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Booth, Margaret (b. 1898)

Booth, Margaret (b. 1898)

American film editor. Name variations: (nickname) Maggie. Born in Los Angeles, California, in 1898; sister of actor Elmer Booth; graduated from Los Angeles High School.

Selected films:

Husbands and Lovers (1924); Why Men Leave Home (1924); Fine Clothes (1925); Memory Lane (1926); The Gay Deceiver (1926); Bringing Up Father (1927); The Enemy (1927); In Old Kentucky (1927); Lovers (1927); A Lady of Chance (1928); The Mysterious Lady (1928); Telling the World (1928); The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1929); Wise Girls (1929); The Lady of Scandal (1930); A Lady's Morals (1930); Redemption (1930); The Rogue Song (1930); Strictly Unconventional (1930); The Cuban Love Song (1931); Five and Ten (1931); It's a Wise Child (1931); New Moon (1931); Susan Lenox, Her Fall and Rise (1931); Smilin' Through (1932); The Son-Daughter (1932); Strange Interlude (1932); Bombshell (1933); Dancing Lady (1933); Peg o' My Heart (1933); Storm at Daybreak (1933); The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934); Riptide (1934); Reckless (1935); Mutiny on the Bounty (1935); Camille (1936); Romeo and Juliet (1936); A Yank at Oxford (1937); The Owl and the Pussycat (1970); To Find a Man (1972); Fat City (1972); The Way We Were (1973); Funny Lady (1975); Sunshine Boys (1975); Murder by Death (1976); The Goodbye Girl (1977); California Suite (1978); Chapter Two (1979); Annie (1982).

Margaret Booth, supervising editor at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for three decades, sits high in the ranks of film editors, unsung warriors in the movie industry. From 1937 to 1968, no film left the studio without her imprint. Starting as a "cutter" for D.W. Griffith, Booth led a pioneering career that spanned over 60 years.

Margaret Booth had not planned on becoming a film editor. When her brother Elmer, an actor with D.W. Griffith, was killed in an automobile accident, she had to provide some of the family income. Fresh out of high school, Booth was hired by Griffith to work in the splicing room for ten dollars a week. From there, she moved to L.B. Mayer's Mission Road studio, where she was fortunate enough to be mentored by John Stahl. "He taught me the value of a scene," she recalled. "When a scene drops or doesn't drop, and when it sustains. You have to feel this, intuitively, in your work." Irving Thalberg believed that Booth's eye was good enough to go into directing, but Booth wanted only to be the best film editor ever.

After Thalberg's death, Booth took over as supervising editor of MGM. She was known for being fast and tough, editing such classics as The Bridge of San Luis Rey, The Barretts of Wimpole Street, Romeo and Juliet, and Camille. In 1935, she received an Academy Award nomination for her editing of Mutiny on the Bounty, losing out to the editor of Midsummer Night's Dream. She admitted that when Mutiny came out, no one thought much of the film. "Now," said Booth, "everyone hails it as a classic."

With the advent of talkies, she had to learn how to edit sound on her own. Not only did Booth master the process, but she created pioneering methods that others would later follow. In 1963, she was loaned out to work with Ray Stark on the movie A Boy Ten Feet Tall which won a prize at the Cannes Film Festival. They worked together again after she left MGM, with Booth overseeing Stark's films: The Way We Were, Funny Lady, The Goodbye Girl, and Annie. For the quality of her cumulative work, Booth won an honorary Academy Award in 1977. She was also awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990 by the American Cinema Editors for her broad contribution to the field.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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