Tag Archives: Dede Allen

Dede Allen, Film Editor, Part 2

Earlier this week, I did a post about the great editor Dede Allen, and since then I’ve seen more online tributes for a behind-the-scenes film person than ever before (except, of course, for a director). It’s been great to learn so much about her accomplishments and legacy. Here’s some Some Facts About Dede that I never knew until this week:

        -She was the first editor to receive a solo title card in the opening credits to a film, for Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Prior to that, editors received their credits in list of five or six or ten others, one of thse “all the little people who helped make this film” title cards, while the Directors of Photography regularly enjoyed a card just for themselves.

        -According to the Motion Picture Editors Guild website, Dede was the first to obtain “points” for the film editor in profit distribution. Jesus, if that doesn’t prove how smart and valued she was, I don’t know what does.

        -She pioneered the “L cut,” also known as pre-lapping, which is when the dialog of the incoming scene begins before the picture transitions into that scene. While it’s not the easiest thing to describe in prose, it’s easier to just say, “she pioneered the predominant editing for every HBO show.” True, this idea existed before she made use of it, but she was the first editor to capitalize on it and make it a part of a film’s style.

Here’s another scene she edited, from the 1977 George Roy Hill film Slap Shot. (Her credit is at the top of this post.) A harsh and hysterical story of a down-on-their-luck minor league hockey team, this is the scene where the tide turns for them. Thanks to near-homicidal style of their new players, the Hanson Brothers, they use violence to tap into the pent-up rage of their economically-frustrated fans. It’s expertly shot and directed, but I think Dede’s contribution is key. Besides the fact that she cuts immediately after a moment of violence, which tends to make the violence more painful, she also has this recurring motif:

-violent action occurs

-spectator reacts

-cut back to see the fallout of that violent action

It’s the Rhythm of Catharsis. (Also, the clip ends with one of the best sight gags of 70s cinema.)

Here’s some links to articles about Dede, including an interview with her from 2000:

Imagine That: Dede Allen, Hollywood’s Greatest Film Editor, Died Oscarless, The Big Picture by Patrick Goldstein, LA Times

The Woman Who Turned Film Violence into Poetry, by Matt Zoller Seitz, at Salon.com

The Legacy of Film Editor Dede Allen, on NPR, featuring an interview with a Craig McKay, a student of Dede’s who also co-edited Reds with her

Dede on Digital, a 2000 interview with Dede from the Motion Picture Edtiors Guild magazine, by Mia Goldman

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Dede Allen, Film Editor

Sadly, Dede Allen passed away Saturday. (Here’s her New York Times obituary.) Her impact is enormous, however, as she edited many wonderful and important films, such as Serpico, The Hustler, Dog Day Afternoon, and others. I’d like to show scenes from three of them.

Bonnie and Clyde (1968)
This is the big mack daddy of her credits. The obvious go-to scene for Arthur Penn’s film is the brutal finale (which Allen actually credited to her assistant editor Jerry Greenberg), a scene I tend to re-watch four or five times whenever I see the film, but I’ve selected a different scene. It’s the picnic with Bonnie’s mother and family. It occurs late in the film, and death—Bonnie and Clyde’s that is—is beginning to feel inevitable. For almost two minutes the film becomes dreamlike, with hazy filters and distant sound. But it’s Dede’s editing that really hits me: like the film’s violent conclusion, time is warped, but in this case you’re floating. It feels like Bonnie’s heaven and funeral combined.

Reds (1980)
This is an early scene from Warren Beatty’s 1980 film (which Allen also executive produced). Activist/journalist John Reed and writer/future wife Louise Bryant have just met. She’s interviewing him, and she (and we) quickly get a sense of his passion for politics and change.

Something tells me this was fun to edit. Not easy, but fun.

The Breakfast Club (1985)
I remember being surprised to find out she had edited this John Hughes film. But as I’ve re-watched it over the years—and enjoy it more and more—I can see her imprint. The success of this film is hinged on the Reaction Shot.

Since these characters slowly warm up to each other in the first third of the film, their reactions to each other aren’t always verbal. (This is particularly true of Ally Sheedy’s character.) Not to take anything away from Hughes, but I imagined he’d let the camera roll sometimes, asking the actors to give multiple versions a reaction, perhaps varying the intensity, and then he and Dede would pick and choose, meticulously pacing the evolution of these complex relations. Even though I’m talking about a cumulative impact over a ten minute scene, I ‘ve strung togther most of these reaction shots into a single clip. (I hope this doesn’t do a disservice to Dede’s work. I even feel cheesy cutting this to the Simple Minds tune, but I hope my point comes across.)

Next time you watch the film, I suggest paying close attention to the reaction shots throughout the whole film. It’s great storytelling.

BONUS: The “Clyde Barrow” Jump Cut

Clyde: Before and After

Ten days ago I did a post about jump cuts, and due to my vague prose and the technical limitations of the internet, one jump cut I referred was impossible to understand. Ironically, I’ve been meaning to write an addendum to that post, explaning that edit in more detail, and with Ms. Allen’s passing I feel even more responsible to accurately represent her work.

This 25 second clip breaks down the edit, at varying speeds. About ten frames of a shot are removed just as Clyde says his name.

I don’t want to get too sentimental over these things, but I can safely say Dede Allen’s work changed my life and the lives of many others. Her work pushed envelopes and changed the way we abosorbed information, which is no small feat.

(Jesus, all this and I forgot to show anything from Slap Shot! What a masterpiece of editing! Well, that’ll have to wait for another post.)


Filed under Film, R.I.P.