End Credits #49: Cinema's 2016 Lost Treasures Steven Hill / Capturing a Golden Moment #16: The Firm
These are some of Cinema's sad departures of 2016 taken from my personal notes soon after the tragic events took place:
The grim reaper, super busy this year, has struck once again and this time it's one of the acting profession's most notably talented individuals. Steven Hill has died at age 94. A member of the Actor's Studio, he was a highly regarded thespian of stage, film and television, notably becoming the first (throughout season 1) leader of the Mission Impossible (1966 - 1967) task force, the smooth and confident Dan Briggs. He also made a lasting impression as D.A. Adam Schiff on the immensely popular series Law & Order (1990 - 2000). Few actors were as sincere or convincing in their roles as Steven Hill. In films, Hill's uncanny ability to disappear into the parts he played often meant his "performance" would go unnoticed. His typically soft-spoken but assured demeanour suggested his characters' many years of dependable tried-and-true experience, and considerably enhanced the authenticity of Eyewitness, Rich and Famous, Yentl, Garbo Talks, Raw Deal, Legal Eagles and Running on Empty amongst others. From a scene-stealing point of view, Hill could blow off the screen even the best of his fellow actors: James Woods in The Boost, Dustin Hoffman in Billy Bathgate and Ed Harris in The Firm come to mind. He made his film debut in the Hedy Lamarr starring noir Lady Without Passport and afterward received larger parts in Storm Fear, The Goddess and Kiss Her Goodbye. In 1963, Hill gave a stunning portrayal of deep conviction as the emotionally devastated father of an intellectually disabled boy in John Cassavetes' A Child is Waiting. This most challenging role required Hill to deplorably abandon his only child and yet still elicit considerable sympathetic support. Hill exceeded those expectations with consummate skill and aplomb, more than holding his own with Gena Rowlands as his wife, Burt Lancaster and Judy Garland, the last pair as his son's institutional caretakers. This truly legendary actor of staggering professionalism will be sorely missed. Steven Hill (February 24, 1922 - August 23, 2016) R.I.P.
In honour of actor Steven Hill here is a Golden Moment to share:
The Firm (1993)
Director: Sydney Pollack
Scene: "Life Over"
There is an enormous cast of superb supporting actors in this expert thriller, all of whom are allowed to shine because of their well-written and integral parts. One of the key dramatic arcs relies on actor Steven Hill to deliver its devastating impact. And that, he most assuredly does, in the actor’s typical calm, carefully considered and deliberate manner. This is acting at its finest. There’s nothing showy about his performance. Acting vanishes, allowing us to focus on the implications of the message behind the words spoken, instead of the character who's delivering them. This is a scene for all actors to study and appreciate, performed by a true master of his craft.