Dorothy Spencer

Dorothy Spencer, aka Dot, was an American film editor with 75 feature film credits from a career that spanned more than 50 years.[2][3] Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Film Editing on four occasions, she is remembered for editing three of director John Ford's best known movies, including Stagecoach (1939) and My Darling Clementine (1946), which film critic Roger Ebert called "Ford's greatest Western".[4]

Dorothy Spencer
Dorothy Spencer in her home in Encinitas, CA, June 1985
Dorothy M. Spencer[1]

(1909-02-03)February 3, 1909
DiedMay 23, 2002(2002-05-23) (aged 93)
OccupationFilm editor
Years active1929–1979
FamilyJeanne Spencer (sister)


Spencer was born in Covington, Kentucky, in 1909. She entered the film industry when she joined the employ of the Consolidated-Aller Lab in 1924. She moved to Fox, becoming a member of the editorial department. Worked at First National Studios assisting editors Louis Loeffler, Al DeGaetano and Irene Morra. At Fox, she and Loeffler were part of an editorial team that also included, at one time or another, Barbara McLean, Robert Simpson, William Reynolds and Hugh S. Fowler.

In the 1940s, Spencer edited Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent (1940) and Lifeboat (1944); the latter featured a particularly feisty and well-edited Tallulah Bankhead performance. Spencer edited four films with director Ernst Lubitsch, commencing with To Be or Not to Be (1942), and now considered "one of film's great farces",[5] and concluding with Lubitsch's last, posthumous credit That Lady in Ermine (1948). Spencer also edited director Elia Kazan's feature film debut, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945).

Spencer edited the disaster film Earthquake (1974), which was the last of her eight collaborations with director Mark Robson. Variety's review of the film touted, "Earthquake is an excellent dramatic exploitation extravaganza, combining brilliant special effects with a multi-character plot line".[6]

Variety's Eileen Kowalski notes that, "Indeed, many of the editorial greats have been women: Dede Allen, Verna Fields, Thelma Schoonmaker, Anne V. Coates and Dorothy Spencer."[7] Spencer was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Film Editing for Earthquake, which was her fourth and final nomination. It followed her nomination for what still reigns as the most expensive movie ever made, Cleopatra (1963). Spencer had previously been nominated for Decision Before Dawn (directed by Anatole Litvak, 1951) and, with Otho Lovering, for Stagecoach (directed by John Ford, 1939). Spencer was awarded the American Cinema Editors Career Achievement Award in 1989, and was among the first four editors to receive the Award.

Partial filmography

This filmography is based on the listing at the Internet Movie Database.[3]

As assistant editor

As editor

See also


  1. Social Security Death Index listing for SSN 565-16-7201; see "Person Details for Dorothy M. Spencer aka: Dot (V.C. Aunt once removed)". FamilySearch. Retrieved 2014-05-28.
  2. "Overview for Dorothy Spencer". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2014-05-28.
  3. Dorothy Spencer on IMDb
  4. Ebert, Roger (October 26, 1997). "Great Movies: My Darling Clementine". Chicago Sun Times.
  5. Schwartz, Dennis (September 22, 2005). "To Be or Not to Be". Archived from the original on July 6, 2018. Retrieved June 7, 2015.
  6. Variety review Earthquake 1974 (subscription)
  7. (Editor) "Tina Hirsch" By Eileen Kowalski Variety 14 November 2001 (subscription)

Further reading

  • Flynn, Peter. "Dorothy Spencer". In Pendergast, Tom; Pendergast, Sara (eds.). International Dictionary of Film and Filmmakers. 4 (4 ed.). St. James Press. p. 810. ISBN 9781558624535. In Stagecoach the editing principles of the Russian Formalists were deftly employed to convey suspense and pace. Most apparent is the chase sequence—in which the stagecoach is pursued by hostile Comanches—where the cutting is deliberately disorienting to convey the consternation of the passengers, while the crosscutting (alternating between the passengers' point of view and shots of the besetting Indians) increases the scene's tempo. The film was to earn Spencer her first Academy Award nomination. Encyclopedia article that describes several highlights of Spencer's editing career.
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