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Extended Audio Sample Robert Altman: The Oral Biography Audiobook, by Mitchell Zuckoff Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (153 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Mitchell Zuckoff Narrator: various narrators Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2009 ISBN: 9780307576620
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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 forty 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 page after page of revelations that force us to reevaluate Altman as a man and an artist, and to view his sprawling narratives with large casts, multiple story lines, and overlapping dialogue as unquestionably the work of a modern genius.

From the Hardcover edition. Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • “A big, comprehensive, flesh-and-blood account of Altman’s persona and exploits. . . . [A] sprawling, many-faceted story. Janet Maslin, The New York Times

  • Quite special. . . . This is a smart, amusing, lively book, full of anecdotes and a generous step towards perceiving the glorious and perverse ways of Altman himself. . . . We owe him plenty. David Thomson, The New Republic
  • Invaluable, ingenious and formally unique. . . . Sprawling, cacophonous, contradictory, loopy, laugh-out-loud funny. . . . Something that resembles an Altman film. . . . Altman, that bearded bastard, would have loved it. David Fear, Time Out New York
  • I just now put [Robert Altman: The Oral Biography] down feeling heartbroken but happily and deeply inspired. . . . Wonderful. Wes Anderson
  • Zuckoff’s biography is like his subject’s movies, filled with a multiplicity of voices and averse to defining ‘meaning.’  Yet in the end, readers understand Altman’s stubborn vision, his refusal to compromise with commerce, and his hard-earned, eccentric genius. Chuck Leddy, The Boston Globe
  • [Zuckoff] uses a light editorial hand, allowing a wide range of contributors to have their say. . . . A comprehensive, 360-degree look at a complicated subject. Toby Young, Wall Street Journal
  • A positively ‘Altmanesque’ treatment. . . . [Altman] made a great Western, a great anti-war movie, a great period piece, a great detective picture, a great ballet movie and the how-Hollywood-works movie. And Zuckoff . . . is an apt choice to corner an old fast-talker like Altman. Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel
  • [There are] many surprising and revealing comments that Zuckoff has assembled in his fittingly rambling book. . . . Life is complicated, often messy—as Altman showed us—and his life, as seen in Zuckoff’s book, was no exception. San Francisco Chronicle
  • [A] fitting tribute to one of Hollywood’s greatest directors. . . . A rebel to the end, Altman’s spirit is perfectly captured in this fascinating read. Publishers Weekly (starred review)
  • An engrossing, comprehensive book that gives invaluable insight into the life and work of a truly original artist. Kirkus Reviews

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sam Baber | 2/14/2014

    " so awesome it left me speechless "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Randine | 2/2/2014

    " EXCELLENT biography. I learned how actors ADORED Altman and what a truly unique director he was. You also learn how incredibly difficult it is to finance a film and how Altman bullied his way through the studios and the money. Felt like an honest portrait. Talk about a free spirit.... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Christine | 1/24/2014

    " This was incredibly well-edited. It's an oral biography; he interviewed hundreds of people who knew Bob Altman, then wove their stories together in such a way that it felt like you were in the room having a conversation with them. Altman is a fascinating person -- I've lined all of his movies up in my Netflix queue. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cynthia Kane | 1/24/2014

    " I love Altman's films - the ones that succeeded and the ones that "failed"; he was a true cinematic artist. This was a quick and entertaining read that reminded me to relook at all the films. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Walter | 1/19/2014

    " Like many others, I'm hoping an in depth analysis of O.C. and Stiggs will be found in this book. And I guess The Long Goodbye,too; but if not...well, that's OK with me. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Robert | 1/1/2014

    " Decent oral biography of the man, but suffers by not really going in-depth on some of the work. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sherrie | 12/27/2013

    " A biography that manages to be comprehensive AND entertaining, taking on the rhythms and cadences of everyone's memories so as to mimic Altman's greatest works themselves, crammed to the gills with charming, eccentric people - I think I read this in two or three long, happy sittings. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sean Fennessey | 12/15/2013

    " Maybe the single most inspiring book I've ever read. Failure comes as easily as success. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Karen | 11/30/2013

    " Very comprehensive look at Altman's career. Nobody had neutral feelings about him. Now is time to rewatch some of the great films like Nashville, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Gosford Park and hunt down the few I haven't seen. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 K Nolfi | 11/11/2013

    " This book is incredible. I wish I had read it among company and not alone at night and on the bus because I wanted to share some of these very funny and crazy stories. I love oral biographies--this is as good or better than Edie's. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Johnnm | 10/10/2013

    " An entertaining read of a more entertaining subject. A fun oral biography. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Corey | 7/14/2013

    " A fascinating biography, told appropriately in a chorus of voices, eminently readable. It's a fitting tribute to a brilliant director, maybe the best America has produced. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 M. Sarki | 4/22/2013

    " Very nice work. With all the interviews by the people who knew Robert Altman the best, I feel we got a very good picture of the man as well as the artist. He was a fine director who appreciated people who worked hard both in their art and play. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Miriam | 4/22/2013

    " Almost done. A completely absorbing study of Altman - very clever, I thought, to have the multiple voices. Obviously Altmanesque. I wanted more on the making of the movies, but I thought it did a decent job of providing a relatively balanced view (not that I know him at all) of the man. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Obxboy | 4/10/2013

    " A very enjoyable read, although oral biographies are my favorite type, so I'm a bit prejudiced. I would have liked an even further in-depth examination of Altman's films. For that reason, I ordered 'Altman on Altman.' "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rob | 1/26/2013

    " Easily one of the best film biographies I've ever read, with a cast as star-studded as any Altman film. I couldn't put it down! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ryan Van Runkle | 7/4/2011

    " Great conversational tone. Like sitting at the kitchen table, telling jokes and tales about a legend in American life. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kathy | 5/23/2011

    " Fascinating book! I really enjoy true heroic stories and this one did not let me down. I always feel bad when 'moderm man' visits 'a primitive tribe' and think that they can make their life better. Usually they can't. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Amy | 5/20/2011

    " My type of book....amazing TRUE story with a good ending! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Natasha | 5/17/2011

    " Fascinating story. Interesting part of the world. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Juanita | 5/16/2011

    " I loved this book. I hope it becomes a movie! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Karen | 5/16/2011

    " I can't imagine anyone not finding this book interesting - at the very least. It's a well-researched true account of 3 survivors of a plane crash in the New Guinea jungle during WWII. They were rescued but that's the biggest surprise of the book. You'll just have to read it. "

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About the Author
Author Mitchell Zuckoff

Mitchell Zuckoff is a professor of journalism at Boston University. Previously, he was a reporter and writing coach for the Boston Globe, where he was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting. He has won the Distinguished Writing Award from the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Livingston Award, and the Heywood Broun Award, among other national honors. He received a master’s degree from the University of Missouri and was a Batten Fellow at the University of Virginia. He lives outside Boston.

About the Narrator

Gabrielle de Cuir, award-winning narration, has narrated over two hundred titles and specializes in fantasy, humor, and titles requiring extensive foreign language and accent skills. She was a cowinner of the Audie Award for best narration in 2011 and a three-time finalist for the Audie and has garnered six AudioFile Earphones Awards. Her “velvet touch” as an actor’s director has earned her a special place in the audiobook world as the foremost producer for bestselling authors and celebrities.