1918 – 1982
Verna Fields began as a sound editor in 1956 and continued that work even after becoming a film editor; she has nineteen sound editing credits as well as nineteen for film editing. Irving Lerner’s Studs Lonigan was the first, in 1960, and later she edited Haskell Wexler’s Medium Cool. By 1972 Fields was working closely with three directors early in their careers: Peter Bogdanovich, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg. She became known as their “mother cutter.” The success of Bogdanovich’s What’s Up, Doc? and Paper Moon, Lucas’ American Graffiti (with Marcia Lucas as a co-editor) and Spielberg’s Jaws brought her a level of recognition that was unique among film editors at the time. She received both an Oscar and an Eddie Award for Jaws. Within a year of the film’s release, in 1976, Fields was appointed Vice-President for Feature Production at Universal Studios, making her one of the first women to enter upper-level management in the entertainment industry. Her career as an executive at Universal lasted for only six years, cut short by her death in 1982 at age sixty-four.
“I was the liaison with the studio for Steven [Spielberg]. When they thought of ditching the picture because the shark wasn’t working, I told them, ‘Keep doing it, even if you need to use miniatures.’” Fields became an overnight success after winning the Oscar. “Steven told me it was because I had cut the first picture that was a monumental success in which you can really see the editing. And people discovered that it was a woman who edited Jaws.”
—”Verna Fields” by Gerald Peary. The full interview can be found in the Appendix.