Roy Hill. George Roy Hill was at the helm for both Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid and The Sting- brilliant films (especially Butch Cassidy) starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. They were box office smashes and very collaborative works (I don’t think anyone is confusing George Roy Hill with a top 100 auteur). The case against him here is that he’s usually at least the 3rd or 4th person you’d mention when talking about the artistic triumph his best film (that would probably be some combination of Newman, Redford, Conrad Hall the DP and William Goldman the screenwriter). However, someone had to put it all together and you can’t argue George Roy Hill didn’t do it impeccably well. The other strike against him is the small archiveable filmography- just three total films. Usually non-auteur journeymen have a stronger resume. The cast for him is we still ultimately have a masterpiece like this (Butch Cassidy) that is hard to deny and he backs it up with another film that lands in the top 100 of its respective decade (The Sting). There are just a few directors with two top 100 films of their respective decade left.
Best film: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
- It is a collaborative masterpiece. Roy Hill is a solid director (The Sting) but here he’s aided by an Oscar- winning (and sharp as hell) screenplay by William Goldman, Oscar-winning photography by Conrad Hall (one of the best DP’s of all-time), costumes by Edith Head ( 8 Oscar wins 35 total noms), and of course arguably the best work from both Paul Newman and Robert Redford
- That washed out color opening is genius. First we have the scenes of Newman looking at banks and then the close-up of Redford playing poker. The film’s visual style is based on the black and white old-timey film reel opening and the black and white photographs. Roy Hill/Hall go slowly into the film several times after these interludes before going into color
- Four Oscars- I love the cinematography and writing but you can keep that Burt Bacharach “Raindrops keep falling on my head” song and scene
- As said in the movie Newman is affable as hell—gregarious—Redford is the strong silent—they’re both so damn impressive
- As entertaining a screenplay and film as you’ll see– filled with sarcasm (repetition of “who are those guys?” and “they fall alone will kill us”—countless lines like this)
- 5-6 zooms—feels like the universal minimum in 1969
- I actually love the Bolivia travel montage- I love how Hall/Conrad wash out the photography of the bicycle prior to leaving
- Strother Martin is great in his scene—slays it
- Called by many an significant buddy movie and I see that- from 48 Hours to Lethal Weapon and the like- it’s influential as a story genre, a box office smash and the two (already) stars went into the stratosphere—such great rapport- these two characters clearly love each other
- Slow motion falls of the Mexican gang like The Wild Bunch – same year
- The final freeze frame is a stylistically transcendent moment—the audio carries over, the photography. Washes out. – it’s a watershed moment—400 Blows, Goodfellas, Jules and Jim and Butch Cassidy when it comes to freeze frame
total archiveable films: 3
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 1 (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)
top 100 films of the decade: 2 (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting)
most overrated: Nothing here. Butch is the only film on the TSPDT consensus top 1000 and it is underrated at #402. Both The Sting and The World According to Garp land between 1001-2000 and neither is overrated.
most underrated : Both The Sting and Butch are a couple hundred spots too low. I have Butch at #154 (the consensus has it at #402), I’d find room for The Sting in my top 1000 (they have it outside the top 1000). Garp is fine at #1998 right at the tail-end of their top 2000 list.
gem I want to spotlight : The Sting. There’s a reason every time a half-way decent heist movie comes out half the critics still mention this film from 1973.
- Freeze frame- you can’t talk about the history of editing without the freeze frame and you can’t talk about freeze frame editing without Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid
- Formal markers in his work—the titles in The Sting, bringing the color in and out of Butch Cassidy
- Heavy use of montages
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
- The Sting
- The World According to Garp
By year and grades
|1969- Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid||MP|
|1973- The Sting||HR/MS|
|1982- The World According to Garp||R|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives
Honestly at first I was initially expecting George Roy Hill to be higher, but I had forgotten how little there is to his filmography beyond those two big heavy hitters. But just between those I appreciate his fascination with our understanding of the past through media – the photographs and “archival” footage of Butch Cassidy, and the intertitles of the Sting which were inspired by a weekly magazine from the 30’s.
@Declan- good share here- thanks for the comment
Excellent analysis. Thank you. Sad, really, that there are so few top-notch George Roy Hill films. I know it is not a great film by any standard, but I really liked The Great Waldo Pepper when it came out.
@Nick Noble- Thank you for all the comments here, the kind words, and for visiting the site. I caught The Great Waldo Pepper in 2017- not a bad film by any stretch. Even has one of George Roy Hill’s little patented Butch Cassidy and Sting-like montage sequences that I love.