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George Roy Hill

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

George Roy Hill
George Roy Hill (cropped).jpg
Hill working on a script in 1978
Born(1921-12-20)December 20, 1921
DiedDecember 27, 2002(2002-12-27) (aged 81)
Alma materYale University
OccupationFilm and stage director, actor
(m. 1951; div. 1971)
RelativesTim Hill (nephew)

George Roy Hill (December 20, 1921 – December 27, 2002) was an American film director. He is most noted for directing such films as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and The Sting (1973), both starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.[1]

Hill is also known for directing such films as The World of Henry Orient (1964) Hawaii (1966), Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), Slaughterhouse-Five (1972), The Great Waldo Pepper (1975), Slap Shot (1977), A Little Romance (1979), The World According to Garp (1982) and his final film Funny Farm (1988). According to one obituary "few directors achieved such fame and success... even fewer enjoyed such eminence for such a short period of time."[2]

Early life and education

He was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to George Roy and Helen Frances (née Owens) Hill,[3] part of a well-to-do Roman Catholic family with interests in the newspaper business;[4] the family owned the Minneapolis Tribune.[5] Hill was no relation to George W. Hill, director and cinematographer of numerous silent movies and early sound films in the 1920s and early 1930s. He was educated at The Blake School, one of Minnesota's most prestigious private schools,[4] and at Yale University, class of 1943.

He had a love of flying. After school he liked to visit the airport, and his hobby was to memorize the records of World War I flying aces.[3] He idolized U.S. pilot Speed Holman,[6] who, Hill once explained, "used to make his approach to the spectators at state fairs flying past the grandstand upside down."[3]

Hill obtained his pilot’s license at the age of sixteen.[5] Airplanes featured prominently in his later films and are frequently crashed as well — in Slaughterhouse-Five, The World According to Garp and especially The Great Waldo Pepper which showed the influence on Hill of pilots like Speed Holman.[citation needed]

Hill loved classical music, especially Bach,[5] and as an undergraduate at Yale University studied music under notable composer Paul Hindemith, graduating in 1943.[4] His film The World of Henry Orient contains a humorous spoof-like tease of Hindemith during the piano concerto scene of Henry Orient (Peter Sellers). While at Yale, Hill was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon, the Scroll & Key Society and of The Spizzwinks(?) and The Whiffenpoofs, America's oldest collegiate, a cappella singing group.[7]

Military service

During World War II, Hill served in the United States Marine Corps as a transport pilot with VMR-152 in the South Pacific.[4] The outbreak of the Korean War resulted in his recall to active duty service for 18 months as a night fighter pilot, attaining the rank of Major.[4] After the war, he was stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point jet flight-training center in North Carolina.[3]

Early career

After being discharged, Hill worked as a newspaper reporter in Texas, then took advantage of the GI Bill to do graduate work at Trinity College, Dublin, studying James Joyce's use of music in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.[4] Some sources say he graduated in 1949 with a bachelor's degree in literature.[8]

Other sources say his thesis was never completed because he became sidetracked by the Irish theater,[4] making his stage debut as a walk-on part in 1947[3][9][10] at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin,[5] with Cyril Cusack's company in a production of George Bernard Shaw's The Devil's Disciple.[4] He had a leading role in Raven of Wicklow by Bridget G. MacCarthy in the same theater in February 1948.[11][12]


On his return to the U.S., Hill studied theatre at HB Studio[13] in New York City. He acted Off Broadway and toured with Margaret Webster's Shakespeare Repertory Company. He appeared on Broadway in Richard II, The Taming of the Shrew, and August Strindberg's The Creditors (with Bea Arthur).

In 1952 he featured in a supporting role in the Hollywood movie Walk East on Beacon,[4] and appeared in episodes of Lux Video Theatre including "The Doctor's Wife", "Man at Bay" and "Masquerade". He also acted in episodes of Kraft Theatre such as "The Golden Slate". He also acted on radio.[2]

He was recalled to military service for the Korean War.[3]

Television and theatre director

Hill used his Korean War experience as the basis for a TV drama, "My Brother's Keeper", which appeared on Kraft Television Theater, with Hill himself in the cast. During his military service at Cherry Point, he had had to be 'talked down' by a ground controller at Atlanta airport, an incident that led to his writing the screenplay. The episode was performed and transmitted live in 1953.[5]

After his demobilisation, he joined the company as a writer his scripts including Keep Our Honor Bright.[4]

He directed episodes of Ponds Theater ("Time of the Drought"), and Lux Video Theatre ("The Creaking Gate", "Not All Your Tears", "The Happy Man".)

Hill returned to Broadway in 1957 as director of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Look Homeward, Angel. Starring Jo Van Fleet and Anthony Perkins this ran for 564 performances.[4]

Hill continued to direct television notably episodes of Kraft Theatre including "Eleven O'Clock Flight", "The Devil as a Roaring Lion", "Good Old Charlie Faye", "A Night to Remember", the story of the sinking of the Titanic[5] (a two parter, which Hill also wrote), plus for The Kaiser Aluminum Hour he did "Man on the White Horse", "Carnival", and "A Real Fine Cutting Edge" with George Peppard. Hill's work on Night earned him an Emmy for writing and directing.

He directed some famous episodes of Playhouse 90 including "The Helen Morgan Story" (1957), "The Last Clear Chance" (1958), "Child of Our Time" (1958), and "Judgment at Nuremberg" (1959).

Hill then focused on theatre, directing the Broadway productions of The Gang's All Here (1960) with Melvyn Douglas (132 performances), Greenwillow (1960) with Anthony Perkins (97 performances) and Period of Adjustment (1961) by Tennessee Williams, which ran for 132 performances. He replaced Elia Kazan for the latter.[14]

Feature films

Hill's success as a theatre director led to his first feature as director - the film version of Period of Adjustment (1962).[15] Starring Jane Fonda and Jim Hutton, it was a box office success.[16]

He was meant to follow with an adaptation of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer at MGM for producer John Houseman but it was not made.[17]

He followed that with an adaptation of Lillian Hellman's Toys in the Attic (1963) starring Dean Martin.[18]

He then made a movie based on the novel The World of Henry Orient (1964). Hill and producer Jerome Hellman bought the rights for their own Pan Arts Company. [19] The movie was critically acclaimed but was a commercial disappointment.

Hill was hired to direct the blockbuster Hawaii (1966) after Fred Zinnemann pulled out.[20] Reportedly, when budget estimates reached $14 million, the producers attempted to replace Hill with Arthur Hiller, but abandoned the idea after hundreds of native Polynesians in the cast went on strike, declaring: "We can and will perform only for our friend, Monsieur Hill."[4] The movie was a huge commercial success.

Hill rebuilt his Hollywood reputation with the Julie Andrews musical Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) produced by Ross Hunter. Hill was fired during the editing process because he wanted to make the film shorter, whereas Universal wanted to turn it into a roadshow production.[21] However it was a solid box office hit.[22]

He returned to Broadway to directed Henry, Sweet Henry (1967), a musical version of The World of Henry Orient, but it only lasted for 80 performances. He was meant to follow that with a film called Hamburger Dreams, about a screenwriter in 1930s Hollywood, but it was never made.[23] Instead, Hill had a huge commercial success with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), based on a script by William Goldman and starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. The film received seven Academy Award nominations, including ones for Best Picture and Best Director, and won four, including for Best Song, "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head."[7] In 1970, he said a common theme of his film was innocence vs evil.[24]

Hill followed it with Slaughterhouse-Five (1972). "Most of the characters in my film are not too bright," he said in a 1972 interview.[21]

He was reunited with Newman and Redford in The Sting (1973), which won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.[5] The success of Butch Cassidy and The Sting meant that, for a time, Hill was the only director in history to have made two of the top 10 money-making films.[3]

Hill disliked tardiness on set. Paul Newman said of his time (as Cassidy) on Butch Cassidy: "If you weren’t on time, he’d take you up in his airplane. Scare the bejesus out of us."[25]

Later career

The Great Waldo Pepper (1975) was based on a story by Hill, with a script by William Goldman and starring Robert Redford. However, it was a commercial disappointment.

Around that time he said in an interview: "Just as I play nothing but Bach for pleasure, so do I read nothing but history for pleasure. I like to be able to sit back and pick out the most fascinating facets of an era. You have a better perspective. In the present, you get too caught up in the heat of the emotions of the moment."[26]

In August 1974, Hill signed an exclusive five-year contract with Universal to make projects following Pepper.[27] "Why shouldn't we give George that kind of deal?" said studio executive Jennings Lang. "He's the complete filmmaker. He can put a blank piece of paper in the typewriter and make a movie out of it up to and including the music."[1]

He made Slap Shot (1977), a popular sports comedy with Paul Newman.[28]

Hill followed it with A Little Romance (1979), and The World According to Garp (1982), with Robin Williams and Glenn Close, in her film debut.

He directed The Little Drummer Girl (1984) with Diane Keaton.

His last film was Funny Farm (1988) with Chevy Chase. Screenwriter Jeffrey Boam said, "George wanted to do a much classier version than I ever imagined it to be. I imagined it to be a little cruder, more low-brow humor, rougher and more like the movies Chevy was doing at the time, but George was a classy guy and he wasn’t going to do that ... I think a lot of Chevy’s fans were let down because it wasn’t as raucous and vulgar as they might have expected."[29]

During his later years he taught drama at Yale.[2]

Academy Awards and nominations



Year Film Oscar Nominations Oscar Wins BAFTA Nominations BAFTA Wins Golden Globe Nominations Golden Globe Wins
1962 Period of Adjustment 1 2
1963 Toys in the Attic 1 2
1964 The World of Henry Orient 1
1966 Hawaii 7 3 2
1967 Thoroughly Modern Millie 7 1 5 1
1969 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 7 4 10 9 4 1
1972 Slaughterhouse-Five 1
1973 The Sting 10 7 1
1975 The Great Waldo Pepper
1977 Slap Shot
1979 A Little Romance 2 1 2
1982 The World According to Garp 2
1984 The Little Drummer Girl
1988 Funny Farm
Total 37 13 10 9 21 4




Personal life and death

In the Margaret Webster theatre company, Hill met Louisa Horton, whom he married on April 7, 1951. They later divorced. Hill was survived by Horton, their two sons, including George Roy Hill III and John Hill, two daughters, and 12 grandchildren.[8]

After his second return to civilian life, Hill bought an open-cockpit Waco biplane built in 1930, which he retained until about ten years before his death.[3]

Hill died on December 27, 2002, at his home[30] in New York City from complications of Parkinson's disease, one week after his 81st birthday.[5]


  1. ^ a b THE ENTERTAINER: Entertainer By Bill Davidson. New York Times 16 Mar 1975: SM15.
  2. ^ a b c George Roy Hill Baxter, Brian. The Guardian 30 Dec 2002: 13.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Van Gelder, Lawrence (December 28, 2002). "New York Times, December 28, 2002". The New York Times. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Haldenby, Andrew (December 30, 2002). "Daily Telegraph". London, UK. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Hurst, Greg (December 30, 2002). "The Times, London". Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  6. ^ The New York Times misspelled this name as "Homan" in their December 28, 2002 edition but corrected it to "Holman" on December 31, 2002
  7. ^ a b Super Director George Roy Hill Flies On By Virginia Kleitz Moseley. The Washington Post 14 Apr 1974: G5.
  8. ^ a b "'Sting' Director George Roy Hill Dies". CBS News. December 27, 2002.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-07-30.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ March 11, 1947, The Irish Press, pg. 6
  11. ^ February 23, 1948, The Irish Press, pg. 5
  12. ^ B.G. MacCarthy, 'Raven of Wicklow: an historical play in five scenes', in Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review (December 1946), pp. 481-512
  13. ^ HB Studio Alumni
  14. ^ KAZAN BOWS OUT OF WILLIAMS PLAY: Conflict in Schedules Forces Director to Relinquish Job -- Replaced by George Hill By SAM ZOLOTOW. New York Times 28 Apr 1960: 29.
  15. ^ 'Adjustment' Made by George Roy Hill: More Film Rivals Urged; TV's Vanda Plans. 'Picnic' Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 8 Dec 1961: C13.
  16. ^ The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  17. ^ TV DIRECTOR SET FOR MOVIE DEBUT: George Hill Will Oversee Filming of Play and Book By HOWARD THOMPSON. New York Times 2 Dec 1961: 16.
  18. ^ Yvette Plays in 'Toys in the Attic' Los Angeles Times 9 Oct 1962: C9.
  19. ^ BY WAY OF REPORT: 'Orient' in Manhattan --Other Film Matters Of 'Charlemagne' By A. H. WEILER. New York Times 14 Apr 1963: 103.
  20. ^ "'Hawaii's' Direction by George Roy Hill: O'Briens Talk Pirandello; Who Needs Public Domain?". Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 27 Apr 1964: C19.
  21. ^ a b "Don't tread on George Roy Hill". Vernon, Scott. Chicago Tribune 21 May 1972: m20.
  22. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1967", Variety, January 3, 1968 p 25. Please note these figures refer to rentals accruing to the distributors.
  23. ^ Director for 'Hamburger' Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 8 May 1967: e36.
  24. ^ A Partisan of the New-Old West Blume, Mary. Los Angeles Times 15 Mar 1970: p51.
  25. ^ Hurst, Greg (July 27, 2006). "Interview". Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  26. ^ George Roy Hill: [Final 1 Edition] The Times; London (UK) [London (UK)]30 Dec 2002: 6.
  27. ^ Hill in Pact With Universal Los Angeles Times 9 Aug 1974: f14.
  28. ^ Movies: Hill gauges acting intensity of his stars. Siskel, Gene. Chicago Tribune 10 April 1977: e5.
  29. ^ Ferrante, A.C. (May 1, 2013). "Exclusive Interview:The Last Crusade of Jeffrey Boam". Assignment X. Midnight Productions. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  30. ^ "Notice of death of George Roy Hill". The New Zealand Herald. December 30, 2002.

External links

This page was last edited on 5 August 2021, at 12:19
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