April 19, 2010
The New York Times
By FELICIA R. LEE
Dede Allen, an editor whose work in films like “Reds,” “The Hustler” and
“Bonnie and Clyde” revolutionized images with a staccato style that gave a story
a sense of constant motion, died on Saturday. She was 86.
Her daughter, Ramey Ward, said Ms. Allen died at her Los Angeles home. She had
suffered a stroke on Wednesday.
Ms. Allen was born Dorothea Corothers Allen in Cleveland on Dec. 3, 1923, the
daughter of an actress, Dorothea S. Corothers, and a Union Carbide executive,
Thomas Humphrey Cushing Allen III. As a child Ms. Allen was interested in film
and wanted to join the circus, Ms. Ward said. She ended up studying
architecture, weaving and pottery at Scripps College in Claremont, Calif.,
before going to work as a messenger at Columbia Pictures in Hollywood.
During World War II she landed a job in Columbia’s sound-effects department and
began editing commercial and industrial films. In the late 1950s, she cut her
first feature film, “Odds Against Tomorrow.” The director was Robert Wise, who
had been Orson Welles’s editor on “Citizen Kane.”
Ms. Allen was one of the first in her profession to give sound as much
importance as images. She was also among the first to command a percentage of a
movie’s profits. Her cutting-edge style earned her Academy Award nominations for
“Dog Day Afternoon” (1975), “Reds” (she shared the nomination with Craig McKay
for the 1981 film, for which she also served as an executive producer) and
“Wonder Boys” (2000). She is credited with editing or co-editing 20 major films
in a 40-year period.
“She certainly revolutionized the way movies were cut and radicalized ways of
looking at a narrative,” said Scott Rudin, the film and theater producer who
worked with Ms. Allen on “Wonder Boys” and “The Addams Family.” Ms. Allen, he
said, “was much less interested in literalism and would jump from the middle of
a scene to the middle of a scene, not bound to the conventional ideas about how
you told a movie story.”
In addition to her daughter, Ms. Allen is survived by her husband of 63 years,
Stephen E. Fleischman, a retired documentary writer and producer and television
executive; her son, Tom Fleischman, a sound recording mixer; five grandchildren;
and two great-grandchildren.
“Film editing is making a scene play,” Ms. Allen said in a New York Times
Magazine article in 1980. “Every performance has a certain rhythm to it that
can’t be violated. Then I go by the look of a scene and how I feel about it.”