Doane Harrison

Doane Harrison (September 19, 1894 – November 11, 1968) was an American film editor and producer whose career spanned four decades. For nearly twenty years, from 1935–54, he was a prolific editor of films for Paramount Pictures, including eleven films with director Mitchell Leisen. For twenty-five years, from 1941–1966, Harrison edited or produced all the films directed by Billy Wilder, who is now considered as one of the great 20th Century filmmakers.[1]

Doane Harrison
Born(1894-09-19)September 19, 1894
DiedNovember 11, 1968(1968-11-11) (aged 74)
OccupationFilm editor & producer
Years active1925–1968
Spouse(s)Grace Harrison
Parent(s)George Milton Harrison & Maude Cornell Harrison

Early career

Born in Paw Paw, Michigan, Harrison began his career during the silent film era. The earliest phase of his career and his education don't appear to have been documented. In 1925–1926, he was credited as the editor for nine films starring Richard Talmadge, and produced by Richard Talmadge Productions.[2]

By 1928, he was editing films produced by Pathé Exchange. In 1933 he edited his eleventh (and last) film starring Richard Talmadge, On Your Guard. By 1935, Harrison had joined Paramount Pictures, which was one of the major Hollywood studios at that time. Harrison remained at Paramount for more than eighteen years. His first film there was Four Hours to Kill! (1935), which was directed by Mitchell Leisen; at Pathé Exchange, Leisen had been the art director and Harrison the editor on three films. Their notable director-editor collaboration ultimately stretched over twenty-three years and eleven films, including Hold Back the Dawn (1941), which received six Academy Award nominations, Easy Living (1937), Midnight (1939), and Remember the Night (1940).

Collaboration with Billy Wilder

Harrison is probably best known for his long association with Billy Wilder. As a new immigrant to the United States in the 1930s, Wilder had found work as a screenwriter for Paramount, where Harrison was also working as an editor. Wilder and Harrison both worked on Midnight in 1939, and again on Hold Back the Dawn in 1941. By 1942 Wilder had persuaded the management at Paramount to assign him as the director of the comedy The Major and the Minor; Wilder had previously directed just a single film in France. Wilder asked that Harrison be assigned as the film's editor. Wilder has been quoted as saying about this early assignment, "I worked with a very good cutter, Doane Harrison, from whom I learned a great deal. He was much more of a help to me than the cameraman. When I became a director from a writer my technical knowledge was very meagre."[3] Sam Stagg has described their early collaboration, "In valuable early lessons, Harrison taught Wilder how to preplan each shot as part of a total editing scheme. The results: Time and money saved, and few protection shots required. (The term "protection shot", also called coverage, refers to footage shot from various setups and angles that may be needed for editing a sequence in the cutting room.)"[3]

The Major and the Minor was successful, and launched Wilder's directing career. Harrison worked on all the films directed by Wilder for the next 25 years, through The Fortune Cookie (1966); their unusually close collaboration involved Harrison in filming as well as editing.[4]

Harrison was the principal credited editor for the next five films that Wilder directed, through A Foreign Affair (1948). Arthur P. Schmidt joined with Harrison to edit Sunset Boulevard (1950), and Harrison began to assume additional producing duties on Wilder's films. Harrison was credited as an "editorial consultant" on Sabrina (1954), which was the last film at Paramount for Wilder and Harrison.[5] After leaving Paramount, Harrison became the associate producer for Wilder's first independent film, The Seven Year Itch (1955), and was credited as a producer in all of Wilder's films through The Fortune Cookie.

Final cuts

Harrison's and Wilder's notable director-editor collaboration had extended over ten films, from The Major and the Minor (1942) through Sabrina (1954). Harrison was subsequently credited as a producer on ten more of Wilder's films, from The Seven Year Itch (1955) through The Fortune Cookie (1966). While he was producing with Wilder, Harrison did edit three more films by other directors; his final editing credit, for The Girl Most Likely (1958), was a reunion with director Mitchell Leisen. He acted as a consultant to Mike Nichols on Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), which was the first film Nichols directed.[6]

Harrison was nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Film Editing for three films directed by Wilder: Five Graves to Cairo (1943), The Lost Weekend (1945), and Sunset Boulevard (with Arthur P. Schmidt, 1950).[7] Harrison died in 1968 in Riverside, California, aged 74.

Selected filmography

See also


  1. Harmetz, Aljean (March 29, 2002). "Billy Wilder, Master of Caustic Films, Dies at 95". The New York Times.
  2. See Doane Harrison filmography on IMDb.
  3. Stagg, Sam (2003). Close-up on Sunset Boulevard: Billy Wilder, Norma Desmond, and the Dark Hollywood Dream. MacMillan. p. 146. ISBN 978-0-312-30254-2.
  4. Wilder, Billy; Lemon, Richard (2001). "The Message in Billy Wilder's 'Fortune Cookie': "Well, Nobody's Perfect..."". In Horton, Robert (ed.). Billy Wilder: interviews. University Press of Mississippi. p. 53. ISBN 978-1-57806-444-1. The filming of Wilder's movies is always relaxed but efficient, and many of his crew members are veterans of other Wilder movies. Doane Harrison, his film editor, has worked for him for more than 25 years and, unlike most film editors, is always there during filming to advise Wilder and reduce the excess footage. Lemon's 1966 interview and article was reprinted in this 2001 volume.
  5. Phillips, Gene D. (2010). Some Like It Wilder: The Life and Controversial Films of Billy Wilder. University Press of Kentucky. p. 184. ISBN 978-0-8131-2570-1.
  6. Sylbert, Richard; Townsend, Sylvia (2006). Designing Movies: Portrait of a Hollywood Artist. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-275-98690-2. Mike Nichols had hired Doane Harrison, who was Billy Wilder's supervising editor, to help him with the dos and don'ts of staging for the camera.
  7. Academy Awards archives
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