Allen, Dede (1923—)

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Allen, Dede (1923—)

American film editor, one of the few to receive star billing, who was the first to bring attention to film editing as an art. Born Dorothea Carothers Allen in 1923 in Cleveland, Ohio; attended Scripps College; married Steve Fleischman (a television writer and producer); children: two.

Nominations and awards: British Academy Award for Dog Day Afternoon (1975); American Academy Award nominations for Dog Day Afternoon (1975) and Reds (1981); Ace Eddie nominations for The Hustler (1961), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), and Reds (1981); Crystal Award from Women in Film (1982); American Film Institute: Doctor of Fine Arts, Honorary Degree (1990); Ace Lifetime Achievement Award (1994).

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I was never afraid of breaking the rules.

Dede Allen


Story of Life (1948); Endowing Our Future (1957); Terror from the Year 5,000 (1958); Odds Against Tomorrow (1959); The Hustler (1961); America, America (1963); It's Always Now (1965); Bonnie and Clyde (1967); Rachel, Rachel (1968); Alice's Restaurant (1969); Little Big Man (1970); Slaughterhouse Five (1972); Visions of Eight ("The Highest" segment, 1973); Serpico (1974); Dog Day Afternoon (1975); Night Moves (1975); The Missouri Breaks (1976); Slapshot (1977); The Wiz (1978); Reds (1981); Mike's Murder (1984); Harry and Son (1984); The Breakfast Club (1985); Offbeat (1986); The Milagro Beanfield War (1988); Let It Ride (1989); Henry and June (1990); The Addams Family (1991).

On a warm day in 1943, while attending Scripps College in Claremont, California, Dede Allen drove into nearby Los Angeles to meet her grandfather's friend, theatrical director and producer Eliot Nugent, who was in Hollywood directing his first feature film. When she told Nugent of her lifelong dream of becoming a film director, he replied: "Young lady, if you want to be a director, get a job in the cutting room." She never forgot that advice. Rather than becoming a director, Allen became one of the top five film editors in the business and the first to win a solo credit board on screen.

Dede Allen began her Hollywood film career as a messenger, apprentice, and assistant editor. Though she came out of a period when "you just didn't take a job away from a man," World War II sent the men to war, providing Allen with a shot at sound editing. Still, when the men returned, she was "bumped back to the bottom."

In 1950, she moved to New York and began editing film. Nine years later, Robert Wise gave Allen her first big break on a major motion picture, Odds Against Tomorrow. "In those days," she told Ally Acker , "editing was done primitively. We couldn't Scotch-tape film the way we do now. So every time I wanted to make a cut, I literally needed to melt a piece of film away. But the black slugs were distracting, so editors tried not to make too many changes if they could help it."

Among other films, she edited six pictures for Arthur Penn, three for Sidney Lumet, two for George Roy Hill, two for Paul Newman, and one each for Wise, Elia Kazan, and Robert Rossen. She recalls being a one-woman operation in New York: "There was no studio system, no post production departments. The editor did it all; supervising sound editing, ADR, Foley, rerecording, labs, prints—all the elements of post-production. You were lucky if you had an accountant to help you with the books."

As she grew confident in her craft, Allen began to experiment with the encouragement of some of her directors, including Wise. In the '50s, when she started pre-lapping sound (the sound track coming in ahead of the picture on a cut), she had to remind her sound editors not to tamper with her work. "I had to say, 'don't change that. It's not out of sync. That's the way I want it.'" Later, the startling transitions of her energetic cutting on Bonnie and Clyde—with unmatched cuts, fade-outs and cut-ins—would be imitated many times over. But during filming of the movie in 1966, Jack Warner was unhappy with the way Allen was cutting the movie and wanted to replace her. Producer Arthur Penn and star-producer Warren Beatty refused, and Beatty continued to pay Allen's salary with his own funds.

Sometime mid-shoot, she was having dinner with Beatty when he asked her if she had ever heard of John Reed. When she replied that she was aware of the author of Ten Days that Shook the World, Beatty announced that one day he was going to do his story. Neither one of them forgot that conversation, and 15 years later Allen edited Beatty's ambitious production, Reds. She worked on Reds in London and New York for two and a half years, longer than she had worked on any other film, and received an executive-producer credit as well as her editor credit. Other films edited by Allen for prominent actors-turned-directors include Rachel, Rachel for Paul Newman and The Milagro Beanfield War for Robert Redford. In 1992, Allen returned to Los Angeles to become a creative executive in theatrical production for Warner Bros., where she consults on films from dailies to post production.


Correspondence with Dede Allen.

Acker, Ally. Reel Women. NY: Continuum, 1991.

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Allen, Dede (1923—)

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