Dorothy Spencer

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For the 17th century English aristocrat, see Dorothy Spencer, Countess of Sunderland.
Dorothy Spencer
Born Dorothy M. Spencer[1]
(1909-02-03)February 3, 1909
Covington, Kentucky, USA
Died May 23, 2002(2002-05-23) (aged 93)
Encinitas, California
Occupation Film editor
Years active 1929-1979

Dorothy Spencer (February 3, 1909 – May 23, 2002) was an American film editor.[2] Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Film Editing on four occasions, she is remembered for editing several 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.".[3]


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.[citation needed]

Dorothy Spencer also edited several of Alfred Hitchcock's films such as Foreign Correspondent (1940) and 1944's Lifeboat (featuring a particularly feisty and well-edited Tallulah Bankhead performance). Spencer also edited director Elia Kazan's feature film debut, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945).

Spencer edited the disaster film Earthquake (1974) starring Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner and George Kennedy. Variety's review of the film touted, "... Earthquake is an excellent dramatic exploitation extravaganza, combining brilliant special effects with a multi-character plot line...".[4] Dorothy Spencer was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Film Editing for Earthquake, which was her fourth nomination; it followed her nomination for what still reigns as the most expensive movie ever made, Cleopatra (1963).[citation needed] Her prior nominations were Decision Before Dawn (1951) and Stagecoach (1939).

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."[5] Spencer was awarded the American Cinema Editors Career Achievement Award in 1989, and was among the first four editors to receive the Award.

Selected filmography[edit]

This filmography is based on the listing at the Internet Movie Database.[6]

As assistant editor[edit]

As editor[edit]

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Flynn, Peter. "Dorothy Spencer". 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.