1898 – 2002
Margaret Booth started editing for D.W. Griffith in 1915 and worked as an editor until 1936. She has forty-four credits, among them for several films starring Greta Garbo including Camille. She was nominated for an Oscar for Mutiny on the Bounty, for which she also has a writer’s credit. Her editing credits end early because in 1932 she became one of the most powerful figures at MGM Studios through her position as the supervising editor, a position she held until 1969. Booth controlled the dailies of every film the studio made and had the power to order reshoots. She would frequently intervene with directors, writing new scenes when she found story problems during her nightly views of their rushes. She was also, later, an associate producer at MGM.
Although she never received a competitive Oscar, the legendary Margaret Booth was the first — and up until now, one of only two — picture editors to win an Academy Honorary Award (a.k.a. the Honorary Oscar) for “exceptional contributions to the art of film editing in the motion picture industry.” It was presented at the 50th annual Academy Awards ceremony in 1978. The only other picture editor to win one was Anne V. Coates, in 2016.
“Booth is considered one of the pioneers of the “invisible edit,” and though she learned a lot with Griffith, her main influence actually came from German expressionism. She would go as far as foreseeing the auteur theory, claiming that great directors have a distinctive rhythm of their own, and it was the job of the cutter to find it and bring it out in the editing.”
—Excerpt from “‘A Tedious Job’ – Women and Film Editing” by Sara Galvão at Critics Associated.