Dede Allen, 1923 - 2010

"Dede Allen, the film editor whose seminal work on Robert Rossen's The Hustler in 1961 and especially on Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde in 1967 brought a startling new approach to imagery, sound and pace in American movies, died Saturday," reports Claudia Luther in the Los Angeles Times. "Allen was the first film editor — male or female — to receive sole credit on a movie for her work. The honor came with Bonnie and Clyde, a film in which Allen raised the level of her craft to an art form that was as seriously discussed as cinematography or even directing. 'She was just an extraordinary collaborator, and in the course of editing that film, I came to develop confidence in Dede,' Penn told the Times on Saturday. 'Indeed, she wasn't an editor, she was a constructionist.'"

Allen was 86 and, as Andre Soares notes in the Alternative Film Guide, she was nominated for three Academy Awards for her work on Sidney Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Warren Beatty's Reds (1981), and Curtis Hanson's Wonder Boys (2000).

Greg S Faller's piece on Allen for Film Reference emphasizes the influence of the French New Wave and the British "Angry Young Men" of the late 50s and early 60s. "Her first important feature film (after 16 years in the industry) was Odds against Tomorrow [1959]. Urged by Robert Wise to experiment, Allen developed one of her major techniques: the audio shift. Instead of stopping both a shot and its accompanying audio at the same time (the common practice), she would overlap sound from the beginning of the next shot into the end of the previous shot (or vice versa). The overall effect increased the pace of the film — something always happened, visually or aurally, in a staccato-like tempo.... In short, Allen must be credited with bringing modernist editing to Hollywood. Whether labeled American New Wave or Postclassical Hollywood, The Hustler and Bonnie and Clyde stand as benchmark films in the history of editing. And like A bout de souffle, The Hustler and Bonnie and Clyde deviated enough from the norm to be originally perceived as 'badly edited,' a perception fully inverted today."

Updates, 4/19: Matt Singer at Indie Eye: "In a quote from Mark Harris's book Pictures at a Revolution, about the Academy Award nominees for Best Picture in 1967, Allen succinctly explained her technique. 'Intellect and taste count,' she said, 'but I cut with my feelings.'"

Movieline's ST VanAirsdale posts and comments on "5 Iconic Clips From the Late, Legendary Film Editor Dede Allen."

Updates, 4/20: "Like a great actor or composer, Allen could adapt her talent to suit a given subject without stifling her personality or her aesthetic," writes Matt Zoller Seitz for Salon. "She could build an action scene with the best of them.... But she was more often described as a 'performance editor.' That's high praise. It takes special intuition to cull raw footage of actors' performances and piece the best stuff together to create compelling, memorable characters — ones you can imagine having lives beyond the edges of the screen. Allen had that intuition, that gift." With a clip and links to many more.

Listening. Craig McKay and Melissa Block discuss the life and legacy on NPR.

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  • KDR

    The unkindest cut. R.I.P. Dede

  • Ralph Daniel

    Ultimately, she realized that her so-called pioneering work had become cliche’ and overdone. Her quote: “I wonder if we’re raising enough people in a generation who are able to sit and look at a scene play out without getting bored if it doesn’t change every two seconds. We talk an awful lot about cutting; we talk very little about not lousing something up by cutting just to make it move faster. I’m afraid that’s the very thing I helped promulgate.. .. It may come to haunt us, because attention spans are short.”

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