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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 and The Sting, which both starred the acting duo Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Other notable films are Slaughterhouse-Five, The World According to Garp, The World of Henry Orient, Hawaii, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Great Waldo Pepper, Slap Shot , A Little Romance with Laurence Olivier, and The Little Drummer Girl.

Early life and education

He was born in Minneapolis, Minnesotamarker, to George Roy and Helen Frances Owens Hill, part of a well-to-do Roman Catholic family with interests in the newspaper business; the family owned the Minneapolis Tribune. Hill was no relation to the rather less successful 1930s director George W. Hill. He was educated at The Blake School, one of Minnesota's most prestigious private schools. 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. He idolized U.S.marker pilot Speed Holman who, Hill once explained, "used to make his approach to the spectators at state fairs flying past the grandstand upside down." Hill obtained his pilot’s licence at the age of 16. 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.

Hill also loved classical music, especially Bach and at Yale Universitymarker studied music under notable composer Paul Hindemith, graduating in 1943. While there, he was a member of Scroll and Key Society and of the Spizzwinks, America's oldest underclassmen a cappella singing group.

World War II service

During World War II, Hill served in the United States Marine Corps as a cargo pilot in the South Pacific. After the war, he worked as a newspaper reporter in Texasmarker, then took advantage of the GI Bill to do graduate work at Trinity College, Dublinmarker in Irelandmarker on James Joyce's use of music in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. Some sources say he graduated in 1949 with a Bachelor's degree in literature. Other sources say his thesis was never completed because he became sidetracked by the Irish theatre, making his stage debut in 1948 as an actor at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublinmarker with Cyril Cusack's company in a production of George Bernard Shaw's The Devil's Disciple.

Acting career


On his return to the U.S.marker, Hill acted Off Broadway and toured with Margaret Webster's Shakespeare Repertory Company, where he met Louisa Horton, whom he married on April 7, 1951. He then appeared on Broadwaymarker in Richard II and August Strindberg's The Creditors]. In 1952, he featured in a supporting role in the Hollywoodmarker movie Walk East on Beacon, but the outbreak of the Korean War resulted in his recall to active duty service for 18 months as night fighter pilot with the rank of major; he was stationed at the Marine Corps jet flight training center in Cherry Point, North Carolinamarker.

After his return to civilian life, he bought an open-cockpit Waco biplane built in 1930, which he retained until about ten years before his death. Hill died on December 27, 2002 at his home in New Yorkmarker of complications from Parkinson's disease.


During his military service at Cherry Point, he had had to be 'talked down' by a ground controller at Atlantamarker airport, an incident that led to his writing a screenplay about his experiences called My Brother's Keeper, which was bought for the Kraft Television Theatre. It was transmitted in 1953 with Hill himself in the cast. After his demobilisation, he joined the company as a writer, later becoming a director of various Kraft episodes. He won an Emmy for writing and directing a TV version of A Night to Remember, the story of the sinking of the Titanicmarker.

From television, he moved to Broadway in 1957 as a director of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Look Homeward, Angel and Tennessee WilliamsPeriod of Adjustment.

He filmed the latter as a Hollywood movie in 1962, then Toys in the Attic in 1963.


The 1964 Peter Sellers movie The World of Henry Orient raised Hill's profile in Hollywood, but his 1966 blockbuster Hawaii was a setback. 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."

Hill rebuilt his Hollywood reputation with the Julie Andrews movie Thoroughly Modern Millie and then the massively-successful Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and, after Slaughterhouse-Five, The Sting. Both Butch Cassidy and The Sting starred Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Butch Cassidy won four Academy Awards; The Sting won seven Academy Awards, including Best Film and Best Director. The success of those two films meant that, for a time, Hill was the sole director in history to have made two of the top 10 moneymaking films.

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

Hill's later films included The World According to Garp, The Great Waldo Pepper, Slap Shot , A Little Romance, and The Little Drummer Girl.

Deaths in his films usually occur offscreen (The Sting, The Great Waldo Pepper) or else a character is shot in freeze frame the second before dying, while the soundtrack carries on (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The World According to Garp).

Academy Awards and nominations


  1. The New York Times mis-spelled this name as "Homan" in their December 28, 2002 edition but corrected it to "Holman" on December 31, 2002

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