Oscar Directors: Hill, George Roy–Background, Career, Awards, Filmography

September 12, 2020

George Roy Hill Career Summation

Occupational Inheritance:

Nationality: US

Social Class: upper middle;



Formal Education: Blake School, one of Minnesota’s prestigious private schools, and Yale University, 1943, aged 22.

Training: Actor; theater director; HB Studio in NYC

First Film: age 41


First Oscar Nomination: 49

Gap between First Film and First Nom: 8 years

Other Oscars:

Other Oscar Nominations:

Oscar Awards:

Nominations Span:

Genre (specialties):


Popular Films: Butch Cassidy, 1969, 48; The Sting, 1973; 52

Collaborators: Newman and Redford

Last Film: Funny Farm, 1989, aged 68


Career Length:

Career Output: small




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.

Other Hill films include: Slaughterhouse-Five, The World According to Garp, The World of Henry Orient, Hawaii, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Great Waldo Pepper, Slap Shot, Funny Farm, A Little Romance, and The Little Drummer Girl.

According to one obituary “few directors achieved such fame and success… even fewer enjoyed such eminence for such a short period of time.”

He was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to George Roy and Helen Frances (née 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 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 prestigious private schools, 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. 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.”

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 loved classical music, especially Bach, 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.

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. After the war, he was stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point jet flight-training center in North Carolina.

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. Some sources say he graduated in 1949 with a bachelor’s degree in literature.

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 at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, with Cyril Cusack’s company in a production of George Bernard Shaw’s The Devil’s Disciple. He had a leading role in Raven of Wicklow by Bridget G. MacCarthy in the same theater in February 1948.

On his return to the U.S., Hill studied theatre at HB Studio 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, 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.

He was recalled to military service for the Korean War.

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.

After his demobilisation, he joined the company as a writer his scripts including “Keep Our Honor Bright”.

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.

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.

Hill’s success as a theatre director led to his first feature as director – the film version of Period of Adjustment (1962.) Starring Jane Fonda and Jim Hutton it was a box office success.

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.

He followed this with adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s Toys in the Attic (1963) starring Dean Martin.

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 a commercial disappointment but was critically acclaimed.

Hill was hired to direct the blockbuster Hawaii (1966) after Fred Zinnemann pulled out. 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.” 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 shorted while Universal wanted to turn it into a roadshow production. However it was a solid box office hit.

He returned to Broadway to directed Henry, Sweet Henry (1967), a musical version of The World of Henry Orient, but it only lasted 80 shows. He was meant to follow this with a film called Hamburger Dreams about a screenwriter in 1930s Hollywood but it was never made.

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 7 Oscar nominations, including ones for Best Picture and Director, winning four including one for Best Song, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.”

In 1970 he said a common theme of his film was innocence vs evil.

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

He was reunited with Newman and Redford in The Sting (1973). The Sting won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. The success of Butch Cassidy and The Sting 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 (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.”

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

Around this 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.”

In August 1974 Hill signed an exclusive five-year contract with Universal to make projects following Pepper. “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.”

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.

He directed The Little Drummer Girl with Diane Keaton.

His last film was Funny Farm (1989) 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.”

During his later years he taught drama at Yale.

Oscar Awards and Nominations:

1974 – Won – Best Director – The Sting
1970 – Nominated Best Director – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid


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

The Great Waldo Pepper (1975): producer
The World According to Garp (1982): producer

The Great Waldo Pepper (1975): Story
A Little Romance (1979): Dialogue (uncredited)

Walk East on Beacon! (1952): Nicholas Wilben
The World According to Garp (1982): Pilot (uncredited)
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 in New York City from complications of Parkinson’s disease, one week after his 81st birthday.