Childhood & Early Years
Dana Hill was born as Dana Lynne Goetz on May 6 1964 in Encino, Los Angeles, California into a Hollywood family that had been involved in film and television business for five generations. Her father Theodore Arthur "Ted" Goetz, was a well-known director and producer of television commercials.
Her mother, Sandy Goetz nee Hill, was a homemaker. Dana was the oldest of her parents’ three children. She had two younger brothers named, Mathew Goetz and Daniel Goetz.
From her father’s previous marriage to Jane Small, she had four half-siblings; Beth, Jack, Amy and Ted. Among them, Beth also died young from diabetes-related complications.
Dana was very good in sports in her childhood. She did extremely well in swimming, basketball and track while in her grade school. In 1973, she did her first commercial, appearing with Dave William Cowens of the Boston Celtics, spinning a basketball on her finger for a YMCA advertisement.
At the age of 10, she won the third nationwide position in the 880-yard run and fourth in the mile run. But everything changed when a few weeks later she collapsed on the track. Subsequent medical examinations revealed that she had Type I diabetes.
Her diabetes effectively put an end to her athletic career. Dana was not only placed on a sugar-free diet, but also had to take insulin shots. As a 10-year-old child, she hated them both. The disease also stunted her growth and caused life-long health problems.
Diabetes may have put an end to her sporting career, but it could not restrain her indomitable spirit. By the time she was in her early teens, she had developed a keen interest in acting, taking inspiration from Mary Tyler Moore, who also suffered from Type I diabetes.
She was enrolled in the now-defunct Cal Prep High School in Van Nuys, from where she graduated in 1981. She regularly appeared in school plays, in addition to doing half a dozen TV commercials and eight television series.
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In 1978, Dana Hill made her television debut at the age of 14, appearing as a girl scout in the ‘Mork the Gullible’ episode of the ABC sitcom, ‘Mork & Mindy’. Her father was not happy about it and strongly discouraged her. But she was determined to continue acting.
She chose her mother’s maiden name, Hill, as her professional surname because she wanted to get roles on her own merit rather than by using her father’s clout. Moreover, it helped to kill any accusation of nepotism that might have surfaced had she used her father’s surname.
In 1979, Dana appeared in two television films; as Debbie in 'The Paul Williams Show' and as Courtney Featherstone in 'Featherstone's Nest'. She also appeared in the role of Maggie Joy in the television mini-series, 'The French Atlantic Affair,' in the same year.
In 1980, she appeared in two television films; as Kim Lissick in ‘The $5.20 an Hour Dream’ and as Foxy Cooper in ‘The Kids Who Knew Too Much’. In addition, she appeared as Michelle Mudd in one episode of ‘ABC Afterschool Special’ and as Martha in one episode of ‘Family’.
In 1981, Dana had her breakthrough, appearing in the role of Jennifer Phillips, a 12-year-old molestation victim, in the made-for-television movie, ‘Fallen Angel’. She was then 17 years old but looked younger due to diabetes, and ended up convincingly playing the role. She won a Young Artist Award for it.
‘Fallen Angel’ was released in February 1981, establishing her as an actress. In April, her career received further boost when she played the role of Gabby Gallagher in CBS sitcom, ‘The Two of US’. First aired on April 6 1981, the show ran for 20 episodes, with Dana appearing in each of them.
In 1982, she appeared in the role of Sherry Dunlap in ‘Shoot the Moon’, her first drama film. ‘The Member of the Wedding’, a TV film based on Carson McCullers’ novel of the same name, was her another major performance in the same year. She appeared as Frankie Adams in it.
Also in 1982, she made a guest appearance as Libby in the ‘Child’s Play’ episode of ‘Fall Guy’, an action-adventure television program produced by ABC. Later, she appeared in its ‘P.S. I Love You’ episode (1983) as Cassie Farraday, and in the ‘Tag Team’ episode (1986) as Loser.
In 1983, Dana starred as Ellie Turner in ‘Cross Creek’, a film based on Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings's memoir. In the same year, she appeared as Willie in the ‘Basket Case’ episode of ‘Magnum P.I’, a crime drama television series and as Gussie Mapes in the television short, 'Branagan and Mapes.'
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In 1984, she appeared as Cindy Lewis in ‘Silence of the Heart’, a TV film and as Geraldine 'Jellybean' Oxley in the ‘Welcome Home, Jellybean’ episode of CBS Schoolbreak Special.
In September 1984, she made a guest appearance as Princess Amanda in the ‘The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About the Shivers' episode of 'Faerie Tale Theatre', an American live-action children's anthology television series. In July 1985, she appeared as a guest interviewer in its ‘Grim Party Episode’.
Dana Hill appeared in two movies in 1985; as Dana in ‘Waiting to Act’ and as Audrey Griswold in 'National Lampoon's European Vacation'. Released on July 26 1985, 'National Lampoon's European Vacation’ proved to be a big hit, and it is known as one of her best works.
In 1986, she appeared in two TV films; as Sgt. Andrea Pritchett in ‘Combat Academy,' and as Millie Owens in ‘Picnic’, for which she received a L.A. Drama Critics Circle award. Unfortunately, her health deteriorated soon after that, as her diabetes-impaired kidneys made her face look puffy. She stopped getting casting calls.
From 1987, Dana Hill began to chart a new career for herself as a voice artist. Since she could no longer act, she started doing voiceover in TV series and films, including two episodes of ‘Pound Puppies’, in which she voiced for the characters of Toots and Colin.
Also in 1987-88, she was the voice of Orphan Scrappy in 19 episodes of ‘Mighty Mouse and New Adventure’. Concurrently, she continued to work in other projects; ‘The Flintstone Kids' Just Say No Special’, a TV film and ‘The Adventures of Raggedy Ann & Andy’ and ‘Fantastic Max’, both TV series.
In 1989, she did voiceover for Marvin in ‘Marvin, Baby of the Year’, a TV short. In 1990, she returned to films, doing voiceover for Teddy 2 in ‘Jetsons: The Movie’. Also in 1990, she provided the voiceover for Ginger in seven episodes of ‘Sugar and Spice’, a CBS sitcom.
In 1991, Dana made her last screen appearance in the role of Francy in ‘Final Verdict’, a TV movie based on the 1962 biography of the same name by Adela Rogers St. Johns. Also in the same year, she was the voice of Danny in 'Rover Dangerfield’, an animated musical comedy film.
Her voice acting as Kevin in 14 episodes of ‘Widget’ and as Tank Muddlefoot in 11 episodes of ‘Darkwing Duck’, are two of her more important works of 1990-1991. During the same period, she also worked in The ‘Legend of Prince Valiant’ and’ Rugrats.’
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In 1992, she was the voice of Jerry Mouse in 'Tom and Jerry: The Movie'. It was her last film made for the big screen. She continued working in television movies; including voice acting for the role of Sparks in ‘P.J. Sparkles’ and for Max Goof in ‘Goof Troop Christmas’.
During 1992-1993, Dana was the voice of Max Groof in 70 episodes of ‘Groof Troop’, an animated comedy television series produced by Walt Disney Television Animation. Her voice appeared in 46 episodes of ‘Duckman’ (1994-1997) as Charles, which is considered another important work of her career.
Her last works were ‘Timon & Pumbaa’ (1995), ‘What-a-Mess’ (1995-1996), ‘The Hot Rod Dogs and Cool Car Cats’ (1996), 'Adventures from the Book of Virtues' (1996) and 'The Spooktacular New Adventures of Casper' (1996). Her career ended when she slipped into a diabetic coma in May 1996.
Dana Hill is best remembered for her 1985 film, ‘National Lampoon's European Vacation’, in which she appeared in the role of Audrey Griswald. The highly popular film grossed $12,329,627 on its opening weekend and ranked number one at the box office.
She is also remembered for her role in ‘Shoot the Moon’. In the 1982 film, she appeared in the role of Sherry Dunlap, and many critics believed it to be her best ever performance.
Death & Legacy
Dana Hill suffered from health complication right from the age of 10 when she was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes. From the age of 22, she started suffering not only from kidney problems that made her face puffy, but also from gastroparesis, a diabetic complication that severely impairs one’s ability to digest food.
Dana did not let her parents know about her problems; she instead relied upon a close circle of friends to drive her to the hospital. Possibly from the spring of 1995, she started having mood swings and began taking anti-depressant medication. She might have strayed away from her diet during this period.
In late May 1996, Dana Hill slipped into a diabetic coma. On June 5, she suffered a massive paralytic stroke and passed away 40 days later on July 15 1996 at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California.
At the time of her death, Dana was 32 years old and was survived by her parents, all her siblings and half-siblings, except Beth. Her mortal remains were cremated at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills, and the ashes were handed over to her relatives.