Fall 2016

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93 Q4 2016 / CINEMONTAGE Women Film Editors: Unseen Artists of American Cinema by David Meuel McFarland & Company Paperback, 216 pages, $35.00 ISBN #978-1-4766-6294-7 by Betsy A. McLane "G reat film editing begins with great pictures," said Barbara "Bobbie" McLean in a 1977 interview in Film Comment magazine. She could make such a gracious statement with authority at that point, after cutting for more than 60 years, beginning as a schoolgirl patching together release prints in her father's Patterson, New Jersey film laboratory. McLean's decades editing such films as the early Mary Pickford talkie Coquette (Sam Taylor, 1929), Henry King's Twelve O'Clock High (1949) and The Gunfighter (1950), and Joseph Mankiewicz's All About Eve (1950) — as well as the challenges of editing the first film shot in Cinemascope, The Robe (Henry Koster, 1953) — provide credits enough. It is the seven Oscar nominations, recognition as one of the first two recipients of the American Cinema Editors' Lifetime Achievement Award and, chiefly, her position as editorial supervisor, trusted confidant and right-hand woman to Darryl F. Zanuck at 20th Century-Fox that leads author David Meuel to say that McLean could quite well be "the top Hollywood film editor of her era." And he has much more to add. Although largely invisible to the public, within the profession women picture editors like McLean and Margaret Booth, Verna Fields, Dede Allen, ACE, and Thelma Schoonmaker, ACE, are regarded as pre-eminent. Women Film Editors: Unseen Artists of the American Cinema gives each her due and also illuminates the contributions of other important women editors, some of whom may be unfamiliar even to Hollywood history cognoscenti. Meuel profiles nine in some depth; in addition to the five above, these include Anne Bauchens (who appears on the book's cover), Viola Lawrence, Dorothy Spencer and Anne V. Coates, ACE. Nine others are afforded briefer, but serious mention: Rose Smith, Dorothy Arzner, Blanche Sewell, Adrienne Fazan, Marcia Lucas, Carole Littleton, ACE, Susan E. Morse, ACE, Lisa Fruchtman and Sally Menke, ACE. As the author is quick to note, there are others, and his modest volume only begins to explore the subject. There is criminally little research and writing on the often astounding careers of female editors. The same might well be said about many of their male counterparts, since most editors do tend to be unseen artists. Yet men came to dominate the field by the late 1920s and continue that hegemony today. Recent historians' efforts have reclaimed some attention for many female filmmakers, especially in the area of silent film studies. The Women Film Pioneers Project at Columbia University (wfpp.cdrs.columbia. edu) is one of the best. Through efforts like this it is now well known that many women played central roles in the founding of the film industry. Proportionately, there were more women employed in every aspect of the business during its first two decades than at any time since. It is also understood that as the companies consolidated, as larger amounts of money were involved, as film work became a more prestigious occupation, and eventually as the assembly-line practices of the studio system were codified, women were discouraged from pursuing editing, if not actually pushed out of jobs. Lawrence, a full-fledged editor for D.W. Griffith at Vitagraph by 1915, applauded as editor of Howard Hawks' Only Angels Have Wings (1939) and derided as a destroyer of Orson Welles' director's cut of The Lady from Shanghai (1947), is quoted by Meuel as saying of her husband Frank (who taught her editing and supervised editors at Paramount in the 1920s), "He just hated them [women]… If any of the girls were cutting — if they did get the chance to cut — he'd put them right back as assistants." That some women thrived for decades and others managed to CUT/PRINT Early on, a Woman's Place Was in the Cutting Room CONTINUED ON PAGE 102

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