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The Wizards of The Wizard of Oz

Margaret Booth was the supervising editor at MGM for thirty seven years, and Blanche Sewell was the editor of MGM’s film The Wizard of Oz.


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Editing to the Beat

From the beginning, Margaret Booth said, she tried to find the rhythm of a movie, to craft a film “like poetry.”
“When I cut silent films, I used to count to get the rhythm. If I was cutting a march of soldiers, or anything with a beat to it, and I wanted to change the angle, I would count one-two-three-four-five-six. I made a beat for myself.”
If the film was a comedy, she stepped up the tempo. If it was a musical, she cut on the downbeats. “Otherwise, you get a jarring cut and it throws things off,” she said.
“You should not feel the breaks. It’s like pauses and breaths that you take on the stage. It has its ups and downs and its pace.”
“The Parade’s Gone By” by Kevin Brownlow. The full text can be found in the Appendix.

Legendary producer Irving Thalberg was the one who began calling cutters “film editors,” starting with Booth. “He depended on her as much as [he did on] any writer,” Beauchamp said. “The two of them would go to a screening and sit next to each other, making plans for how the re-shoot would be done and how it would be edited.”
“Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood” by Cari Beauchamp

Once, when editing a film for George Roy Hill, Booth was not happy with something he was doing. [Dede] Allen recounted the story.
“Mr. Hill, are you telling me you want that on a 60-foot screen?” she demanded.
“I guess I don’t, do I?” he replied.
“No, you don’t,” Booth said firmly.
In fact, Booth once said, she preferred directors who stayed out of the cutting room entirely.
“Most of them are bad editors.”
“The Parade’s Gone By” by Kevin Brownlow. The full text can be found in the Appendix.