George R. Robertson, Who Played Chief Hurst In The Police Academy Movies, Has Died At 89
  • Feb. 3, 2023 6:03 pm EST

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Canadian actor George R. Robertson passed away in Toronto on February 3, 2023. He was 89. 

Robertson is perhaps best known for playing the role of Chief, then Commissioner Henry Hurst in the first six "Police Academy" movies, released yearly from 1984 to 1989. The "Police Academy" series, while not well-reviewed, were massively successful, providing a generation with a cop-themed, National Lampoon-style snobs-vs.-slobs cinematic bedrock. According to the 2010 book "George Lucas's Blockbusting: A Decade-by-Decade Survey of Timeless Movies Including Untold Secrets of Their Financial and Cultural Success" by Alex Ben Block and Lucy Autrey Wilson, the first "Police Academy" film made nearly $150 million on a $4 million budget. 

The premise of the series was simple: due to a shortage of police officers in an unnamed American city, the local police department has been ordered to accept anyone who applies for the job. This leads to a comedy of errors wherein every weirdo, criminal, and layabout attempts to become a cop. Of course, the impish new recruits clash with the self-serious old guard. Nudity, sex jokes, and scatology ensue. 

Hurst hates the new policy, and he will instigate the villains' motivation. Hurst tells Capt. Harris (G.W. Bailey) to make life as hard as possible for the new recruits, hoping they will drop out. It will be Hurst who learns a lesson, providing the "Police Academy" movies with some much-needed drama. Robertson played the role with aplomb, often appearing threatening to heroes and villains alike. Robertson displayed contempt for the heroes, but also for the Bailey character, assuring audiences that everything in this universe was absurd. Such a role requires integrity and, yes, talent.

Robertson's Oscar track record

George R.  Robertson also held the distinct honor of appearing in multiple Oscar-nominated films, including three that were nominated for Best Picture. His first film role came in 1968 when he had an uncredited part in Roman Polanski's hit satanic thriller "Rosemary's Baby." In 1970, Robertson appeared, also uncredited, as an airplane passenger named Richard Stout in George Seaton's disaster blockbuster "Airport." In 1979, Robertson played a farmer in the labor union drama "Norma Rae," and in 1991, he was White House Man in Oliver Stone's "JFK." 

Robertson played several real-life politicians and moguls in his career as well. In 2003, Robertson played the Belgian billionaire Maurice Tempelsman in the TV movie "America's Prince: The JFK, Jr. Story," the same year he played Senator J. William Fulbright in "The Pentagon Papers" and presidential hopeful Barry Goldwater in the biopic, "The Reagans." In 2006, Robertson appeared in the ABC miniseries "The Path to 9/11," playing Vice President Dick Cheney. Prior to the "Police Academy" films in 1980, Robertson played General Leslie R. Groves in the TV biography "FDR: The Last Year." He seems to have possessed a look and a knack for playing politicians. 

Robertson's career was mostly seen on television. His last role was in the National Geographic reenactment documentary "Cradle to Grave," which staged dramatic scenes to take viewers through a single human life cycle. Robertson played the central subject from ages 70 to 90. Robertson's career spans decades, and performers like him are vital to the basic function of the entertainment industry. 

Robertson believed in charity, often taking part in humanitarian efforts. One can make charitable donations in his name to Youth Without Shelter or to UNICEF Canada.