Reynolds, William H.

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REYNOLDS, William H.

Editor. Nationality: American. Born: Elmira, New York, 14 June 1910. Career: 1934—swing gang laborer, Fox; 1936–38—assistant editor to Robert Simpson; 1938–42—editor at Paramount; 1942–62—editor, 20th Century-Fox; then freelance editor. Awards: Academy Award, for The Sound of Music, 1965, and The Sting, 1973. Died: 16 July 1997, in South Pasadena, California, of cancer.

Films as Assistant Editor:


The Farmer Takes a Wife (Fleming); The Gay Deception (Wyler)


Big Brown Eyes (Walsh); Her Master's Voice (Santley); Palm Springs (Scotto); Spendthrift (Walsh); John Meade's Woman (E. Griffith)


Honeymoon in Bali (E. Griffith)


A Night at Earl Carroll's (Neumann); Typhoon (L. King)

Films as Editor:


52nd Street (Young)


Algiers (Cromwell)


So Ends Our Night (Cromwell)


Moontide (Mayo)


Carnival in Costa Rica (Ratoff)


Give My Regards to Broadway (Bacon); The Street with No Name (Keighley); You Were Meant for Me (Bacon)


Come to the Stable (Koster); Mother Is a Freshman (Bacon)


The Big Lift (Seaton) (co); Halls of Montezuma (Milestone)


The Day the Earth Stood Still (Wise); The Frogmen (Bacon); Take Care of My Little Girl (Negulesco)


The Outcasts of Poker Flat (Newman); Red Skies of Montana (Newman)


Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (Webb); Dangerous Crossing (Newman); The Kid from Left Field (Jones)


Desiree (Koster); Three Coins in the Fountain (Negulesco)


Daddy Long Legs (Negulesco); Good Morning, Miss Dove (Koster); Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (H. King)


Bus Stop (Logan); Carousel (H. King)


In Love and War (Dunne); South Pacific (Logan) (co)


Beloved Infidel (H. King); Blue Denim (Dunne); Compulsion (Fleischer)


Wild River (Kazan); Fanny (Logan)


Taras Bulba (Lee Thompson) (co); Tender Is the Night (H. King)


Kings of the Sun (Lee Thompson)


Ensign Pulver (Logan)


The Sound of Music (Wise)


Our Man Flint (Daniel Mann); The Sand Pebbles (Wise)


Star! (Wise)


Hello, Dolly! (Kelly)


The Great White Hope (Ritt)


What's the Matter with Helen? (Harrington)


The Godfather (Coppola) (co)


The Sting (Hill); Two People (Wise)


The Great Waldo Pepper (Hill); The Master Gunfighter (Laughlin) (co)


The Entertainer (Wrye) (co); The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (Ross) (supervising ed)


The Turning Point (Ross)


A Little Romance (Hill)


Heaven's Gate (Cimino)


Making Love (Hiller); Author! Author! (Hiller)


Yellowbeard (Damski)


The Lonely Guy (Hiller) (co); The Little Drummer Girl (Hill)


Pirates (Polanski) (co)


Dancers (Ross); Ishtar (E. May)


A New Life (Alda)


Rooftops (Wise)


Taking Care of Business (Hiller)


Newsies (Ortega)


Gypsy (Ardolino—for TV)


Carpool (Hiller)


By REYNOLDS: articles—

American Cinemeditor (Los Angeles), Summer/Fall 1981.

American Cinemeditor (Los Angeles), Winter 1984/Spring 1985.

On REYNOLDS: article—

Film Comment (New York), March/April 1977.

* * *

William H. Reynolds is a consummate film editor who takes a straightforward approach to his craft, relying on seamless editing which never calls attention to itself. In nearly six decades as an editor he has cut some of the most popular commercial American movies, including The Sting, The Godfather (with Peter Zinner), Algiers, The Sound of Music, and South Pacific. Reynolds has been fortunate to work with strong directors appreciative of the editing process, such as Robert Wise, George Roy Hill, Elia Kazan, and Francis Ford Coppola.

Reynolds started at Fox in 1934 as a laborer on the swing gang, moving props around the studio. He had a chance to observe firsthand the workings of the studio system assembly line, and quickly focused on editing. He learned his trade from editor Robert Simpson, who took him along to Paramount in 1936 as his assistant. Paramount was the only studio with a policy of keeping the editor on the set, enabling the assistant editor to assemble the first cut, in addition to the usual assistant chores of logging, syncing, and maintaining the edit trims and paperwork. This was an invaluable training ground, and while at Paramount Reynolds also assisted such old-line editors as Stuart Gilmore, Eda Warren, and Alma MacCrorie.

After only two years as an assistant, Reynolds quickly became an editor when editor-turned-director Harold Young asked him to cut the musical 52nd Street for the Walter Wanger organization. Wanger was pleased enough with young Reynolds's work to ask him to edit his important production of Algiers, an American remake of the French Pépé le Moko. Charles Boyer and Hedy Lamarr played the star-crossed lovers in the exotic romantic drama directed by John Cromwell. A scene-by-scene re-creation of the Duvivier original, Algiers was a commercial success and established Reynolds's reputation. His greatest challenge on the film was making Lamarr's inadequate performance work. Reynolds also cut So Ends Our Night, an intelligent World War II drama, for Cromwell.

In 1942 Reynolds signed as a staff editor with Twentieth Century-Fox. Studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck was himself a brilliant editor and maintained the best editorial department in Hollywood. Zanuck was extremely involved in postproduction, and Reynolds refined his editing skills under Zanuck's auspices, working with such veteran directors as Henry King, Lewis Milestone, Archie Mayo, Lloyd Bacon, and William Keighley. During his 20 years at Fox, Reynolds emerged as a top editor.

Musicals were a staple at the studio, and Reynolds was entrusted with cutting Give My Regards to Broadway, Daddy Long Legs, Carousel, South Pacific, and The Sound of Music, subtly blending musical sequences with the narrative. Reynolds credits Zanuck's expertise as a creative producer, and has noted that Zanuck would excise an expensive number if he felt it did not work within the context of the completed picture. Reynolds also handled the editing chores on such slick romantic dramas as Desiree, Three Coins in the Fountain, and Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing. Fox was the home of CinemaScope, and these titles were shot in the process. Reynolds helped bring montage to CinemaScope, since the early 'Scope films tended to play as much action as possible in a single shot, with minimal cutting.

At Fox, Reynolds was teamed with two directors with whom he did some of his best work, Robert Wise and Joshua Logan. Wise, a former editor (Citizen Kane), called Reynolds one of his favorite editors, and they worked together on the science-fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still, as well as The Sound of Music, The Sand Pebbles, Star!, and Two People. The Wise films reflect a great diversity of style and content, from the high-budget adventure of The Sand Pebbles to the intimate character study of Two People. The Sound of Music was unique in its integration of the traditional musical form with a highly dramatic story; an attempt to equal its success with Star!, a biography of Gertrude Lawrence, failed at the box office. The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Sand Pebbles are the best of the Wise-Reynolds collaborations, both impeccably paced and edited in an engrossing manner with an emphasis on drama and suspense.

Reynolds has also had a productive relationship with Joshua Logan on Bus Stop, South Pacific (co-edited with Robert Simpson), Fanny, and Ensign Pulver. Reynolds was present on the set for these pictures to assist the theater director Logan in his transition to screen directing. Bus Stop gave Marilyn Monroe one of her best vehicles; South Pacific was an enormously successful musical adapted from the Broadway hit; and Ensign Pulver a competent sequel to Mister Roberts. Fanny is an underrated work, a poignant romance that Reynolds and Logan managed to keep moving despite a 133-minute running time. In the midst of these entertainments, Reynolds edited two powerful dramas, Richard Fleischer's Compulsion and Elia Kazan's Wild River, atypical Hollywood fare.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Reynolds was very much in demand by some of the industry's top directorial talent. Most notably, his work included the blockbusters The Godfather and The Sting, and two ambitious failures, Heaven's Gate and Pirates. On The Godfather, he shared editing chores with Peter Zinner, alternating scenes during the film's New York production. During the postproduction period in San Francisco, director Coppola assigned Reynolds the first half of the gangster epic, and Zinner the second portion. Reynolds's work includes the lengthy wedding sequence up to and including the murder of Sollozzo in the restaurant. Reynolds has commented that his main challenge on The Godfather was coordinating the multitude of characterization and action in the wedding scene.

For Hill's The Sting, Reynolds emulated the editing stylistics of the 1930s, in keeping with the period flavor of the Paul Newman-Robert Redford con story. Reynolds's other films for Hill include The Great Waldo Pepper, about the daredevil barnstorming pilots of the Roaring Twenties, marked by inspired aerial sequences; the charming A Little Romance; and The Little Drummer Girl, adapted from John le Carré's best-seller about terrorism. Reynolds worked on two interesting commercial failures, Polanski's long-awaited but ultimately disappointing Pirates, and Michael Cimino's epic Heaven's Gate. Reynolds cut the prologue (set in Oxford) and the epilogue (set in Newport) on Heaven's Gate, then stayed with the picture through the disastrous opening.

For more than 50 years, on about 70 movies, William Reynolds has invested his work with "invisible" editing that serves to move the narrative forward with a minimum of editing tricks. In an interview with this writer, he stated that his job is to "try to make the best possible version of what you as editor take to be the director's idea of the film." Reynolds has won two Oscars for editing (on The Sting and The Sound of Music) and earned an additional five nominations (Fanny, The Sand Pebbles, Hello, Dolly!, The Godfather, The Turning Point), but perhaps his greatest accolade came in 1977, when in a Film Comment poll of his colleagues, Reynolds was named one of the three top film editors, along with William Hornbeck and Dede Allen.

—John A. Gallagher