LITTLETON, CAROL

Carol Littleton, ACE

Born 1948

Carol Littleton, ACE has thirty-eight credits and was nominated for an Oscar for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. She had a long collaboration with Lawrence Kasdan, editing eight of his ten films, including The Big Chill, Body Heat, and The Accidental Tourist. She also edited four films for Jonathan Demme, including Swimming to Cambodia, The Manchurian Candidate, and Beloved. Littleton won an Emmy for Tuesdays with Morrie, and in 2016 she received a Career Achievement Award from ACE.

“…the most important thing is learning how to analyze a story. What are the elements that make a story achieve its full potential? As an editor I analyze the story, and figure out how to make it as rich as possible, to have the most emotional impact. The main task of the editor is to compress screen time while being aware of an accretion of detail in the actors’ performances to guide the story toward its maximum emotional effect. Our work is interpretive, and the more analytical tools we have, the more successful we are.”
—“An Interview with Carol Littleton ACE” by Janet Dalton. The full interview can be found in the Appendix.

ALLEN, DEDE

Dede Allen

1923 – 2010


Dede Allen is one of cinema’s most celebrated editors, known especially for her work with various auteur directors during the “Hollywood Renaissance” of the 1960s and 70s. She was one of the first editors to give sound as much importance as image. In 1943, at age 23, Allen joined Columbia Pictures and worked as a messenger and then an assistant editor. It took fifteen years before she got her first break editing a feature, on Robert Wise’s Odds Against Tomorrow. Two years later, her first notable work was on Robert Rossen’s The Hustler (1961). During her sixty-year career, Allen edited thirty-two films, with a break from 1992-2000 while she was head of post-production at Warner Bros. She received three Oscar nominations (Wonder Boys, Dog Day Afternoon, and Reds, which was co-edited with Craig McKay), three Eddie nominations (Reds, Bonnie and Clyde, and The Hustler), and won a BAFTA for Dog Day Afternoon. She also received Career Achievement Awards from ACE and LAFCA. On a 2012 list of the seventy-five best-edited films of all time compiled by the Motion Picture Editors Guild based on a survey of its members, three films by Allen appear: Bonnie and Clyde, Dog Day Afternoon, and Reds. Only George Tomasini had more films on this listing.
In reviews about Bonnie and Clyde, Pauline Kael called it, “the best editing in an American movie in a long time”; Judith Christ began to review Allen’s editing (a rare enough compliment) as “infallible” and “incomparable.”

“Intellect and taste count,” she said, “but I cut with my feelings.”
—“Dede Allen, 1923-2010” by Matt Singer. The full text can be found in the Appendix.

In an interview about her work on Robert Rossen’s The Hustler, Allen said:
“If a scene played well, he’d say, “Don’t water the mustard, leave it alone.” I had a crisp way of editing, even then. I was already beginning to cut in a certain way. I remember cutting from something like a wallet to a car. Bang. It was unusual then; everybody does it now. Rossen was very fond of that style. When it was later referred to in Time magazine, he took credit for it. I think he thought he invented the style. I definitely think I had an influence on him as a director.”

“…and again, if you ask me what I do when I do what I do, I can’t always answer. I don’t intellectualize. I’m not that kind of an editor. There are editors who sit and figure out everything they are going to do before they do it, very rigidly. I work totally the opposite. I’m very intuitive. Obviously, I have a very definite reason for doing things; I’m very disciplined. And I’m sure that I have as much of a line of direction. I just don’t like talking a cut. There’s an awful lot of that in this business, and I don’t do that well…”
—Two excerpts from the chapter on Dede Allen by Patrick McGilligan in “Selected Takes,” edited by Vincent Anthony LoBrutto. The full text can be found in the appendix.

BOOTH, MARGARET

Margaret Booth

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.