Arthur Hill, George in the Original Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Is Dead at 84 | Playbill

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Obituaries Arthur Hill, George in the Original Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Is Dead at 84 Arthur Hill, who was George to Uta Hagen's Martha in the original production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Edward Albee's portrait of one particularly vicious night in the life of brutal marriage, died on Oct. 22 in Pacific Palisades, Calif. He was 84.
Arthur Hill
Arthur Hill

The cause was complications of Alzheimer's disease, according to the New York Times.

Albee's lacerating play, about a failed academic and his vindictive wife who funnel their disappointment and anger into verbal barbs and hourly betrayals, shook Broadway by the neck when it opened in 1962. Though Mr. Hill seemed to have the less flashy role—quiet stealth bomber to Martha's rocket launcher—many considered his performance the equal of Hagen's. Robert Brustein called him "astonishingly good…by turns meek and malicious, driving toward the jugular with a fury born of despair."

"He had intelligence, humor, and the ability to get under," Albee told "Martha always goes overboard, so George has to go under to reach the same conclusions."

The part of George was atypical of Mr. Hill's career up until that point. He was most frequently cast as decent, good men. According to Albee, Mr. Hill was offered the role after Henry Fonda's agent refused to even show the script to his client. However, Mr. Hill certainly looked the part of a seemingly mild New England professor, with his pale, even features and unthreatening good looks. He won the 1963 Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Play and the New York Drama Critics Award for Best Actor for his work in Woolf?. He left the Broadway production to play George in the London premiere, and then later returned to the New York staging.

Albee said Mr. Hill was an easy man to work with, "which was a good thing, since Uta wasn't always." The Albee play was to be the pinnacle of his career. He appeared in two more Broadway plays after that—the short-lived musical Something More in 1964, in which Mr. Hill sang; and O'Neill’s More Stately Mansions in 1967—and achieved a measure of fame playing the title role in the television series "Owen Marshall." He retired from acting in 1990.

Mr. Hill led up to his triumph in Woolf? with a series of successes, beginning with the premiere of Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker in 1955, in which he played Cornelius Hackl.

After that, he co-starred in the Thomas Wolfe-inspired Look Homeward, Angel, which won the 1958 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. He starred opposite Anthony Perkins and Jo Van Fleet. With 1960 came another hit play based on a famous book: All the Way Home, drawn from James Agee's "A Death in the Family." It, too, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. (Woolf, the most lasting of the plays Mr. Hill appeared in, ironically did not win the Pulitzer, owing to the stodginess of the Pulitzer judges, who were affronted by Albee’s strong material.)

Arthur Hill was born in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada, and achieved success in England before moving to New York. His original ambition was to become a lawyer like his father. He switched directions when, while pursuing his law degree, and needing money, he auditioned for an acting role at a local radio station and got the job. Upon moving to London, he was employed by the BBC radio. Later, he began to appear in plays on the West End. His first appearance on the professional stage was at the Wimbledon Theatre in London in November 1948. The play was Home of the Brave. Other London roles included Hector Malone in Shaw's Man and Superman and Tommy Turner in The Male Animal.

A regular on television, he appeared as a guest on countless drama series. His films included "A Bridge Too Far," "The Ugly American," "The Andromeda Strain," "Rabbit Run" and "The Deep Blue Sea."

There will be no funeral, as per Mr. Hill's request.

Uta Hagen, Arthur Hill (standing), and George Grizzard in <i>Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?</i>
Uta Hagen, Arthur Hill (standing), and George Grizzard in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

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