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Women Who Cut the Classics 1934-1969


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When I recently watched Twelve O?Clock High, I admired the editing by Barbara McLean. Checking the Oscar nominations revealed that between 1934, when the Best Editing award was established, and 1969 twelve different women were nominated for the award. Barbara McLean, a favorite editor of Darryl F. Zanuck, was the only one whose name I knew. Some major films were edited by women, including both the Claudette Colbert and Elizabeth Taylor versions of Cleopatra, and in 1935 two women were nominated for the award. It would be interesting to know more about these women. A list of the nominees follows.


Anne Bauchens ? Cleopatra (1934); North West Mounted Police (1940), WON; The Greatest Show on Earth (1952); The Ten Commandments (1956)


Margaret Booth ? Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)


Barbara McLean ? Les Miserables (1935); Lloyd?s of London (1936); Alexander?s Ragtime Band (1938); The Rains Came (1939);The Song of Bernadette (1943); Wilson (1944), WON; All About Eve (1950)


Dorothy Spencer ? Stagecoach (1939), co-editor; Decision Before Dawn (1951); Cleopatra (1964)


Monica Collingwood ? The Bishop?s Wife (1947)


Adrienne Fazan ? An American in Paris (1951)


Alma Macrorie - The Bridges at Toko-ri (1955)


Viola Lawrence ? Pal Joey (1957), co-editor; Pepe (1960), co-editor


Anne V. Coates ? Lawrence of Arabia (1962), WON; Becket (1964)


Marjorie Fowler ? Doctor Dolittle (1967), co-editor


Eve Newman ? Wild in the Streets (1968), co-editor


Francoise Bonnot ? Z (1969), WON


In 1970 Thelma Schoonmaker won her first Oscar nomination for Woodstock, and she would go on to win three Oscars as the editor of Martin Scorsese movies.


This would make an interesting emphasis for a future 31 Days of Oscar or perhaps a Friday Night Spotlight for some month. Presented by Thelma Schoonmaker, perhaps?

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Excellent idea for a thread!


If I may, I would like to mention Dorothy Arzner who directed films during the golden age of Hollywood.


She started as a cutter, and edited eight films between 1919 and 1926. So I think we can possibly say that Ms. Arzner blazed the trail for these other women who followed in both editing and directing.

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I'm always amazed at the work of Anne Bauchens. She started cutting for DeMille in 1915 and was his editor on most (if not all) of his major films right up to his last, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS in 1956. That's a pretty good track record.

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Thank you so much for starting this thread. As you know, it is a subject that is near and dear to my heart.


I would ask if you could expand it out a few more years to include the wonderful, Mother Cutter, the great Verna Fields.


Verna began her career in the sound editing department working on such films as *While the City Sleeps* and *El Cid*.


During the 1960s, she worked on a number of television shows as a sound effects editor.


In 1960, she added film editor to her job description when she cut *Studs Lonigan*.


In 1968, she cut *Medium Cool* for cameraman/director Haskell Wexler and followed that with *What's Up, Doc! *Paper Moon* and *Daisy Miller* for Peter Bogdanovich.


In 1973, she was nominated for an Academy Award (shared with Marcia Lucas) for editing *American Graffiti*.


She followed that with *The Sugarland Express* and won an Oscar for editing *Jaws*.


Spielberg has often cited Verna's decision to keep the shark off the screen until well into the movie as a major reason why the film works so well (along with John Williams music and the performances).


Given that the film was shot on the water in a variety of weather including sun, clouds and overcast conditions, the first few times you watch the film, you never notice how mismatched some of the scenes are.


Because the shark did not work well throughout the production, the idea to keep Bruce's (the shark) appearances to a minimum and let audience's imaginations do the rest, was one of the best workarounds she ever came up with.


She worked with Bogdanovich, Lucas and Spielberg, often cutting on an upright Moviola in the small office near her pool in Encino, here in the San Fernando Valley.


Coppola would screen his films for her and ask her for notes.


After *Jaws* she worked in an executive position at Universal.


She was wonderfully supportive of women in film and very helpful to young editors who were just starting out, or wondering what they should do after they got out of school.


We lost her too young at the age of 64 in 1982.


I miss her very much all these years later.

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Great thread! On my recent TCM Schedule one of my days included a "Guess What These Films Have In Common?" header and what the films had in common was a female editor. I was excited to find out how many

female editors went "way back" and to find out they had cut so many classic films. I knew about Margaret Booth but there were so many others. Wish there was a definitive book on the subject.



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I believe some books by Kevin Brownlow as well as the TCM documentary on Francis Marion, Without Lying Down (in which Brownlow appears), touch on the subject of woman editors in early Hollywood. IIRC, the logic for women getting the chance at editing jobs, when most other positions behind the camera were closed to them, went something like this: women sewing dresses in sweatshops had proven they could handle tedious work demanding constant attention to detail.

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Kevin Brownlow's biography of David Lean mentions that when Lean began as a cutter, most of the cutters in England were women. This is before the jobs were unionized. When that happened, men took over the editing jobs. I don't know if a similar thing happened in America.

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