "Famous Catholics" list at: http://www.geocities.com/catholic_prayer/fc_list.html (viewed 10 July 2005).

From: "Biography for Robert Altman" on IMDb.com [Internet Movie Database] (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000265/bio; viewed 10 July 2005):

On February 20th, 1925 in Kansas City, Missouri, Robert Altman was born to B.C. (an insurance salesman) and Helen Altman. He entered St. Peters Catholic school at the age six, and spent a short time at a Catholic high school. From there he went to Rockhurst high school.
About Robert Altman's grandparents, and their Catholic wedding, from: Patrick McGilligan, Robert Altman: Jumping Off the Cliff, St. Martin's Press: New York (1989), pages 35-36:
"Give me a child for the first seven years of his life, and I will form the man" is said to be a Jesuit credo.

No one can trace the origin of that provocative maxim, which is often twisted into an impugnment of Catholic parochial education in general; and there is some dispute as to whether or not it was ever actually uttered. But in Altman's case, it bears quoting. His upbringing was staunchly Roman Catholic for seven and more of the formative years of his life.

In interviews, Altman has often denied the Catholic influence. He has said Catholicism "ceased to have a hold on me in fifth grade"--which seems a rather astounding leap for a fifth-grader. Alman has also said that his Catholicism was diluted, since his mother, Hlen, was "not a Catholic," which would be news to a lot of people who regarded her as quite a dedicated convert.

"Catholicism was to me school," he has said. "It was restrictions; it was things you had to do. It was your parents. It was Mass on Sunday and fish on Friday. And then when I got out of that, I got into the Army. It was the same thing--you had to have a pass to get out. You had to wear this kind of clothes, and you had to address them so-and-so . . . you've got to wear a tie to get into this restaurant or you've got to have a suit if you're going to the party. Or you don't try to [have sex with] a girl on the first date if she comes from a good family. All of those things. I was never a revolutionary. Those were just some of the things in life that you had to do."

Yet many people who know Altman feel his half-denials of Catholicism are but proof in reverse that Catholicism is embedded deeply in his life and in his films. And that the guilt, the fatalistic viewpoint, the themes of death and redemption, the ambivalent attitude toward women and family, the furtive sex and loe, the questioning of command and leadership (which is a kind of Jesuitical questioning of God)--all of these, so prevalent in his films--have their roots in his early Catholicism.

That Catholicism began in the home and was furthered in parochial school.

Wheareas it was more prestigious (and expensive) to attend Pembroke Country Day School (and some of the other Altmans did just that), B.C. and Helen's children were enrolled in St. Peter's right down the block at the coner of Meyer and Holmes. St. Peter's was a truly excellent parochial school in 1931 when Robert Bernard Altman formally began his primary education at the age of six.

It was a school with an unusual degree of emphasis on personal expression through the arts--owing to the influence of a young and forward-looking pastor, Monsignor McKay... Even if no one can recall noticing any particular theatrical aptitude in a little boy named Robert Altman, it is clear that something other than mass and doughnuts was on the agenda at St. Peter's.

Of course, the curriculum stressed the fundamentals of arithmetic, reading, writing, and spelling; but [there was even things like] a special two-reel comedy at a pre-Lenten party hosted by the pastor... The attitude toward motion pictures was refreshing and contemporary, and when there wasa a particularly appealing film at the local neighborhood movie shrine, there would be a class excursion.

About Robert Altman's grandparents, and their Catholic wedding, from: McGilligan, page 19:
By 1984, Frank Sr.'s net worth was estimaed in contemporary newspaper accounts at $200,000 (which would make Frnak Sr. a millionaire several times over in today's terms), and he was looking for a bride. He found one in Annetta Matilda Bolt of Peoria, Illinois, known to friends and loved ones affectionately as Nettie Bolt... The wedding ceremony, a Catholic one, took place in Peoria...
About Robert Altman's grandparents (Frank Altman Sr. and his wife) and their children, including Robert Altman's father Bernard Altman ("B.C."), from: McGilligan, pages 20-22:
After coming to Kansas City... In all there were six children, four girls and two boys [including] Bernard (b. 1901)... Annette [Robert Altman's paternal aunt] became an accomplished harpist, and also performed publicly, while Marie, quite the pianist and singer, graced various civic recitals, benefit theatricals, and church choir events... The only Altman-Bolt female to endure in show business, after a fashion, was Pauline [Robert Altman's aunt], who cultivated the study of violen and opera...

[page 21] ...He [Robert Altman's grandfather Frank Altman Sr.] died suddenly on June 21, 1917, at fifty-seven. After driving his car home from work, Frank Sr. complained of feeling sick and nauseous. A physician diagnosed acute indigestion, adding that the condition was not serious. Frank Sr. retired and appeared to rest easy. At one-thirty in the morning, the family became concerned, and a priest as summoned. Father Fowler lived directly across the street and reached Frank G. Altman's bedside in time to administer the last rights. The patriarch of the Altman family died at 1:50 A.M.

His moral and charitable habits were eulogized in a leading Catholic newspaper of the day. The thronged funeral had a forty-voice choir made up of volunteers from all they city parishes. His generosity to the Catholic Church was priased--all his children had been or were being educated in the Catholic school system--but the full extent of his benefactions was only partly known. "He [Frank Sr.] was a regular financial contributor to almost every charitable institution in the city," the Catholic press reported, "and he is receiving his reward a hundred fold in the prayers and Masses being offered up for him by the inmates of these institutions. Not long ago, the House of Good Shepherd needed some coats and the need came to Mr. Altman's ears. Within a short time, a hundred and fifty coats from his own stock were sent out. . . ."

McGilligan, page 24:
B.C. [Robert Altman's father] was the only family family member [among his siblings] to stay in Kansas City. He was marrying Helen Mathews, from Nebraska, and settling down to family life. His bride traced her lineage to ancestors who came over on the Mayflower, and she was as sensible and low-key as B.C. was wanton and irresistible. It was not an obstacle that she was not Catholic. She was willing to convert and did, and in time became one of the devout.

Into this heritage one Robert Bernard Altman was born on July 20, 1925, the first grandchil--the first male heir--of the Altman dynasty. To see the world through his eyes you must first enter it as he did, with the world seeming to be his oyster. He was the oldest boy in an extended family that valued a male heir. He lived in a provincial city where the name of Altman was honored. He was the grandson of the fabled Frank Sr. and the son of the storied B.C.

McGilligan, pages 30-31:
Like Frank Sr. [Robert Altman's grandfather], B.C. [Robert Altman's father] was a soft touch and donated a lot of time and money to the Catholic Church, whether it was on the small scale of taking a priest down to Union Station or on a larger scale of contributing substantially to parochial education. Though not as zealous a Catholic as Helen [Robert Altman's mother], he was nonetheless a devoted one, a churchgoer, a relied-upon donor, and an active participant in diocesan affairs. When someone was needed to spearhead fundraising for Bishop Hogan High School, B.C. was the man. When someone was needed to chair a reduction of the parish debt, B.C. was the man.
McGilligan, page 34:
As devoted to golf and bridge as B.C. [Robert Altman's father] was to hunting and gambling, she [Robert Atlman's mother Helen Altman] donated to charity, chaperoned a Girl Scout troop, and had a busy calender of Catholic fashion shows and charity events.
From the introduction to the Robert Altman biography written by Patrick McGilligan, from: McGilligan, pages xviii-xix:
Pauline Kael's provocative remark that so many of the best contemporary U.S. directors operate from a Catholic psychology intrigued me. So did the fact that Altman, unlike so many of the younger generation of directors, is from the Midwest, not New York or Los Angeles, and springs from a rather ordinary middle-class upbringing... So did the relationship between his recurrent themes and their real-life corollaries--the free-flight metaphor and the antimilitary stance, the family bond and female neuroses, the Catholicism and the questioning of leadership, and so on.
McGilligan, pages 37-38:
...[young Robert] Altman was involved in the organized middle-class Catholic routine of Boy Scouts, junior league sports... and honor roll... When Altman graduated from St. Peter's [Catholic parochial school] at the age of thirteen in June of 1938, he would go onto Rockhurst High School... Rockhurst, run by the Jesuits (who, in reality, can claim to have had Robert Altman in their grasp for only a few months), was a highly structured secondary school that emphasized philosophy, the classics, and Greek and Latin.

Decorum was bred in him, at home and at St. Peter's, but his inclinations were, like [his father] B.C.'s, more mischievous... Altman grew bored in classes, and was reprimanded for putting snakes from biology experiments in lcokers and writing frivolous letters in study hall. The Jesuits' idea of punishment was to make him sit in a corner and read a book, which suited Altman. It was more escape than punishment.

His personality was manifesting itself as sensitive, precocious, strong-willed... One friend remembers Altman's disarming way of telling jokes and spinning yarns. At other times, he could be very serious. Another childhood friend distinctly remembers Altman trying to convince her of the correctness of Catholic doctrine, which offended him less at that point than the regimentation at Rockhurst.

There was some final straw the Jesuits. Or maybe the teenager finally convinced Helen and B.C. [Robert Altman's parents] to let him go to Southwest, the public school... There, in grades ahead of him and behind him, were most of the non-Catholic kids from his neighborhood, generally from slightly more affluent families, lily-white and WASP [i.e., White Anglo-Saxon Protestant].

The middle class of Kansas City was not that much affected by the Depression... Cash might be less readily at hand, but the afluence was still there. At St. Peter's, Monsignor McKay had to chide his parishioners for using "the smokescreen of the Depression" to reduce their Sunday offerings.

McGilligan, pages 42 and 44:
[Robert] Altman left Southwest in the middle of his junior year, and went to Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington, Missouri... Because Wentworth professed to be "Christian-oriented," there were nondenominational chapel exercises weekly on Saturday and cadets were required to attend church services somewhere in town every Sunday.
While attending Wentworth Military Academy (apparently as a high school senior), Robert Altman lost his virginity in brothel (named Helen's) in Lexington, Missouri (source: McGilligan, pages 46-47).

About the collaboration between Robert Altman and actor Tom Laughlin when making Altman's 1957 film The Delinquents, from: McGilligan, page 111:

It was not a marriage made in heaven: the square, free-wheeling Altman and the bohemian, mercurial Laughlin, both of them future counterculture heroes. Altman has described Laughlin during the filming as "an unbelievable pain in the ass," totally egomaniacal, guilty that he had not become a priest, with a "big Catholic hang-up" and a James Dean complex.
Stewart Stern recalled that Robert Altman led him to believe that that he was immersed in psychiatric therapy. Therapy is here referred to as the "rational religion." Certainly therapy is a religion, but it is not actually regarded as necessarily any more or less "rational" than any other religion. Altman also told Robert Blees that he was "half-Jewish." Altman was not Jewish and may not actually have been therapy at the time. In fact, Altman appears to hold therapy in very low regard. McGilligan, pages 120-121:
[circa 1957] Yet Stern does remember liking Altman and feeling drawn to him. "At that point in his life," says [Stewart] Stern, "as many of us were, he was in search of himself." Stern recalls Alman as admitting to marital troubles and mid-life crides, as being (like himself) immersed in therapy.

...The part about undergoing therapy may or may not be consistent--Badiyi says he never saw Altman so happy in his life as during the first anonymous year in Hollywood. And no other friend or associate recalls Alman, not the most introspective character in the world, as ever havin been in therapy. (Judging by the superficial, derisive comedy of Beyond Therapy, his only film to linger on the subject, Altman, in any case, has nothing very cosmic to say about the "rational religion.")

It may have been Altman's protective coloration, his way of presenting himself as simpatico with Stern, as when Altman told witer-producer Robert Blees, more than once, that he was "half-Jewish." Altman may have meant that metaphorically, but he led Blees to believe it literally. There is nothing in the family genealogy to confirm it.

McGilligan, page 128:
[1955] ...Altman, by prearrangement, met director Alfred Hitchcock.

Hitchcock, in his mid-fifties, as halfway through one of the cinema's greatest careers, a career that managed to combine box-office appeal and production values with the highest aesthetic standards. Besides Catholicism (Hitchcock was more of a practitioner than Altman), Hitchcock had in common with the struggling director a passion for technical innovation and camera experimentation.

McGilligan, page 146:
[John] Stephens says he and Altman used to have long philosophical discussions about things like religion and drinking. Stephens believed Altman to be very conflicted about his Catholic upbringing, and guilty, still, for having torn himself away from it. "He was fighting against it. That was probably another factor in his drinking. Anyone with a strong Catholic upbringing who breaks away from it will always have those guilt feellings as to whether or not you're really doing the right thing. Once you're exposed, once you're taught, you can say anything you want to say about what you don't believe--but what is it you don't believe?"
McGilligan, page 148:
At least one significant relationship for Altman evolved out of The Millionaire, and that was his friendship with involvement with writer John T. Kelley.

A Catholic, Kelley had been a writer-director of the Family Theatre radio series on the Mutual Broadcasting System. Altman had picked up and read a screenplay of Kelley's called The Enemy, about a World War II regiment befriended by a spy. Altman was very enthusiastic about the script and gave Kelley an idea. The central character, Altman suggested, ought to be a black man. Much later, Kelley's script, which never sold to movies, was produced on The Danny Thomas Hour with Sammy Davis Jr. in the lead.

At the time Altman met him, Kelley was a relative nonentity, in Hollywood's terms. He liked and needed Altman as much as Altman needed him--needed a writer to latch on to. Kelley's scripts for The Millionaire were his entree into serial television, after which he followed Altman into The Troubleshooters, Bonanza, the Kraft anthology serials, and more.

But independent of Altman, Kelley came into his own--as a writer of television episodes (he wrote a celebrated segment of Dr. Kildare called "Shining Image," which earned for its star, Suzanne Pleshette, an Emmy nomination) and as an often anonymous "script doctor" brought in to revise or patch motion pictures alredy in production.

McGilligan, page 183:
Within a few months of the success of M*A*S*H (on which [John T.] Kelley did some uncreditd 'n' polish), Kelley was diagnosed with cancer. In 1972, he died.

Kelley and [Davis] Dortort had remained in touch. Dortort and his wife went to the funeral ceremony at a Catholic church in Beverly Hills. Everyone was waiting for Altman, the newly crowned king of Hollywood, with his dread of death and funerals, his love for and his complicated relationship with Kelley, to show up. He didn't appear.

It was kind of indicative," is what Dortort says.

After the memorial was over and people were getting into their cars to leave, Altman pulled up with a squeal of tires, as if making a grand late entrance, slammed the door of his car, and lurched out, asking, "Am I late?" Abigail Shelton Kelley just looked at him and said nothing.

McGilligan, page 199:
In [Robert Altman's acclaimed military TV series Combat] series star Vic Morrow, he [Robert Altman] had an alter ego who in real life was haunted by unobtainable goals, and who was hypersensitive as an actor. Morrow became the perfect human symbol for Altman in what was an exceedingly Catholic perspective on the fate of men in armed struggle. In episode after episode, his Sgt. Chip Saunders was filmed by Altman as well as by succeeding directors as a martyr to the vagaries of war--riddled with wounds, backlit with bursting flames, condemned to agonize over his own responsibilities while others died marching under the stupid orders from higher ups.
McGilligan, page 312:
The nonlinear storytelling, the anatomized camerawork, the "tintinnabulation" of sound, the "flip" performances--on the level of technique, M*A*S*H was not only synchronous with the times (with Easy Rider, it was really the first mainstream "dope-consciousness" movie) but so avant-garde then that it is still courant now. In terms of stylistic innovation, no film comedy has had such an earthquaklike influence on post-Vietnam Era filmmakers. So many of the director's choices were radical--right down to the off-hand one of having his teenage son Mike compose the lyrics for the theme song (with its haunting anti-Catholic lyric, "Suicide is painless/it brings on many changes. . . ."), which is so memorable that many viewers left the theatre humming it.

Mike Altman brought the lyric to Preminger and asked for only a new guitar as payment. Preminger took him to the studio legal department and had a contract formally drawn up, which resulted in young Altman's earning royalties from the television theme song all through the years. His father enjoyed complaining that his son made more money from M*A*S*H than he ever did.

McGilligan, pages 320-322:
Many of Altman's best touches [in M*A*S*H] are in the nature of emphasis... The anticlericalism, for example. Altman had been brooding about Catholicism for a long time. (Ring Lardner [the screenwriter of M*A*S*H, who won an Academ Award for his script], too, had been mulling the Catholic religion, and while Blacklisted in the 1950s, he wrote a satirical novel on the subject, The Ecstasy of Owen Muir.) Though Altman remained a sort of Catholic (he had his children baptized), he bridled at the tenets of the Church. Here, in M*A*S*H, his assult on the Church was blistering.

Major Frank Burns's (Robert Duvall) self-righteous beliefs, Dago Red's (Rene Auberjonois) dazed cleric), the simulation of "The Last Supper," the chorale of "Onward, Christian Soldiers"--these are all in the book and in the script. But as with Hot Lips, these characters and scenes touched on some of Altman's own areas of interest, and he embellished them. Major Burns's and Hot Lips's Christianity is undercut and ridicules via the overwrought intensity of their mealy-mouthing. In the script "The Last Supper" is a simple testimonial dinner described by Lardner as a "stag banquet." It was Altman who staged it brilliantly like the da Vinci painting with sacrilegious symbolism.

And as funny as Ring Lardner is--this is a man with funnybones in his genes--Altman and the M*A*S*H cast did in the heat of the moment contribute some of the dialogue high points unaccounted for in the script. From book to final script draft, Hot Lips has the line that practically sums up the thesis of the film: "I wonder how a degenerate person like you could have reached a position of responsibilty in the Army Medical Corps." To which Hawkeye replies, "Sister, if I knew the answer to that, I sure as hell wouldn't be here."

Not bad, but not good enough. In the movie, Hawkeye replies not at all, and Dago Red looks up from his priestly bewilderment long enough to utter the immortal: "He was drafted."

Robert Altman was notorious for claiming credit for film writing which he did not actually do, but which was done by screenwriters. It never ceased to bother him that screenwriter Ring Lardner, Jr. received the only Academy Award received by M*A*S*H. Altman famously attempted tried to diminish the contributions of Lardner, even going so far as suggesting that he scrapped most of Lardner's script and "winged it" when making the movie. The notion that he did this is easily refuted, by comparing the shooting script written by Lardner to the finished film. McGilligan, page 322:
When a director lives with a movie long enough, he begins to forget what it is he has thought of and what it is the writer has thought of; that is natural, if somewhat devious.

M*A*S*H was so amazingly in synch with Altman: with its helicopters from The Whirlybirds, its antiwar symptoms from Combat, the locker-room language, voyeuristic nudity, Catholic riffs, the marijuana consciousness--even the fellow named Radar, a recall of his own World War II unit.

McGilligan, page 356:
An interesting sidelight is cast on the "subliminal sources" of Images by Altman's own publicity, which states that the director "has never known a woman like the one in this script." Nor, say the publicity notes, is the moive "in any sense autobiographical." But there is an intriguing mention of "a bizarre poem about mirrors" that Altman wrote when he was thirteen, "as a Jesuit school lad in Kansas City." Hmmm.
McGilligan, page 400:
Altman also insisted on an assassination at the end of the storyline [in Nashville]. The ritual killing had become a pattern in the climaxes of his films: the stabbings of Cold Day and Images, the martyrdoms of Brewster and McCabe, the gunning-down of Bowie in Thieves Like Us, Marlowe's shooting of his pal in The Long Goodbye. Some critics saw in this syndrome a kind of Catholic crucifixion of the protagonist; others, simply tried-and-true dramatics. (Tewkesbury, in one interview, said it may that each film, for Altman, symbolized a lifetime, and that each death was for him an exorcism, a way of terminating that film's lifetime.)
McGilligan, pages 489-490:
No occasion was too sacrosanct. Altman's good sense was deserting him, and he seemed increasingly isolated even among his adherents. The drug bingeing was having an effect not only on the waywardness of the films, but on the vautned family atmosphere on the set. Passing the joint sealed the "mystical bargain" of filmmaking, Altman had told Aljean Harmetz of The New York Times back in 1973. But now, those on the set who did not indulge in drugs or who skipped the dailies of their own accord felt the tension of Altman's Us. vs. Them delineations.

To the press, Altman still appeared in the guise of a jaunty antiestablishment filmmaking lodestar. But he was deeply unhinged about losing the Oscar--first for M*A*S*H and then for Nashville--by the dwindling box-office receipts and the unreleased films...

Things Germanic filled his mind. Drunk and rambling, Altman would rant about international bankers and "Levantine types," those "Levantine types" who ran the studios in Hollywood. It was almost a comical thing, boiling to the surface at the end of a particularly hard day in a conversation with a producer over the phone. "Jew!" Altman would shout. Friends excused it as the director's way of rattling someone. It was a Kansas City provincialism.

A lot of Hollywood's reasons for shunning Altman was small-minded. But there was, too, the distinct impression that this director, from Middle America and a German Catholic background, was in the depths of his heart contemptuous and hateful toward them (whether they were Jewish or not). Thankfully, this aspect of Robert Altman never found voice in one of his motion pictures, yet it was always there, hovering, a constant of his dark side.

From the epilogue of McGilligan's biography of Robert Altman, from: McGilligan, page 551:
The director [Robert Altman] looks in the miror, and his attention is distracted by something in the back of his mind. Altman does not think much about Kansas City these days, but occasionally he flashes on growing up there, on [his father] B.C. and the Altman buildings, the Catholics and Calvin [the company he made industrial films for].
Pages 193-197 in McGilligan's biography of Robert Altman detail Robert Altman's clash with Senator Thomas J. Dodd of Connecticut. (Senator Dodd was a devout Catholic. Senator Thomas J. Dodd's son Chris Dodd would later become a senator from Connecticut. Senator Chris Dodd was, like his father, a Catholic; he was married to a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.) Senator Thomas J. Dodd was deeply concerned with negative influence of immorality in film and other media. McGilligan, pages 193-194:
As part of the general all-around bad timing, there was in Congress a Senator from Connecticut by the name of Thomas J. Dodd, who was something of a crusader in the area of media influence on juvenile delinquents, and already in the midst of subcommittee inquiries into that and related matters. Senator Dodd did not himself view the Fabian episode [the notorious episode titled "A Lion Walks Around Us," from the single-season TV series Bus Stop] when it was broadcast in December of 1961, but he was incensed by reviews such as Newsweek's, which described it as a "cynical, perverted, and flacked-up opus"; TV Guide's blistering put-down; the column of Cecil Smith in The Los Angeles Times that termed it "a sleazy, nasty, sex-laden, slice-of-sensational trash reminiscent of the worst in drug-store fiction"; and the much-quoted verdict of Jack Gould in The New York Times that it amounted to "an hour of dark and sordid ugliness."

Senator Dodd scheduled an inquiry into Bus Stop when the Committee on the Judiciary resumed hearing in January of 1963. For several months before, television writers, producers, agency representatives, and network executives had been systematically interrogated by the committee about their lack of civic responsibility in programming choices. The Federal Communications Commision was castigated for weak-kneed policy. Bus Stop was not the only program to invite scrutiny, but was preceeded to the whipping post by defenders/detractors of Naked City, The Untouchables, Cheyenne, and others. In the nation's newspapers ther was much editorial endorsement of FCC Chairman Newton Minow's harsh a characterization of most television programming as a "vast wasteland."

In this atmosphere, Bus Stop was raw meat for the ravenous committee.

After Robert Altman (and many others) was interrogated by a congressional hearing, television networks tried to "clean up" their act and institute more family-friendly programming. From: McGilligan, pages 196-197:
The hearing moved on Goldensohn [after Robert Altman]. He was not allowed to finish his prepared remarks (Dodd had to rush to the Senate floor for a vote on clousre), but Goldensohn was permitted to insert into the record of the proceedings a statement that indicated the intentions of ABC to instutitue "a braoder base of program balance" in the future. This, in the ver next TV season, would include the futuristic cartoon The Jetsons, McHale's Navy, and the immortal I'm Dickens, He's Fenster.

If television was a wasteland when Newton Minow paused to contemmplate it, just stay tuned. In an amusing footnote to the entire brouhaha, the Fabian episode of Bus Stop can be said to have helped usher in the entire Beverly Hillbillies period of mid-Sixties mind-paralyzing sitcoms. This trend was not just happenstance, but in part molded by a fear of government regulation.

Altman, one suspects, was chortling over these developments; but Bus Stop was cancelled after the first season, and never offered for syndication. ("The cancellation came, as all cancellations do, from low ratings," says Huggins. "If it had high ratings, the furor would have been irrelevant.") And, ironically, the director of the episode was never mentioned; Altman's name does not appear in committee transcripts or in media accounts. "They never talked about Altman," says Huggins. "It was as if the show didn't have a director. They only talked about ABC and Fox."

But in industry circles, it was very different. For the first time, Altman basked in the recognition of his peers. No less a luminary than the esteemed motion-picture director William Wyler praised the Fabian episode magnanimously in the trade papers. Novelist Jams Jones was quoted as saying it was a show that "held some hope for the future of TV" in America. At least in Hollywood, Altman was no longer an "invisible man."

"It brought him to the attention of a lot of people who had never heard of Bob Altman," says Blees.

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