She lived to be 104 and devoted her life to film…

No, not Garbo.

Although the woman I’m talking about did edit Camille, and was a pioneer in her field…

Today William Kuhn asks me what the biggest misconception is about Hollywood.

Find out what I said, and read a behind the scenes story about Margaret Booth.

Link at the bottom of the page.


Born in Los Angeles on Jan. 16, 1898, Booth started in films in 1915 as a “patcher” — a film joiner — for Griffith. He gave her a job just out of high school after her brother was killed in an automobile accident and she needed to help out her family. She made $10 a week…

From the beginning, she 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,” she told writer Kevin Brownlow in “The Parade’s Gone By,” a 1968 book about silent movies. “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’ve seen clips of these women sitting at rows of Moviolas — they were called cutters because they cut sometimes with scissors, sometimes with razors,” Cari Beauchamp, author of “Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood,” said Wednesday.

Legendary producer Irving Thalberg was the one who began calling cutters “film editors,” starting with Booth, Beauchamp said.

“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.”

Source: Los Angeles Times

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  1. I remember seeing photos of the woman cutters. They were also paid much less. I love the idea of cutting to the beats of music. Wasn’t it a woman editor that “made” Jars? Was her name Verna? It always amazes me how an editor can see the film altogether. I guess it’s like a sculptor seeing a finished piece in the stone. I remember Michelangelo saying he could see the David in the hunk of marble.

    • Good morning! I think you’re talking about Verna Fields, she started as a film editor and became an astute executive, Jaws (for which she won the editing Oscar) got her appointed a head exec at Universal. What’s Up Doc and American Graffiti were made under her watch. I think the era when filmmakers rose to run studios is over, sadly. Ms. Fields and Richard Sylbert (production designer) might have been the last.
      Good to see you here! Come back soon!

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