'Whirlybirds' Star Craig Hill Dies at 88

Courtesy Everett Collection
Hill (top) with Nancy Hale and Kenneth Tobey in "Whirlybirds."

The actor also appeared in "Detective Story" and "What Price Glory" and in a series of 1960s Westerns filmed in Europe.

Craig Hill, who played P.T. Moore, the co-owner of a helicopter chartering company, in the 1950s syndicated TV adventure series Whirlybirds, died Monday, the Spanish newspaper Ara reported. He was 88.

Hill, who also appeared as the prison-bound first-time offender at the beginning of the Kirk Douglas cop classic Detective Story (1951), died in Barcelona, family members told the newspaper. He had lived in Spain for decades.

Whirlybirds, from Desilu Productions, aired for three seasons and 111 half-hour episodes, from February 1957 to January 1960. Moore and his partner, Chuck Martin (Kenneth Tobey), flew Bell 47 light helicopters out of the fictional Longwood Field in Southern California to aid in search-and-rescue operations or to fly rich clients around.

The idea for making a helicopter the star of a TV series was spawned by a January 1956 episode of the Desilu sitcom I Love Lucy in which Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball) commandeers a Bell 47 to fly her to a trans-Atlantic ocean liner that had sailed without her. Robert Altman, in his first regular gig, directed 19 episodes of Whirlybirds.

Later, Hill moved to Spain and starred in a series of Westerns filmed in that country and throughout Europe, including Hands of a Gunfighter (1965), Fifteen Scaffolds for the Killer (1967), Seven Pistols for a Massacre (1967), Bury Them Deep (1968), And the Crows Will Dig Your Grave (1972) and My Horse, My Gun, Your Widow (1972).

A native of Los Angeles, Hill began as a contract player at Fox. He had roles in such films as All About Eve (1950), Cheaper by the Dozen (1950) and, as one of Marine captain James Cagney's lieutenants, in John Ford's What Price Glory (1952).

Hill's résumé also includes the films The Black Shield of Falworth (1954), Siege at Red River (1954), Tammy and the Bachelor (1957), You Have to Run Fast (1961) and The Swinger (1966) with Ann-Margret, and the TV series My Little Margie, The Great Gildersleeve, Death Valley Days, Hawaiian Eye and The F.B.I

In 1990, Hill married Spanish fashion model and actress Teresa Gimpera (The Spirit of the Beehive).

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