Because it was for a long time one of the very few positions open to women, film editing has happily welcomed over the decades very great ladies of the cinema, working in the shadows alongside the directors. Tribute.
“The editor is the final author of the film” said the great David Lean. At a time when editing software like Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere Where avid allow you to do almost anything and everything, there was a time – until the mid-1990s in fact – when all films were edited by hand. In this delicate exercise, legendary women have occupied or occupy this place of choice.
The reason ? For a long time, in the film industry, the position of editor was indeed one of the few open to women. Tribute in images to these very great ladies of cinema and the shadows, thanks to whom film lovers around the world have been able to marvel in dark rooms.
Martin Scorsese has maintained an almost fusional relationship for 50 years with this legendary editor: Thelma Schoonmaker, widow of the great Michael Powell. “Thelma is THE woman I trust” he likes to say about him. Little tasty irony: she was cited seven times for the Oscar for best editing, and won three statuettes. The premiere for a montage and a film that has entered the legend of the 7th art: Raging Bull; where Scorsese will have to wait 26 years before winning his first Oscar as best director for The Departed.
A rare and magnificent example of artistic collaboration, Thelma Schoonmaker, who edited all of the master’s films, also has a modest triumph. Very modest even. “It’s wonderful to work with the images of someone who understands your work so well” she said of Marty. She is so convinced of this that she even tried several times to give her the Oscar she won on raging bull. In vain.
Accidentally deceased at the age of 56 in September 2010, Sally Menke was Quentin Tarantino’s favorite editor. It was she who edited all his films, up to Inglourious Basterds. The one QT called “my true collaborator” was largely nourished in her work by the imprint of Thelma Schoonmaker. However, if Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker both begin their work as soon as filming begins, Quentin and Sally did not speak to each other until the film was fully boxed.
“It’s all about tension; so you follow the emotional arc of the character through the scenes” said Menke. “Editing is about emotion, it’s impulsive, instinctive. You just have to follow the character’s emotions.” A principle that the late editor was able to put into practice wonderfully from Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, or even, later, Kill Bill.
Anne V. Coates
On May 8, 2018, at the venerable age of 92, an absolute legend of editing passed away: Anne V. Coates. The one who was destined at first sight to be a nurse in England will finally deploy her energy in the world of cinema, during a career spanning nearly sixty years, and more than fifty films. Beginning in 1947 as an assistant editor, then in charge of editing on The Pickwick Papers in 1952, Anne V. Coates was nominated for the Oscars no less than five times. But she won the statuette from her first citation, for her immense and fabulous work on Lawrence of Arabia.
It is to her that we owe one of the greatest Cut from the history of cinema: the one where Peter O’Toole blows on a match, before a Cut showing a sunrise in the desert. Unforgettable. “I have worked with directors of David Lean to David Lynch, from Carol Reed to Wolfgang Petersen” she declared in 2016, when she received an honorary Oscar for her entire career.
And to add, facetiously: “I would like to thank them all, for all the good times and the more fussy ones, and even the ones when they kept me locked in the editing room seven days a week!” At 90, this tireless worker was still working in her editing room: her last work was Fifty Shades of Grey.
Born in 1898, Margaret Booth began her career in 1915, under the tutelage of DW Griffith. When the latter closed its offices in Los Angeles, Booth landed at MGM, under the auspices of Louis B. Mayer and then Irvin Thalberg, who had the idea of qualifying Booth’s work for the first time as ” film editor”.
Exercising her talent on 44 films, she received her only Oscar nomination in 1936, for her work on Mutiny on the Bounty. In 1978, she received an honorary Oscar for her outstanding contribution to the art of editing for the film industry.
At the end of a life that has literally been confused with the history of cinema, Margaret Booth dies at the more than venerable age of 104 years. As a beautiful and gentle irony with the one who shares the photo by her side, Olivia de Havilland, who also died at the age of 104, in July 2020.
“We called her affectionately between us “Mother Cutter”. She was like our mother, she cooked for us, she told us lots of stories about her work with Peter Bogdanovich […] He was the most charismatic person on the set of Jaws, with Robert Shaw.” It is in these terms that Steven Spielberg remember with emotion by Verna Fields.
Born in 1918 and a graduate in journalism, she began her career as an assistant editor in 1943. In the early 1960s, she taught editing at the University of Southern California, while starting to work as an editor. So aspiring filmmakers in the making, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg became attached to her from the end of the 1960s, at the time of New Hollywood.
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Lucas will entrust him with the editing of American Graffiti; Spielberg that of Sugarland Express, and, in 1975, that of Jaws. The lightning impact of Spielberg’s masterpiece would certainly not have been the same without the work of Verna Fields, who moreover won an Oscar for this film. In 1976, she was even named vice-president at Universal Picturesa position she held until her death in 1982.
In April 2010 died, at the age of 86, the immense Dede Allen, following a heart attack. An innovative editor, she began her career as a courier at Columbia, before moving to the editing section of the studio. Beginning his career in 1948 with the film Because of Eve by Howard Bretherton, she left her mark in 1959 on the editing of Robert Wise’s film, The Staircase, in which she had set her editing to the music.
Working in one of the few departments with almost as many men as women, Dede Allen quickly gained real notoriety. In 1961, she edited another masterpiece, L’Arnaqueur by Robert Rossen, then followed America, America by Elia Kazan.
In 1967, she entered the legend of the 7th art for the final scene of Bonnie and Clyde, which saw Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway riddled with bullets in an ambush. 50 shots collide in 1 min, delivering a thundering and overwhelming maelstrom of Arthur Penn’s masterpiece.
Here is the terrible sequence…
Among his many films, we also owe him the montages of Little Big Man (1970); of Slaughterhouse 5, George Roy Hill’s brilliant science fiction film; as well as three collaborations with Sidney Lumet including the immense Serpico and Un après-midi de chien. Appointed head of post-production at Warner in 1992, she only returned to the editing table eight years later with Wonder Boys. At the age of 84, she made her final edit on Fireflies in the Garden.
Without her, children around the world would certainly not have cried so much in front of ET’s finale, and incidentally pushing the masterpiece of Steven Spielberg towards the heights of the world Box Office, for a long time. An editing job for which she also obtained an Oscar citation; the only one so far.
“Her” is Carol Littleton. Favorite editor of Lawrence Kasdan (Fever in the body, Silverado, Wyatt Earp…), she was also a great friend and highly esteemed colleague of Dede Allen. “While I begged her to come on set, she answered me: “the editors do not go on the set! For an editor, nothing matters more than the film; it is only what happens in the editing room with the film that should concern him. She didn’t want to be emotionally disturbed by anything on set, and that was a big lesson for me.” said Deden Allen about her.
“Carol also taught me that the first Cut is better for the film when it comes first from the editor, without the ideas of the director. Since then, I have never again attempted to influence an editor in any way. or another, and when I watch a rough cut, it’s the editor’s.” Difficult to pay a better tribute, from the one who left an indelible mark in the 7th Art.
Born in 1882, Anne Bauchens was Cecil B. DeMille’s official editor for 40 years. Since 1918, she has edited 41 films for the filmmaker, and twenty more for other directors. In 1934, the “best editing” category was created for the Oscars, and Anne Bauchens was the first to receive in 1935 her first citation of four in her career, for her work on Cleopatra. She won the award in 1941, for Les Tuniques écarlates. Faithful to Cecil B. DeMille to the end, she will edit the Ten Commandments in 1956; last job before retiring.
In his 1956 autobiography, DeMille wrote: “in all the contracts that I sign to produce a film, one of the essential clauses is that Anne Bauchens is the editor. It’s not sentimentalism, or at least not only sentimentality. She is always the best editor I know “.
A beautiful tribute and praise for the one who evoked her art of editing in these terms: “a lot of people ask me what assembly is. I would say it’s a kind of puzzle, except in a puzzle, the pieces are all pre-cut in different shapes, and you try to put them together to make it a painting. Whereas in the editing of a film, you are the one who cuts your pieces first, and then puts them together. We do a very individualistic job. No two editors are alike. We have to trust our instincts and our past experience”.
International Women’s Rights Day, our video tribute!