Born on Feb. 20, 1925, Kansas City, Missouri, native Robert Altman died on Nov. 20 - less than a year after accepting an Academy Honorary Award for lifetime achievement, and a few months after the release of his last film, an affectionate adaptation of Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion. Altman had a heart transplant in 1995, keeping the surgery quiet while continuing to undertake demanding projects such as Dr T and the Women, Gosford Park and The Company.

Altman began his long career directing industrial films on the order of "How to Run a Filling Station," graduated to episodic television (where his credits included Peter Gunn, The Millionaire and Alfred Hitchcock Presents), and then forged a feature directing career that produced some of the finest films of the 1970s, notably MASH, McCabe and Mrs. Miller and Nashville. Altman was famous for his deft use of large ensemble casts, overlapping dialogue and an intricate network of overlapping story lines that come together into a complex mosaic of American attitudes and experiences. Outspoken and uncompromising, his far-reaching influence can be seen in films as diverse as Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights (1997) and last year's multiple-Oscar-winning Crash. No cause of death has been announced.

Obituary by Maitland McDonagh