Arthur Hiller (22 November 1923 – 17 August 2016)
Born in Edmonton, Canada to Jewish parents who had immigrated from Poland in 1912, Arthur Hiller grew up in an environment where a love of music and theatre was instilled in him from a young age. He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force at the start of World War II, and became a navigator, flying numerous missions over Europe. In the early Fifties he began directing for Canadian television; this led to his being offered a job directing with NBC. Over the next ten years he worked steadily in television, contributing to shows such as Playhouse 90, Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Route 66.
During this period he made his feature debut, the coming-of-age romantic drama The Careless Years (1957), but it wasn’t until he worked for Disney on Miracle of the White Stallions (1963) that his movie career began to take off. By then, Hiller’s ability to work within different genres was standing him in good stead, enough for him to move away from television (almost) altogether. After 1965, his TV work consisted of three episodes of the series Insight, episodes that were made over an eleven-year period. Hiller soon allied himself with screenwriters of the calibre of Paddy Chayefsky and Neil Simon, and developed a reputation for making comedies that had a surprising depth to them.
1970 saw the release of Hiller’s most famous, and enduring movie of all, Love Story. The success of the movie cemented his success, and throughout the Seventies, Hiller had a run of hit movies that made him an A-list director. His was a brisk, authoritative style, but there was also a looseness, a sense of fun to his movies that made them more enjoyable than most comedies of the era. He was inspired by a post-War screening of Rome, Open City (1945), and he never lost sight of the emotional truth of his movies, even if some of his later works, such as Carpool (1996) weren’t as effective – or as amusing – as they could have been.
In 1989, he took on the role of President of the Directors Guild of America, a position he held until 1993, when he became President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the next four years. He made one last movie, the less than pardonable National Lampoon’s Pucked (2006) (a career nadir for both Hiller and its star, Jon Bon Jovi), before retiring. Hiller will be fondly remembered for the way in which his movies resonated with audiences, their effortless likeability, and the almost timeless quality they carry, and the unassuming yet quietly confident way in which he directed them.
1 – The Americanization of Emily (1964)
2 – The Out of Towners (1970)
3 – Love Story (1970)
4 – Plaza Suite (1971)
5 – The Hospital (1971)
6 – The Man in the Glass Booth (1975)
7 – Silver Streak (1976)
8 – The In-Laws (1979)
9 – The Lonely Guy (1984)
10 – Outrageous Fortune (1987)