Oscar-nominated editor Dede Allen passed away today at the age of 86.
With classics like "The Hustler," "Serpico," "Dog Day Afternoon," "Reds," and "Bonnie & Clyde" on her resume, Allen has been a certified legend of the editing craft for over thirty years. She was a pioneer of cinema's grittiest era and her contributions to cinema will continue to inspire the filmmakers of future generations.
It could be said that an editor's work simply speaks for itself. The decisions she made were likely made in a dark, lonely room during the late hours of night after night. But the emotions Allen's splicing elicited really put the eyes, ears, and mind through the gauntlet.
From the glamorous opening shots of an innocent Faye Dunaway in "Bonnie & Clyde" to the way shots lingered on Al Pacino's tormented face in "Serpico," Allen displayed brilliance by luring her audience into each scene and supplying us with the unpredictable juxtaposition of what was to come.
Perhaps the best way for me to summarize what Allen's work has meant to me is to mention what she brought to "Dog Day Afternoon," one of '70s most jarring experiences. She was so good at editing that picture that I would be willing to wager almost everyone forgot that there was not a musical score in that movie.
Allen opens the film with one of the more memorable musical montages. Simple shots of everyday life fill the screen, cut to the song "Easy Livin'." The images make us feel the sweltering heat of the day of the film's events but, more importantly, we get the sense of being in New York.
It is in that sense of being there in that day that we come to understand the struggling working class world of Al Pacino's Sonny. We feel that desire to escape, to change, to get rich quick and turn things around. That sequence is the very basis for what is to follow.
And what follows is dramatic a shift as the opening and closing moments of Faye Dunaway in "Bonnie & Clyde." Allen's editing is the musical score. She uses pauses, silence, and eventual hysteria to inflict suspense tension on her viewers. The look and feel of the film is so real that it's as if she was handed footage from a documentary and asked to recreate that sweaty day.
Over the course of a career that spanned many decades, Dede Allen established herself as one of the perennial editors in history. But she leaves behind the work of a true legend. And she will be missed.