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US Film Director Robert Altman Dies

Pioneering director Robert Altman, the man behind the satirical films "MASH", "Nashville" and "The Player," has died in Los Angeles at the age of 81. Mike O'Sullivan reports, he was considered an outsider in Hollywood.

Altman was known for his irreverent humor, seen in his anti-war classic MASH, which concerned an Army battlefield medical unit in the Korean War.

Altman was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and served in World War II as a bomber pilot. Afterward, he studied engineering and then tried his hand as a screenwriter. He was unable to make much headway in Hollywood, however, so went home to Kansas City to make industrial films.

In 1957 he wrote, produced and directed a low-budget feature called The Delinquents, which led to a career as a director in television.

With the success of MASH in 1970, he entered the ranks of Hollywood's major film directors. But he was always uneasy in Hollywood. Altman said he wanted to make films that examined the human condition.

Many remained obscure and appealed more to critics than audiences. But in 1975, he had another big success with the comedy Nashville, an ensemble film set in the capital city of country music.

In the 1992 film The Player, Altman blended satire with drama in a thriller about murder in the movie industry.

Altman scored another hit in 2001 with the satirical Gosford Park, an ensemble murder mystery set in 1930s Britain.

That film earned Altman his fifth Oscar nomination as best director. But he did not receive an Oscar until earlier this year, when he was honored for lifetime achievement.

Altman said at the ceremony that he had undergone a heart transplant a decade earlier. He said he had kept it secret to keep working. His most recent film, another ensemble project called A Prairie Home Companion, was released this year.