Harold F. Kress

Harold F. Kress (June 26, 1913 – September 18, 1999) was an American film editor with more than fifty feature film credits; he also directed several feature films in the early 1950s. He won the Academy Award for Best Film Editing for How the West Was Won (1962) and again for The Towering Inferno (1974), and was nominated for four additional films; he is among the film editors most recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. He also worked publicly to increase the recognition of editing as a component of Hollywood filmmaking.[1][2][3][4]

Harold F. Kress
Born(1913-06-26)June 26, 1913
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedSeptember 18, 1999(1999-09-18) (aged 86)
Palm Desert, California, U.S.
OccupationFilm editor
Years active1933–1978
Spouse(s)Zelda Raphael Kress
ChildrenCarl Kress


Harold F. Kress was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Sam and Sophie Kress. The family moved to Los Angeles, where his father ran a restaurant in Hollywood. Kress was studying to become a lawyer at the University of California, Los Angeles until he unexpectedly received an opportunity from Irving Thalberg to work in the editing department at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) film studio.[5]

MGM years

He worked for three years as an uncredited assistant on The Good Earth (1937). His first credit was for Broadway Serenade (directed by Robert Z. Leonard-1939).[5] In that same year Kress worked on four other films. In the words of Tony Sloman, "MGM was the glamour film factory, the Rolls-Royce of Hollywood, and they put a new movie into production every 10 days. Kress's six (sic) films of 1939 (including Richard Thorpe's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, as supervising editor) proved he could work well under pressure and was unfazed by glamour. In 1940 he went on to edit Andy Hardy Meets Debutante, one of Louis B. Mayer's favourite series episodes, Comrade X, starring the studio's pride and joy, the king of Hollywood himself, Clark Gable, and two extremely successful Jeanette MacDonald-Nelson Eddy vehicles titled Bitter Sweet and New Moon. The success of these films thrust Kress into the top rank of MGM feature editors."[3]

Kress edited the 1942 film Random Harvest that was directed by Mervyn LeRoy. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards and "was one of MGM's biggest hits in 1942—indeed, one of the biggest in the studio's history."[6]

Kress worked for thirty years at MGM. Although he directed a few documentaries and made a stab at directing features, his real niche was as an editor, where he was one of the most respected editors in the industry. Ronald Bergan noted that "working as he did in the commercial cinema, he was an adherent of the 'invisible cutting' and 'editing for continuity' school rather than the 'dynamic montage' techniques developed by early Russian cinema or the iconoclastic editing styles derived from the French New Wave."[2]

Later films and involvement with the Motion Picture Editors Guild

One of the high points of his career came after he left MGM. This was the editing of The Towering Inferno (1974) with his son Carl Kress. In the words of Tony Sloman, "The Towering Inferno is superbly put together, its pyramidal star structure cleverly maintained throughout, its climax as the high-level water tanks flood the blazing glass tower genuinely riveting, but there is a single edit within that film which encapsulates the art, craft and skill of the professional editor. Fred Astaire has taken a spreadsheet-sized junk bond certificate from out of his briefcase and puts it folded into his inside pocket. Seamless, except you never see him fold the document. It's done - brilliantly on a cut, an edit that must have brought great satisfaction to whichever Kress wrought it, and a supreme example of great (and totally invisible) editing."[3]

Kress had been selected as a member of the American Cinema Editors, had been elected to the board of the organization, and been elected to the presidency (1967–1968) of the Motion Picture Editors Guild by its membership. In 1992 he received the American Cinema Editors Career Achievement Award. He used the occasion to note that film editing had become better recognized over his career as a component of filmmaking: "'We wanted to get our names from the bottom of the crawl to the top, with the director, cinematographer and costume designer,' he said. And he achieved that."[1] In his 1992 interview with Gabriella Oldham, Kress noted "When I was president of the union for two years, I fought for recognition for the editor. I started the fight to get editors' names raised up on the credits. Now we get screen credit, and some producers and directors give advertising credit too, but that took a long time. On those MGM lists, we usually were down at the bottom. Finally, we crawled up to the middle, then we got underneath the camera, then we got on top of the camera. We're the directors' best friends and the directors helped move us up."[7][8]


He was married to Zelda Raphael, and predeceased her. They had one son, Carl, who also became a film editor. After suffering from cancer for a number of years, Kress died in Palm Desert, California on September 18, 1999 at the age of 86.[1][9]


Kress was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Film Editing for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941), Mrs. Miniver (1942), and The Yearling (1947). Kress won his first Academy Award for How the West Was Won (1962). He was nominated again for The Poseidon Adventure (1972), and would win again for the 1974 action film The Towering Inferno with son Carl Kress. Only a handful of editors have received more than Kress' six nominations and two Academy Awards.[4]

He won the Eddie award of the American Cinema Editors for How the West Was Won (1962), and he was nominated for The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and The Towering Inferno (1974). In 1992 he received their Career Achievement Award.


This filmography is based on the listing at the Internet Movie Database except as otherwise noted.[10]

Year Film Director Notes
1939 Broadway Serenade Robert Z. Leonard
It's a Wonderful World W. S. Van Dyke
These Glamour Girls S. Sylvan Simon
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Richard Thorpe Supervising editor, apparently uncredited.[5]
1940 New Moon Robert Z. Leonard
W. S. Van Dyke
Andy Hardy Meets Debutante George B. Seitz
Bitter Sweet W. S. Van Dyke
Comrade X King Vidor
1941 Rage in Heaven W. S. Van Dyke
Robert B. Sinclair
Richard Thorpe
Unholy Partners Mervyn LeRoy The first of five films directed by LeRoy and edited by Kress.
H. M. Pulham, Esq. King Vidor
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Victor Fleming Nominated—Academy Award for Best Film Editing
1942 Mrs. Miniver William Wyler
Random Harvest Mervyn LeRoy
1943 Madame Curie
Cabin in the Sky Vincente Minnelli The first of three films directed by Minnelli and edited by Kress.
1946 Dragon Seed Harold S. Bucquet
Jack Conway
1947 The Yearling Clarence Brown Nominated—Academy Award for Best Film Editing
1948 A Date with Judy Richard Thorpe
Command Decision Sam Wood
1949 The Great Sinner Robert Siodmak
East Side, West Side Mervyn LeRoy
1950 The Miniver Story H. C. Potter
1951 The Painted Hills Himself Director only
No Questions Asked
1952 Apache War Smoke
1953 Saadia Albert Lewin
Ride, Vaquero! John Farrow
1954 Rose Marie Mervyn LeRoy The fifth and final film directed by LeRoy and edited by Kress.
Green Fire Andrew Marton
Valley of the Kings Robert Pirosh
1955 I'll Cry Tomorrow Daniel Mann
The Cobweb Vincente Minnelli
The Prodigal Richard Thorpe
1956 The Rack Arnold Laven
The Teahouse of the August Moon Daniel Mann
1957 Until They Sail Robert Wise
Silk Stockings Rouben Mamoulian
1958 Merry Andrew Michael Kidd
Imitation General George Marshall
1959 The World, the Flesh and the Devil Ranald MacDougall
Count Your Blessings Jean Negulesco
1960 Home from the Hill Vincente Minnelli The third and last film directed by Minnelli and edited by Kress.
1961 King of Kings Nicholas Ray
1962 How the West Was Won John Ford
Henry Hathaway
George Marshall
Academy Award for Best Film Editing
ACE Eddie for Best Edited Feature Film – Dramatic
1963 It Happened at the World's Fair Norman Taurog Uncredited. This was the last film Kress made at the MGM Studio; he'd worked for the studio for more than 25 years.
1965 The Greatest Story Ever Told George Stevens
1966 Alvarez Kelly Edward Dmytryk
1967 The Ambushers Henry Levin
Luv Clive Donner
1968 Star Spangled Salesman Norman Maurer
Wingate Smith
1970 I Walk the LIne John Frankenheimer supervising editor
1971 The Horsemen
1972 The Poseidon Adventure Ronald Neame Nominated—Academy Award for Best Film Editing
Nominated—ACE Eddie for Best Edited Feature Film – Dramatic
Stand Up and Be Counted Jackie Cooper
1973 The Iceman Cometh John Frankenheimer
1974 99 and 44/100% Dead
The Towering Inferno John Guillermin Academy Award for Best Film Editing
Nominated—ACE Eddie for Best Edited Feature Film – Dramatic
1976 Gator Burt Reynolds
1977 Viva Knievel! Gordon Douglas
The Other Side of Midnight Charles Jarrott
1978 The Swarm Irwin Allen

See also


  1. Oliver, Myrna (September 28, 1999). "Harold F. Kress; Film Editor Won 2 Oscars". The Los Angeles Times.
  2. Bergan, Ronald (October 21, 1999). "Harold Kress: Film editor who cut together Hollywood's greatest hits". The Guardian.
  3. Sloman, Tony (October 26, 1999). "Obituary: Harold Kress". The Independent. Retrieved 2015-12-12.
  4. "Film Editing Facts" (PDF). Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. February 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-11-13. Retrieved 2015-12-13.
  5. Oldham, Gabriella (1992). "Flash Back, Flash Forward: Harold F. Kress and Carl Kress". First Cut: Conversations with Film Editors. University of California Press. p. 79. ISBN 9780520911741. Oldham's dual interview with Harold and Carl Kress about their careers.
  6. Erickson, Hal. "Random Harvest (1942)". AllMovie.
  7. Oldham, Gabriella (1992). "Flash Back, Flash Forward: Harold F. Kress and Carl Kress". First Cut: Conversations with Film Editors. University of California Press. p. 98. ISBN 9780520911741.
  8. "Motion Picture Editors Guild - Past Presidents". Motion Picture Editors Guild. Kress was president in 1967 and 1968.
  9. "Prizes". Hebrew Union College — Jewish Institute of Religion. The Louis and Minnie Raphael Memorial Prize for outstanding service to a small congregation, established by Zelda Raphael Kress and Joel J. Raphael.
  10. Harold F. Kress on IMDb
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