Samuel Alexander O'Steen
November 6, 1923
Paragould, Arkansas, U.S.
|Died||October 11, 2000 (aged 76)|
|Awards||BAFTA Award for Best Editing (1968) The Graduate|
Samuel Alexander O'Steen (November 6, 1923 – October 11, 2000) was an American film editor and director. He had an extended, notable collaboration with the director Mike Nichols, with whom he edited 12 films between 1966 and 1994. Among the films O'Steen edited are Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (directed by Nichols, 1966), Cool Hand Luke (directed by Stuart Rosenberg, 1967), The Graduate (directed by Nichols, 1967), Rosemary's Baby (directed by Roman Polanski, 1968), and Chinatown (directed by Polanski, 1974).
On a 2012 listing of the 75 best-edited films of all time compiled by the Motion Picture Editors Guild based on a survey of its members, both The Graduate and Chinatown appear, Chinatown listed 31st and The Graduate 52nd.
Life and career
O'Steen was born in Paragould, Arkansas but raised in California. As a child in Burbank, he would try to make it onto the Warner Bros. lot hoping it could be an entree to work in the editing room. He was finally able to secure a position as an assistant editor in 1956, when he became George Tomasini's assistant editor on Alfred Hitchcock's 1957 film The Wrong Man.
Within a year, O'Steen had become the editor on Mike Nichols' first film as a director, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. O'Steen was Nichols' principal editor for nearly thirty years, during which he edited twelve of Nichols' films; their last film together was Wolf (1994).
O'Steen had been working as a principal editor for only three years when he edited Nichols' second film, The Graduate, but Patrick J. Sauer considers this film to be the epitome of O'Steen's editing:
Nowhere are O'Steen's skills more apparent than in Dustin Hoffman's classic debut film, The Graduate. O'Steen gives the audience time to study the performer's face before cutting the scene. O'Steen allows for long, personal looks at Hoffman's facial expressions to give the viewers an idea of what the character is thinking instead of the "quick-cutting" seen so often in modern films. In The Graduate Hoffman's expressions at the party scene are as important to the character as any bit of dialogue and O'Steen does not cut the scene short.
In his volume from the History of American Cinema series, Paul Monaco emphasizes the innovative aspects of the editing of The Graduate:
...with The Graduate, both Nichols and O'Steen had an opportunity to push their collaboration in the direction of a more innovative editing style. For example, one sequence in the film begins with the recent college graduate Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) floating on an air mattress in his parents' swimming pool. As he leaves the pool to walk back into their house, the scene cuts smoothly to a room where Benjamin is meeting an older woman ... for clandestine sex. Over the next couple of minutes through continuous editing the scenes shift back and forth between his parents' home pool and Benjamin's mental projections of his meetings with Mrs. Robinson. ... This associational montage shows adeptness of the editing technique and reinforces the inner sense of Benjamin's feelings of alienation and ambivalence ...
O'Steen directed seven films for television in the 1970s and 1980s, most notably Queen of the Stardust Ballroom (1975) and Kids Don't Tell (1985). He also directed one feature film, Sparkle (1976). His editing of The Graduate (1967) was honored by a BAFTA Award for Best Editing, and he was nominated for this award again for Chinatown (1974). He was nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Film Editing, for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966), Chinatown (1974), and Silkwood (directed by Mike Nichols, 1983).
In 1976, O'Steen won the "Most Outstanding Television Director" award from the Directors Guild of America (DGA). His film Queen of the Stardust Ballroom won the Outstanding Directorial Achievement Award in the category "Movies for Television and Mini-Series". He was also nominated for an Emmy award for "Outstanding Directing in a Special Program - Drama or Comedy" for his work on Queen of the Stardust Ballroom.
O'Steen was married twice, and had four daughters. His memoir, Cut to the Chase: Forty-Five Years of Editing America's Favorite Movies, was published in 2001, shortly after O'Steen's death, by his second wife, Bobbie Meyer. The book is written mostly as a transcript of O'Steen's responses to questions posed by his wife Bobbie, with sidebars about individual films and filmmakers. Ray Zone characterized it as "one of the very best anecdotal histories of filmmaking in print."
- "Sam O'Steen, 76, Film Editor Nominated 3 Times for Oscars". The New York Times. October 18, 2000. Retrieved 2014-05-29. Note that this article's statement that O'Steen edited nine of Nichols's films is incorrect.
- "The 75 Best Edited Films". Editors Guild Magazine. 1 (3). May 2012. Archived from the original on 2015-03-17.
- Zone, Ray (May–June 2006). "Recalling the Esteemed O'Steen". Editors' Guild Magazine. 27 (3). Retrieved 2014-05-29.
- Sauer, Patrick J. (2000). Sam O'Steen profile in Tom Pendergast and Sara Pendergast (editors), International Dictionary of Film and Filmmakers, Edition 4 (St. James Press); ISBN 978-1-55862-449-8. Online version of article retrieved February 13, 2008.
- Monaco, Paul (2003). History of the American Cinema Volume 8: The Sixties, Charles Harpole, general editor (University of California Press), pg. 97; ISBN 978-0-520-23804-6.
- O'Steen, Sam; O'Steen, Bobbie (2002). Cut to the Chase: Forty-Five Years of Editing America's Favorite Movies. Michael Wiese Productions. ISBN 978-0-941188-37-1.
See also O'Steen, Bobbie (March 1, 2009). The Invisible Cut: How Editors Make Movie Magic. Michael Wiese Productions. ISBN 978-1-932907-53-7.
- "CASA Alumni News" (PDF). CASA: Newsletter of the Stanford University program in cultural and social anthropology. 5. 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-02-16. Bobbie Meyer graduated in 1974 from the program.