Photograph by Howard Jean from Vogue (1952).
November 16, 1903
Palisades Park, New Jersey
|Died||March 28, 1996
Newport Beach, California
|Spouse(s)||Robert D. Webb (1951–1990)|
Barbara McLean (November 16, 1903 – March 28, 1996) was an American film editor with 62 film credits. In the period Darryl F. Zanuck was dominant at the 20th Century Fox Studio, from the 1930s through the 1960s, McLean was the Studio's most conspicuous editor and ultimately the head of its editing department. She won the 1944 Academy Award for Film Editing for the film Wilson. She was nominated for the same award for six additional films, including the "classic", All About Eve (1950). Her total of seven nominations for editing during her career was only surpassed in 2012 by Michael Kahn.
She had a notable collaboration with the director Henry King that extended over twenty-nine films, including Twelve O'Clock High (1949). Her impact was summarized by Adrian Dannatt in 1996: McLean was "a revered editor who perhaps single-handedly established women as vital creative figures in an otherwise patriarchal industry."
Early life and career
McLean was born in Palisades Park, New Jersey; she was the daughter of Charles Pollut, who ran a film laboratory. As a child she worked on release prints from the adjacent studio of E. K. Lincoln, who was an early producer of films. No doubt the early experience in processing of film was helpful to McLean when she became an assistant film editor, but McLean later commented that her musical training as a child also was very important.
In 1924 she married J. Gordon McLean, who was a film projectionist and later, a cameraman. After marrying, the couple moved to Los Angeles, California. McLean found work as an assistant editor at First National Studio. She subsequently joined Twentieth Century Pictures, where initially, she assisted the editor Alan McNeil. In 1933 she received her first editing credit for Gallant Lady; her work on Les Misérables (directed by Richard Boleslawski, 1935) was nominated for the Academy Award for Film Editing.
20th Century Fox
In 1935, 20th Century Pictures merged with the Fox Film Corporation to form 20th Century Fox. Darryl F. Zanuck was the head of the merged studio and McLean became the chief editor under his sponsorship. She retained this position until her retirement in 1969. McLean had more authority over the editing of the studio's films than is typical for contemporary film editors; as Lizzie Francke described it, "McLean worked during a period when the editor was often left to his or her own devices in the cutting room. The pressures of production turn-over during the hey-day of the studio system often meant that the director could not be around to supervise since they were on to their next production."
Darryl Zanuck not only entrusted McLean with the editing of 20th Century Fox's most important projects, he depended on her judgment in many other areas of filmmaking, including, casting and production. In 1940, a Los Angeles Times story noted that "Barbara McLean, one of Hollywood's three women film editors, can make stars — or leave their faces on the cutting room floor." She was also instrumental in the careers of such other film editors as Hugh S. Fowler, William H. Reynolds, and Robert Simpson.
Collaboration with Henry King
|"For all her focus on keeping the narrative moving, McLean's editing could dazzle if called for. In A Bell for Adano (1945), she took material director Henry King shot on the return of the Italian POWs to their village and put it together with such a pure sense of emotion that when she cut at exactly the right moment to King's overhead shot of the prisoners and villagers coming together in the square, the cut was more heart-stopping than conventional close-ups would have been."|
|— Tom Stempel|
McLean began her long association with the director, Henry King, with the films The Country Doctor (1936) and Lloyd's of London (1936); she received her second nomination for an Academy Award for the latter film. McLean received three further nominations for editing films directed by King: for Alexander's Ragtime Band (1938), The Song of Bernadette (1943), and Wilson (1944). The latter film was something of an editorial tour de force. As Tom Stempel has described it, "she had to cut down the enormous amount of footage from the 1912 Democratic convention into a workable sequence, and she condensed several bill-signing sequences into montage sequences." Wilson, which rarely is seen anymore, was the only film for which McLean won an Academy Award for Film Editing.
It may be that King and McLean's greatest accomplishment was the film Twelve O'Clock High (1949); Sean Axmaker has written "Twelve O'Clock High was one of the first and arguably the greatest of the Hollywood films to examine the pressures of command and the psychological toll of making life and death decisions for men they come to know and care for." While the film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, neither King nor McLean received personal Academy Award recognition for their work in making that film. Twelve O'Clock High was entered into the U.S. National Film Registry in 1998.
Nearly half of the sixty-two films crediting McLean as editor were directed by Henry King. The other films she edited at 20th Century Fox involved many different directors, including many highly notable ones. She was nominated for an Academy Award for editing The Rains Came (1939), which was the only time she worked with director Clarence Brown. She edited one of John Ford's films, Tobacco Road (1941), and one of George Cukor's, Winged Victory (1944). In 1950-1951, McLean edited three of Joseph L. Mankiewicz's films, including All About Eve, for which she received her final Academy Award nomination. Her nomination was among the fourteen nominations for the film, another Academy Award record that has never been surpassed. All About Eve was archived at the National Film Registry in 1990 and was thus among the first fifty films to be archived.
In the 1940s, McLean and her first husband divorced. In 1951 she married Robert D. Webb, who had been working as King's assistant director. In 1952, McLean edited one of Elia Kazan's films, Viva Zapata, and in 1954 she edited Michael Curtiz's The Egyptian. She also edited the first movie produced in CinemaScope, Henry Koster's The Robe (1953). McLean's last editing credit was for Untamed (1955), which was her twenty-ninth collaboration with Henry King. Her later work was primarily supervisorial and administrative. McLean retired from 20th Century Fox in 1969, apparently because of her husband's poor health. She received the inaugural American Cinema Editors Career Achievement Award in 1988. She died in Newport Beach, California in 1996.
- Thomas, Robert McG. (April 7, 1996). "Barbara McLean, Film Editor at 20th Century-Fox, Dies at 92". The New York Times.
- Stempel, Tom (2004). "McClean, Barbara". In Ware, Susan; Braukman, Stacy Lorraine. Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary Completing the Twentieth Century. Harvard University Press. pp. 435–436. ISBN 978-0-674-01488-6. Good bibliography. Stempel interviewed McLean in 1970 for the American Film Institute; a copy of the transcript is archived at the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
- The count of film credits is based on information retrieved from the webpage Barbara McLean at the Internet Movie Database on February 1, 2009.
- Guthman, Edward (February 9, 2001). "Campy Catfights, Superb Comedy in 'All About Eve'". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 14, 2009.
- "Academy Awards and the Oscars". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on 8 February 2009. Retrieved January 14, 2009. No webpage explicitly listing the nominees and awardees by category, etc., is maintained by the Academy. The Academy's search engine will generate a list of all nominations and winners for a specific award category (such as "editing") by entering the necessary range of dates.
- "Film Editing Facts". Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. March 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-01.
- Dannatt, Adrian (April 13, 1996). "Obituaries: Margaret McLean". The Independent (London).
- Lewis, Kevin (March–April 2006). "The Moviola Mavens and the Moguls: Three Pioneering Women Editors Who Had the Respect of Early Hollywood's Power-Brokers". Editors Guild Magazine 27(2). Archived from the original on 2008-06-22. This article presents a slightly different version of McLean's early career, and the date of her first marriage, than Stempel's biography.
- Francke, Lizzie (April 30, 1996). "Invisible hand in the cutting room". The Guardian. p. 14. Archived from the original on 2012-02-20. Obituary for Barbara McLean.
- "Women Behind the Screen". The Los Angeles Times. April 28, 1940. p. H10.
- Knock, Thomas J. (Winter 1976). "'History with Lightning': The Forgotten Film Wilson". American Quarterly (The Johns Hopkins University Press) 28 (5): 523–543. doi:10.2307/2712287. JSTOR 2712287.
- Axmaker, Sean (June 18, 2007). "Twelve O'Clock High". Turner Classic Movies Website.