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Can anyone provide any thoughts (or links) that give some information about Sewell's editing style? I would be especially interested to see some analysis of what personal touches she may have brought to the material(s) she worked with.

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I'd describe her major editing style as "packing a lot of punch" in the remaining parts of the film that didn't get cut out. This could be taken literally, too, as her forte was battle, riot, and fist-fight scenes. In contrast with the average film editor, she kept film sections with the most action in them, while keeping the "soul" of the story. Due to this asset and her superb judgment in editing as a whole, despite being so young and a female, she was much in demand.

As Dr. Ament mentioned, not much has been written on Sewell's life. This week I've done quite a bit of research and found a lot more info than online bio pages (such as IMDB and Wikipedia) offer. I've found some sites with wrong information on her, confusing her with a Beverly Hills heiress, widow Mrs. Blanche M. Sewell, who was nearly 10 years older than movie editor Blanche Irene Sewell (1898-1949). In this, they give Blanche M. Sewell's son Barton as belonging to Blanche Irene. Blanche Irene married Leon Bourgeau (who was also a film editor) and they had no children. In 1937 heiress Mrs. Blanche M. Sewell purchased a house in Palm Springs. In 2007 and 2008 this same house at this address was on the market, falsely being advertised by realtor as once belonging to MGM editor Blanche Sewell!!

I noticed TCM has blank page for editor Sewell's bio section. Does anyone know how I might submit a bio for this page? I've gleaned quite a bit of info from old newspaper articles as far back as early 1920s and what I have is more substantial than what's given on most websites. These old articles mention quite a few movies that Sewell edited that in IMDB are not listed as edited by her!! Though the articles don't say if she edited these all by herself or just as an assistant, she should still have credit for all movies she worked on.

Here are some "nuggets" I discovered: According to January 1920 census, she was already working as a motion picture negative cutter (some bios give her starting in 1921) and according to a few 1922 newspaper articles, she began her career while still a student at Hollywood high school five years prior.  (IMDB "trivia" says she graduated from Inglewood high school, no source given.) At the studio employment office, she turned down applying as an actress and instead told the manager she wanted to apply for a job in the "works."  She was hired and worked during her summer vacations, while attending high school in winter.  After this first job, she worked as assistant cutter for Marshall Neilan at First National, editing his 1922 movie "Minnie."  Other works she edited for Neilan were: "Bob Hampton of Placer" (1921), "Dinty" (1920), "Bits of Life" (1921), "Penrod" (1922), and "Fools First" (1922). These last two are listed by IMDB as edited by Daniel J. Gray; so likely Sewell was his assistant? She also did editing for Allen Holubar's studio, on his 1922 movie "Hurricane's Gal." (IMDB lists Frank Lawrence as film editor; again, perhaps she was assistant.) Holubar's wife, Dorothy Phillips, starred in this production. In early 1923 Holubar signed a long-term contract with Metro (later MGM) to provide filming for them. However, in November 1923 Holubar died. It's my theory that Sewell likely came to MGM through this contract, while working for Holubar.

Sewell had four older brothers, a younger brother, and finally a sister. Growing up with all those boys, it was inevitable she'd choose a non-traditional-for-female career! ?  Though born in Oklahoma, she grew up in Idaho, then moved to Los Angeles, where she boarded. Later, her older brothers Ray and Glenn eventually moved to Los Angeles, too, where Ray was also a film editor. Glenn had married in Idaho in 1915 to Hazel Bounds.  (The 1930 census gives Hazel's occupation as "head of studio" which is likely movie studio.)  Hazel's sister Lillian Bounds moved with them from Idaho to California. Lillian would marry Walt Disney in 1925. Yes, that Walt Disney. It's a small world after all...?


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  • 2 weeks later...
21 hours ago, Chuck V. said:

Thanks. Only just saw this. The system only alerts one to replies if they directly quote one's post.

You're welcome. ? I'm still curious how to go about putting Sewell's bio on her TCM bio page that's currently blank. The other sites (IMDB and Wikipedia) have unreliable info in some parts of what little they have on her. The TCM page would give me a clean slate to work on.

More tidbits: Dr. Ament said she wasn't sure how to pronounce Sewell's surname. I found Sewell's surname would have been pronounced "Sea-well," as that's the way it's spelled in some census years for her family. The census-taker apparently spelled it as it sounded to him.

Besides her siblings I mentioned in previous post, she had a sister Mary, born January 1907 in Idaho but died same year in October. So she actually had two sisters, but only one survived infancy.

I also found my paternal grandma's family has some connections to Sewell's family!! As a teen, Sewell's dad was enumerated with his parents and siblings in 1880 Effingham County, Illinois census. My grandma's family pioneered that county in 1830 and by 1880 her family members still held public office, were teachers, lawyers, and preachers/church workers there. (I'm the first generation in my line not born/raised there.) I'm sure Sewell's dad's family would have met them in one way or another. Before her birth, in late 1880s-early 1890s, Sewell's father became a Congregational Church pastor in the Decatur, Illinois area. He did guest preaching at other denominations in the area as well, including Methodist churches. This was at time my grandma's dad and his brother (both raised Methodist) lived in Decatur. So they very possibly may have attended Rev. Sewell's services. Grandma's dad's first cousin was a Methodist minister in various parts of Illinois at that time, including Decatur, and should have been acquainted with all clergy in that area, including Rev. Sewell. 

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I too was interested in more information on Blanche Sewell and ran across this article from 2011 which talks about her connection to Walt Disney. Thank you for the information you found. I hope you can update her information so that others can learn her story. It's interesting on your explanation on how to pronounce her last name. I would have thought it would rhyme with 'jewel'. Below is the link I found that has some nice photos of her.


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Although dressed with immense success, Walt Disney was not one to stay still. By him, herky-jerky cartoons carried to considered animation; "built," he said, "by a steady day-by-day growth in which we all simply studied our trade and learned."

For six years, the set Mickey Mouse menu had been a form of fast food; easy, eight-minute meals, cooked-up in a kitsch kitchen; placing Swiss cheese to a player piano, or using teeth of a canine, to pry a tin can.

Everything was served, thick with schtick.

Walt wanted to move on, find a fine dine. A new meal; an Old Mill.

The chief was in need of a chef.

And Blanche Sewell was in receipt of real recipes.

Now folks, I hate to harp on this, but I have to. You won't find Miss Sewell mentioned, in reference to Walt Disney, in any book, other than my biography, Warp and Weft: Life Canvas of Herbert Ryman.

click an image to expand:


A young Blanche Sewell during her early days as a film editor in Hollywood.


The Disney family, left to right: Lillian, Hazel, Marjorie, baby Diane Disney, Blanche Sewell, Walt.

Disney family photograph, left to right: baby Diane Disney, her beloved Aunt Blanche Sewell, Walt.

Not in one claimed "definitive." Not in one "meticulously researched."

And that is an absolute shame.

You see, we all know the story of how Lillian Disney, née Bounds, bounded-down from Idaho to scout-around Los Angeles in December of 1923, obtaining a job as a cartoon cel, India-ink inker, with the Disney Brothers Studio.

But, Lillian already had interest in the making of movies, as her sister, Hazel, with whom she stayed, had married into the family of a regarded film editor.

That clever cutter of clutter, at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, be that Blanche.

Bluffing her way into a film laboratory, after buffing a foot of film, an instinctive eye had given access to editing; made assistant to Margaret Booth, then considered the best in the business.

An axiom in the motion picture industry had editing as make or break. When sixty thousand feet of footage was to be trimmed to a finished six thousand, it would be for Sewell to see that the soul of a story did not fall to the scrap floor.

Her reviews were always good news. Blanche became the favorite cutter of MGM production head Irving Thalberg; screen star Constance Talmadge found "her judgment to be almost infallible, her critical ability supreme, and the courage of her convictions unfaltering."

Does that sound like someone else?

Blanche Sewell was, at heart, of the art of the emotion picture.

So, when Walt Disney decided to venture into the full-length feature, he knew exactly the secret tutor to turn to.

His sister-in-law.

Besides being box office boffo, it is easy to see why the innovative Snow White and the Seven Dwarfsbecame the envy of everyone. PinocchioFantasia, and Bambi followed. All of right tempo and temper.

If there be genius, this be genesis.

Walt Disney became Schmaltz Disney; a good, gooey thing.

And Blanche Sewell was the one who got him there.

An unheralded heroine.

By the way, in answer to Snow White, a live-action story, also of lost girl and little people, went into production at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

The Wizard of Oz.

Edited by Blanche Sewell.

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QUESTION: What do Walt Disney, The Wizard of OZ and Oklahoma all have in common?


ANSWER: Blanche Sewell 

She was born in Oklahoma in 1898, her father was a minister and the family then moved to Idaho. 

She went to Hollywood to become an actress and eventually found a job in the editing department of MGM. She became an editor in the 1930s and 1940s and edited films such as "Treasure Island," "The Mutiny on the Bounty" and "Take me out to the Ballgame."

But, she also edited the classic Wizard of OZ, and is known as one of the great women pioneers in editing.

And her sister Lillian was married to none other than Walt Disney himself

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