Cast & Crew
George Roy Hill
In his seaside home in Ilium, New York, middle-aged Billy Pilgrim writes a letter to the local newspaper describing his experience of having come "unstuck" in time. Despite his adult daughter Barbara's skepticism, Billy insists that he is telling the truth and unable to control his leaps through time. In his letter to the newspaper, Billy also reveals that he has been kidnapped by aliens known as Tralfamadorians and, when not going back and forth between events in his life, lives in a comfortably furnished room under a glass dome on Tralfamadore as a zoo specimen paired with a voluptuous pin-up model, Montana Wildhack. In the winter of 1944, Billy, a young military chaplain's assistant separated from his unit, finds himself in Belgium behind German lines with GIs Paul Lazzaro and Roland Weary. Suspicious of Billy, who has lost his dog tags and carries no weapon, Lazzaro develops an instant dislike of him. On Tralfamadore, Montana realizes Billy is "time tripping" and in order to distract him, seduces him. In Belgium, Lazarro and Weary, furious at Billy's calm detachment, begin thrashing him, but the soldiers are soon interrupted and apprehended by a German patrol. After the war, on his wedding night, Billy hugs his new wife Valencia Merble, a sweet, plump woman who is amazed at her good luck in finding a husband and vows to Billy that she will lose weight. In the Belgian snow, Billy, Lazzaro and Weary join other American prisoners of war trudging through the local town, where Billy's bedraggled condition provokes laughter among several prostitutes watching the passing procession. A German army photographer selects the compliant Billy to re-create his capture with three armed soldiers for a publicity photograph. After several years of marriage to Valencia, the couple has two children, Robert and Barbara, and Billy's optometry business celebrates its success with the opening of his own office building. In Belgium, Lazzaro threatens Billy when he clumsily treads on Weary's injured feet several times before the prisoners reach the train station. As the soldiers are loaded onto the boxcars, an unhinged American officer called Wild Bob Cody assures them they have served their country well. After the crowded train pulls away from the station, an older GI tells the others that their situation is mild compared to living through the Depression. Just after the war and before his marriage, Billy is in a mental hospital where his mother visits and tells Billy's roommate, Eliot Rosewater, that she believes her son is suffering from having endured the horrific bombing of Dresden where he lost his best friend. On the train headed into Germany, Weary dies from his wounds and Lazzaro, who holds Billy responsible, swears vengeance. In the institution, Billy undergoes twelve sessions of electric shock treatment. Upon arriving at a prison camp in Germany, Billy is ostracized and given a woman's overcoat and silver boots. American corporal and former high school teacher Edgar Derby befriends Billy and prevents Lazzaro from harassing him. As a child in Ilium, Billy goes to the community swimming pool with his father who vows to make a man of him, then flings Billy into the deep end of the pool where he sinks to the bottom. In Germany, Billy, Edgar and the others are marched to a camp where a group of British prisoners greet them enthusiastically. A cheerful British officer takes Billy aside to encourage him not to accept the petty humiliations of war and to wear his woman's overcoat with dignity. Billy faints and wakes up lying on the lawn of his home in Ilium being licked profusely by a puppy that Billy names Spot. While Valencia proceeds to grow heavier over the years, Billy and Spot become fast friends, to his wife's annoyance. One evening, Billy and Spot sit gazing at the stars when they are both drawn to a bright light in the sky that grows brighter and larger before abruptly disappearing. At the camp, Edgar admits that he volunteered to fight despite being forty-four and reveals he has a twenty-year-old enlisted son. On their twentieth wedding anniversary, Billy presents Valencia with a ring with a large diamond that he found in Belgium and she promises she will lose weight. Later that day, Billy finds his teenaged son Robert in the bathroom with a porn magazine that he confiscates, only to discover that the model pictured in the centerfold is Montana. Back at the POW camp, the British officers inform the Americans that they are to be transferred to the open city of Dresden where they will likely wait out the end of the war. When the GIs are asked to nominate a leader, Lazzaro volunteers until he learns that the leaders are often mistreated. Billy nominates Edgar who assumes his responsibility gravely. In Ilium, Billy accepts the position of presidency of his local Lions Club. That evening, Billy and Valencia meet with police after Robert has been picked up for vandalizing a cemetery. Billy, Edgar and the others then arrive in Dresden, which Billy likens to the fantasy city of "Oz." Although Edgar approaches several officers to explain that he is in charge of the prisoners, he is ignored. When the Americans are marched through the city, an elderly German civilian is deeply offended by Billy's attire and rushes forward to slap him. In New York, Valencia and Barbara see Billy, Valencia's father Lionel Merble, and others off on a chartered airplane flight to an optometrist convention. Just before take-off, Billy tells his father-in-law his premonition that they will crash, but Lionel, as well as the pilot, ignore him. Midway through the flight, the plane inexplicably goes into a dive and crashes. In Dresden, Billy and the others arrive at the local "Schlachthof," or slaughterhouse, where they will be housed in building five. Edgar protests that the accommodations are against the Geneva Conventions, but is silenced. Rescuers find Billy, the sole survivor of the plane crash, bloodied in the snow. When Valencia learns of the accident, she jumps hysterically into her Cadillac and races off to the hospital, causing several minor accidents en route, one of which dislodges her car's exhaust pipe. Upon reaching the hospital, Valencia collapses and later dies from carbon monoxide poisoning. After brain surgery saves Billy, he recovers in a hospital room shared with writer Bertram Copeland Rumfoord who discusses his latest book on the Dresden fire bombing with his visiting daughter Lily. When a revived Billy reveals he was in Dresden during the raid, Rumfoord refuses to talk about it and advises Billy to write his own book. On the night of 13 February 1945, the POWs are visited by an American member of the German Ministry of Propaganda, Howard W. Campbell, Jr., who announces that the Germans are America's friends and can help them battle the real enemy, the Communists. An air raid siren interrupts Campbell's speech and the men take refuge in the shelter during the fierce, long raid. The next morning Billy and the other prisoners are forced to dig through the smoking rubble of the city to find and burn dead bodies. Recovering at home alone with Spot, Billy receives a visit from Robert who is now a Green Beret officer about to return to his unit in Vietnam. Robert expresses sadness over Valencia's death and promises to make it up to Billy for his recklessness as a teenager. After Robert departs, Billy and Spot gaze out at the night stars and watch a light that grows increasingly brighter, then surrounds the pair and transports them to the domed room on Tralfamadore. Although Billy cannot see the aliens, they are able to speak English and welcome him and Spot to their new home. When Billy cautiously expresses pleasure at his surroundings and asks if he can leave of his own free will, the aliens express amazement that nowhere in the universe but Earth is there a discussion of "free will." In the burning remains of Dresden, Billy reflects that it seems like the end of the world, but the Tralfamadorians assure him that Earth does not cause its own end, but is annihilated with the rest of the universe when the Tralfamadorians accidentally ignite a new kind of fuel. Eager to witness Billy reproduce, the Tralfamadorians present him with Montana who, although initially terrorized, soon adapts to the domed room, Billy and Spot. While Billy and Edgar continue to clear the rubble searching for bodies, Edgar comes upon an intact figurine similar to one his son broke at home years before. Delighted, Edgar shows it to Billy, but moments later the SS guards pull him aside, accuse him of theft and, to Billy's horror, immediately execute him. The Tralfamadorians advise Billy the best way to enjoy eternity is to ignore the bad times and concentrate on the good. Barbara and her husband Stanley remain concerned over Billy's revelations about Tralfamadore and are disconcerted when he confides that Montana is pregnant. Stan asks Billy if he knows when he will die and Billy acknowledges that he has seen his death numerous times. He reveals that while giving a lecture about Tralfamadore in a nearby city, the crazed Lazzaro assassinates him, but he has no fear as he knows he will live again. After the Russians liberate the prisoners in Dresden, Lazzaro presses Billy to help him and his friends pillage unoccupied shops. While carrying away a large grandfather clock, the GIs are frightened off by approaching Russian soldiers and flee, leaving Billy pinned under the heavy clock. On Tralfamadore, Montana gives birth to a baby boy whom she names Billy and to celebrate, the aliens shower the dome with fireworks.
George Roy Hill
Karl Otto Alberty
Bob "tiger" Hemond
Joshua Hill Lewis
Johann Sebastian Bach
Robert L. Crawford Jr.
John Mccarthy Jr.
Dan Van Sickel
Eugene Roche (1928-2004)
Born on September 22, 1928, in Boston, Massachusettes, Roche began his career when he was still in High School, doing voice characterization on radio in his native Boston. After he graduated, he served in the Army, then studied drama on the G.I. bill at Emerson College. Concentrating on acting, he found much stage work in San Francisco in the early `50s, then headed for New York in the early `60s and began appearing on televison (Naked City, Route 66) and on Broadway.
It wasn't until he was in his forties did Roche began to get really good parts. His open, friendly face and stocky build made him the ideal choice to play the likable POW, Edgar Derby in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. His role as Edgar who saves an intact porcelain figurine from the ruins of Dresden only to be executed by his German captors for looting, may have been brief, but it was instantly memorable. Fine roles continued to come his way in films throughout the decade, the highlights included: They Might Be Giants (1971), Mr. Ricco (1975), The Late Show (1977), Corvette Summer (a deft comic performance as a high school auto shop teacher who is secretly running a car theft ring), and Foul Play (both 1978).
Yet, it would be on television where Roche would find lasting success. He became a household face when, as Squeaky Clean, he became the spokesman for Ajax household cleaner. Then he struck gold in sitcoms: Archie Bunker's practical joking nemesis, Pinky Peterson on All in the Family (1976-78), the madly romantic attorney, Ronald Mallu on Soap (1978-81), and the lovable landlord Bill Parker on Webster (1984-86).
Roche is survived by his wife, Anntoni; his brother, John; his sister, Clara Hewes; nine children, one of which, a son Eamonn, is a successful working actor; and nine grandchildren.
by Michael T. Toole
Eugene Roche (1928-2004)
TCM Remembers George Roy Hill, 1922-2002
Born on December 20, 1922, to a well-to-do Minneapolis newspaper family, Hill would hang out at the local airfield as a child and watch the barnstorming pilots, fascinated by their theatrics. His intense interest would eventually drive him to earn his pilot's license by age 16. But his love for the performing arts was inspired by a different calling - the stage, where he appeared in student productions at his prep school in Hopkins, Minnesota. After graduating, he majored in music at Yale. A baritone, he became a member of the university Glee Club but he soon discovered that singing wasn't his forte. He found acting more suitable and joined the Dramatic Society, becoming its president and appearing in campus musicals. Ten days after graduating with a bachelor's degree in music in 1943, Hill joined the Navy. After flight school, he transferred to the Marines and piloted transport planes in the South Pacific during World War II.
Following the war, he worked briefly as a cub reporter on a family newspaper in Texas, then used the GI Bill to attend Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, where he earned a bachelor's degree in literature in 1949 and did a stint with the Abbey theatre. Back in the United States, he received good reviews in an off-Broadway play, Strindberg's The Creditors with Beatrice Arthur, and toured with Margaret Webster's Shakespearean company - a celebrated theatrical company for its time. The Korean War interrupted his career, when Hill was recalled to Marine duty, serving 18 months at a training center in North Carolina, and later emerging as a major. The time spent away from the theater was beneficial to Hill, and he decided to move away from acting toward writing. His scripts soon found their way to television and Hill quickly rose from assistant director to director on several of the most acclaimed live dramas of the '50s including The Helen Morgan Story, the original TV production of Judgment at Nuremberg. He also earned two Emmy Awards for writing and directing a Titanic story, A Night to Remember.
In 1957, Hill moved to Broadway, where he directed the Pulitzer Prize-winning Look Homeward, Angel. After directing Tennessee Williams' Period of Adjustment, Hill kicked off his film career by directing the 1962 film version, which gave Jane Fonda her first major role. He followed that up with the film adaptation of Lillian Hellman's classic play, Toys in the Attic (1963), but it would be his third film that would earn Hill critical acclaim, the marvelous Peter Sellers' comedy The World of Henry Orient (1964). The story concerning two teenage girls who stalk a concert pianist (Sellers) around New York City, established Hill's brisk style and his flair for bittersweet comedy. His next two films, both starring Julie Andrews, were James Michener's epic Hawaii (1966), and the big-budget musical Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967). Although his craftsmanship was always impeccable, both films failed to elevate him to the front ranks of Hollywood directors.
That all changed with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Few associated with the film could have predicted that this light-hearted western would be the box-office smash it became when it was released, but audiences fell in love with this charming and innovative film. Instead of playing Butch (Newman) and Sundance (Redford) as vicious outlaws, Hill and screenwriter William Goldman made them easy-going, sympathetic drifters for whom robbing banks was just a game. As the director, Hill kept the balance between the film's comedy and drama pitch perfect, emphasizing the straightforward storytelling which was free from any heavy-handed editorializing. Also, by giving the characters a modern feel with contemporary dialogue and using an upbeat, pop-oriented Burt Bacharach score, Hill breathed fresh life into the Western genre. The film deservedly received Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Director; and earned Oscars for Conrad Hall's cinematography, Burt Bacharach's original score, the Bacharach/Hal David composition "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head", as well as Goldman's original screenplay.
Newman and Redford would be reunited again with Hill for his next big hit The Sting, as con men who ensnare a brutal gangster (Robert Shaw) in an intricate scheme. A highly stylized piece of work, Hill crafted the film in the style of the old Saturday Evening Post graphics, complete with chapter headings; imitated the flat camera style that was employed for those classic Warner Bros. gangster movies and resurrected the ragtime piano of Scott Joplin for the score (as interpreted by Marvin Hamlisch). For his exceptional work, Hill won the Academy Award for Best Director and the film also bagged Oscars for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay (David S. Ward), Best Score (Hamlisch), Best Editing (William Reynolds), Best Costume Design (Edith Head) and Best Art Direction (Henry Bumstead and James Payne).
Hill would work with Redford and Newman again, albeit individually, later in the decade. The Great Waldo Pepper (1975), the story of a barnstorming pilot, was culled from some evocative childhood memories, yet despite the star power of Redford, it was not a success. Nor was the Paul Newman vehicle Slap Shot (1977), a raucous look at the lives of minor league ice hockey players. The off-color language and bawdy locker-room antics perplexed audiences and critics at the time, although it's now considered to be one of the best (and funniest) of all sports films.
Although he would never again scale the critical and commercial success of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or The Sting, Hill would enjoy later acclaim with the sweet natured A Little Romance (1979), starring Laurence Olivier and a 13-year-old Diane Lane; his ambitious adaptation of John Irving's episodic The World According to Garp (1982); and his final film, the slight, but pleasant Chevy Chase comedy Funny Farm (1988). Soon after that, Hill retired from Hollywood to teach at his old Alma Mater Yale. Hill is survived by his former wife, Louisa Horton, as well as two sons, George Roy Hill III of Roslyn, N.Y., and John Andrew Steele Hill of Ardsley, N.Y; two daughters, Frances Breckinridge Phipps of Dumont, N.J., and Owens Hill of Los Angeles; and 12 grandchildren.
by Michael T. Toole
TCM Remembers George Roy Hill, 1922-2002
The aircraft used in the movie was owned by the 3M Company
The newsreel footage of Allied planes bombing "Dresden" was actually of Prague.
According to a March 1969 Daily Variety news item, producer Paul Monash purchased the rights to Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.'s novel Slaughterhouse-Five shortly after its publication. The novel would go on to become one of Vonnegut's most popular and a significant American literary work of the twentieth century. Many of the wartime incidents experienced by "Billy Pilgrim" are autobiographical details of Vonnegut's time in the army during World War II, during which he survived the Dresden bombing.
An April 1970 Daily Variety item noted that Monash and director George Roy Hill would be reteamed on Slaughterhouse-Five after their success with the 1969 Twentieth Century-Fox production Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. A May 1970 Daily Variety article on the film's production described Monash's concern with adapting Vonnegut's non-linear tale with its unusual mix of satirical social commentary, set against a wartime and science fiction background. The article indicated that Monash discussed the adaptation with William Goldman, who wrote the screenplay for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but the writer was skeptical that Vonnegut's novel could be adapted successfully. Daily Variety also indicated that both Hill and Monash expected to polish Stephen Geller's script as location shooting dictated. Although Monash mentioned in the Daily Variety article that he and Hill were considering presenting the war scenes in the past in black and white or monochromatically to set them apart from sequences that might be construed as "fantasy," the film is presented entirely in color. Slaughterhouse-Five marked the motion picture debuts of Michael Sacks, who appeared in only a few films before retiring from the screen in 1984, and of Perry King. King also appeared in The Possession of Joel Delaney, which was shot prior to Slaughterhouse-Five but was released one month later.
As shown in the film, on February 13, 1945, the British RAF bombed Dresden, an open city and cultural center that had suffered little during the war. The resultant firestorm from the heavy carpet bombing caused the deaths of tens of thousands, mostly civilians. Due to the complete destruction of the city and the inability to identify the victims, accurate death figures have never been established. Because the nearly six-years-long war in Europe was near its end, with a German loss certain, the bombing of strategically unimportant Dresden has come to represent for many historians an unnecessary, and even criminal, display of excess force by the Allies.
Slaughterhouse-Five was filmed in Prague and Most, Czechoslovakia as well as Minneapolis, MN, according to Filmfacts which also reported that interiors were shot at Barrandov Film Studios in Prague and at Universal City. Director Hill produced and released a one hour documentary on the making of Slaughterhouse-Five, which was released in 1973. The film won Cannes Film Festival's Jury Prize for 1972, and the same year, Vonnegut was given an award for the film by The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films.
Some reviews of the film noted that the novel's key narrative ploy of "Billy's" "time-hopping" back and forth to events in his life, many times in mid-scene, lost much of its effect because "jump" cuts and other film editing devices used to "jar" viewers had become so conventional. According to modern sources, "Ilium" the fictitious upstate New York town used by Vonnegut as the setting for several of his novels, was modeled on Troy, NY. Ilium is the Ancient Greek word for Troy. The character of "Howard W. Campbell, Jr." was the central protagonist in an earlier Vonnegut novel, Mother Night, published in 1966, and a 1996 Fineline film production starring Nick Nolte directed by Keith Gordon.
Released in United States Spring March 15, 1972
Based on the 1969 novel "Slaughterhouse-Five" by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Released in United States Spring March 15, 1972