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Bill Varney

Bill Varney
Born Harold William Varney
(1934-01-22)January 22, 1934
Beverly, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died April 2, 2011(2011-04-02) (aged 77)
Fairhope, Alabama, U.S.
Occupation Sound mixer
Years active 1972–2011
Spouse(s) Suzanne Varney (1 child)

Harold William "Bill" Varney (January 22, 1934 – April 2, 2011) was an American motion picture sound mixer. A two-time Academy Award winner, Varney shared the Academy Award for Best Sound for Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back in 1980[1] and Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981.[2][3] Varney also received Academy Award for Best Sound nominations his collaborative sound mixing on Dune in 1984[4] and Back to the Future in 1985.[3]

Life and career

Varney was born on January 22, 1934, in Beverly, Massachusetts.[3]

One of Varney's earliest projects was a film focusing on singer Joan Baez during the 1950s.[3] Baez's father was a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[3] Varney relocated to southern California in 1961, where he produced educational films for Encyclopædia Britannica.[3]

Varney transitioned to film and television sound mixing in 1972.[3] He worked on approximately 85 productions over the next twenty-five years.[3] He worked at The Samuel Goldwyn Company for fourteen years, until he joined Universal Pictures in 1985.[3]

Varney won collaborative back-to-back Academy Awards for Best Sound for Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 and Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981.[3] He also received nominations for Dune in 1984 and Back to the Future in 1985.[3][5] Additionally, Varney won an Emmy Award for his sound work on the 1977 television miniseries, Roots.[3]

Varney's numerous film credits included The Last Waltz in 1978, Grease in 1978, Ordinary People in 1980, Poltergeist and My Favorite Year, both released in 1982, and Dragonheart in 1996.[3]

By 1998, he had risen to become the Vice President of Sound Operations for Universal Pictures.[3] That same year, Varney collaborated on the sound re-editing for the 1958 Orson Welles film, Touch of Evil.[3] Welles had been replaced from the film during its post-production, and was never allowed to cut Touch of Evil the way he had originally intended.[3] Film historians led Universal Pictures to a 58-page lost memo written by Welles a year before the film was released.[3] Varney spearheaded the sound restoration for the 1998 directors cut re-release of Touch of Evil.[3] Varney used "digital processing to bring the 40-year-old soundtracks to a new level of clarity," according to Walter Murch, who worked as the sound editor and sound mixer for the 1998 re-release.[3]

Varney retired from Universal Studios in 2001 and moved to Fairhope, Alabama in 2003.[3]

Varney died on April 2, 2011, of congestive heart failure in Fairhope at the age of 77.[6] He was survived by his wife, Suzanne, and daughter, Lisa.[3]


  1. ^ "The 53rd Academy Awards (1981) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-10-07. 
  2. ^ "The 54th Academy Awards (1982) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-10-08. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Nelson, Valerie J. (2011-04-07). "Bill Varney dies at 77; Oscar-winning sound mixer".  
  4. ^ "The 57th Academy Awards (1985) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-10-13. 
  5. ^ "The 58th Academy Awards (1986) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-10-16. 
  6. ^ "Harold William (Bill) Varney". Press-Register. Retrieved 9 April 2011. 

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