Dorothy Spencer

1909 – 2002

Dorothy Spencer entered the film industry at age fifteen. She has seventy-five feature film credits during a career of more than fifty years and was nominated four times for an Oscar. As a member of the editorial department at Fox, Spencer edited My Darling Clementine and Stagecoach (co-edited with Otho Lovering) for John Ford, Foreign Correspondent and Lifeboat for Hitchcock, To Be or Not to Be for Lubitsch, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for Elia Kazan, as well as many more films by those directors and others.

“When young cinema students ask meas  they often dowhat it takes to become a film editor, I always tell them that patience is the first requirement. For example, there was a situation on Earthquake where we wanted to delete a scene, but I didn’t have enough material to cover the cut. [Director] Mark Ronson told me that I wouldn’t have the patience to solve the problem, but I said: ‘It’s a challenge, and I’ll lick it.’ I  just insisted that there had to be a way of doing it. There’s always a way. Well, I found a way and he liked it. He just walked away shaking his head, but I thought it was fun.
Besides patience,  I think you have to be dedicated to become a film editor. That’s always been more important to me than anything else. I guess my whole life has been made up of wanting to do the best I could. I enjoy editing, and I think that’s necessary, because editing is not a watching-the-clock job. I’ve been on pictures where I never even knew it was lunchtime, or time to go home. You get so involved in what you’re doing, in the challenge of creatingbecause I think cutting is very creative.”

“With most directors, you cut it exactly the way they want it, and there’s no room for editorial creativity. [But] Ford never told me anything and he never looked at the picture until it was finished.”
—Two excerpts from “Cutting to the Chase: Dorothy Spencer’s Action-Packed Half-Century in Hollywood” by David Meuel. The full text can be found in the Appendix.

“After a brief interlude with the advent of sound – when suddenly men became aware that it took more to a good edit than it met the eye – the studio golden age began. In those days a collaboration between director and editor was not the norm, and the director was not allowed a director’s cut – and most of the times not even into the edit room, giving the editor almost full creative reign. Dorothy Spencer worked on this environment, and edited what are today considered John Ford’s best films.”
Excerpt from “‘A Tedious Job’ – Women and Film Editing” by Sara Galvão at Critics Associated.


Anne Bauchens

1882 – 1967

Anne Bauchens was the main editor for Cecile B. DeMille for forty years. She edited forty-one films for him and twenty for other directors. In 1934 the Academy Award for Film Editing was created and Bauchens received a nomination for editing Cleopatra. Six years later she won for North West Mounted Police, making her the first woman to win the Oscar in that category. Bauchens also got Oscar nominations for The Ten Commandments and The Greatest Show on Earth.

“Many people ask me what film editing is.  I would say it is very much like a jigsaw puzzle, except that in a jigsaw puzzle the little pieces are all cut out in the various forms and you try to fit them together to make a picture, while in cutting films you have to cut your pieces first and then put them together.

Some directors stop work on a picture after the last scene has been shot. Then the producer takes the responsibility and does all the editing with the cutter or editor in the projection room. Other directors work very closely with the cutter and follow the film through until after the preview. A few insist on cutting their own pictures. But they are very scarce.

We must reinterpret the material given us by the director so that the strips of film will assume a rhythmic flow. Our work is highly individual; no two editors work alike. We must rely on our instinct and previous experience to create the pattern. We must maintain the whole greater than the sum of its parts. If the film is poorly cut, the whole sense of the story is lost. If it is well cut, the effectiveness of the story will be considerably increased and it will possess a new unity which would otherwise exist in the director’s mind alone.”

Three extracts from “Cutting the Film” by Anne Bauchens in “We Make the Movies” ed. by Nancy Naumburg, 1937. The full text can be found in the Appendix.