Archive for the ‘Television Editors’ Category

Remembering “I Love Lucy” Editor Dann Cahn

Monday, November 26th, 2012

The Archive is sad to hear of the death of editor Dann Cahn, who passed away on Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at the age of 89. Cahn edited I Love Lucy and several other Desilu productions, including Our Miss Brooks, The Untouchables, and The Loretta Young Show Cahn also edited The Beverly Hillbillies, Police Woman, and Remington Steele and served as head of Post Production at Glen Larson Productions.

Below are some selections from Cann’s 1999 Archive interview:

On acting when he was a child:

I went out on another set around nineteen-thirty-seven. These Dead End Kids were the rage, and we were in for a long series of tough kid pictures. They went from being the little tough guys to the Bowery Boys at Monogram. They went on and on and on making these tough kid movies. Well, I was out on the set and the producer had quite a close relationship with my dad. He’d cut several pictures for him.  nd he took a look at me – and I was the same age as the kids, or maybe a couple of years younger – and he said, “gee, Danny, you ought to be in the picture.” I looked at my dad and he said, “okay.”  So I went and joined the Screen Actors Guild. I still have my card.

On watching his father edit:

I’d watch my dad work in the cutting room and I’d learn how to, well actually, by the time I was in my teens I knew how to splice film. At that point the machine to put film together was what they called a foot pedestal hot splicer. It had two pedals like your brake and clutch on an old car, and you took these blades up and you put the film in and you brought it down with film cement, which splashed all over you. It was a mess. Smelled kind of like fingernail polish, but it was much more potent. Then you had to use acetone, which is a very strong chemical, to keep the machine clean because the cement would clog it up. It was a kind of dirty job.

On how he got hired on I Love Lucy:

A young fellow stuck his head in the cutting room door from his cutting room down the hall, and his name was Bill Asher. I had known Bill from before the war – when I was an apprentice he was an assistant editor – he’s a couple of years older than me. He showed me the initial ropes of how to splice and number film. The war had come and ten years had gone by. So he said, “Danny,” he said, “I just got offered a job to cut a thing with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz called I Love Lucy. It’s going to be for CBS. I’m directing and cutting some very short films that I’m trying to get going, and I wrote them too, and I don’t want to take an editing job; I want to make it as a director. So I’m going to pass but I can get you an interview with the producer, who I know, uh, if you’re interested.” I said, “well, yeah, I’m looking for new connections.  I’ll go if I can get the interview.” It was arranged and I went and I met Jess Oppenheimer.

On editing I Love Lucy:

Mark (Daniels) was so involved, he just said, “I’ll see you at the dailies.” I came to the show that Saturday night, the film went to the lab, came out Monday morning, and I said to Bud, “they’ve got this thing here, this multiple moviola, but I’ve never run it. I’m going to have to mark each moviola and take a guess when I make cuts, and it’s going to take time.” Al Simon, who had hired George Fox said, “well, you should try this multiple-headed moviola, and it’s going to save you time. George swears by it.” So they bring this thing over on a truck and it’s like three moviolas in a line with a sound head, and it’s in a big base.  And I said, “what are we going to do with this three-headed monster?”  Bud Molin, who at the time was my assistant, started to laugh, and he says, “yeah, it really is a monster.” We didn’t know where to put it. It wouldn’t fit in our tiny cutting room, where I had one moviola. So they put it in the prop room, where all the props for the show were kept, and the corner of the prop room was part of our sound stage, and that’s where we put the monster.” I had a little mini bleachers made for about four people so they could see the dailies.

On the reaction to his cut of the first episode of I Love Lucy:

The silence seemed an eternity to me. And then Lucy was sitting directly behind me. Desi didn’t open his mouth himself. And Lucy put her hands on my shoulders and she says, “Danny, it’s a good cutting job.” That broke the tension and everybody started talking. “Oh yeah, it’s going to be a hit. It’s going to be wonderful. It’s going to be fine.” They were all congratulating each other and themselves for coming up with this I Love Lucy.

On the transition of I Love Lucy to The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour:

On editing The Beverly Hillbillies:

I did the whole year of The Beverly Hillbillies. I did what two editors had done the year before. I did it all myself, except for the Christmas show. And they promised me certain things that for reasons I won’t go into, they didn’t deliver it. They wanted me to pick it up for the third season, just the way I did.  And I recommended a pal of mine, who, from the Republic days we had been assistant editors together, and his name was Bob Leeds, and I recommended him as the editor, and he signed up and took my job, which I gave to him. Some of us weren’t through cutting our competition. We were friends with it.  Paul liked Bob, and the guy he picked as third year director collapsed, and Bob Leeds became the director of The Beverly Hillbillies. If I just stayed I would have been the director of The Beverly Hillbillies. That’s timing, and I missed it again.

On editing:

Watch Dann Cahn’s full Archive interview and read his obituary in the Los Angeles Times.

Remembering Neil Travis

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

The Archive just learned the sad news of editor Neil Travis’ passing. Travis died of natural causes at his home in Arroyo Grande, CA on March 28, 2012. He was 75 years old. He began his career as an assistant editor at Paramount and left to work on several television series, including Please Don’t Eat the Daisies and Kung Fu. Travis edited three parts of the groundbreaking miniseries Roots and edited numerous films, including Patriot Games, Clear And Present Danger, and Dances with Wolves, for which he won the Academy Award.

Here are some selections from Travis’ two-hour interview:

On his philosophy on editing:

On meeting John Wayne when editing the film The Cowboys:

John Wayne was like the Statue of Liberty. Meeting John Wayne was one of the high points in my life. He’s John Wayne. Can you imagine, “Neil, I’d like you to meet John Wayne.” It’s unbelievable. It’s like, “I’d like you to meet God.” It was fantastic. He was getting a little on in age by that time. I think he made only one or two more movies. And as a matter of fact, at that time he was breathing very hard.  He had, I think, lung cancer and you could hear him wheeze. I was standing on the set and saw him lose control of a horse and I thought he was going to get killed; he couldn’t stop the horse. He didn’t have enough strength and the horse ran right through the set and I thought it was going to go right through the house. But he finally was able to turn it around and he had wranglers chasing him and everything. It was funny. But at that point in his life, he was transitioning from middle age to old. But it was amazing to meet him. I’m star struck with some people like that.

On how being on the set of Roots influenced his editing choices on the project:

It was enjoyable to me because I went on location and that’s very unusual – my first editing location. To be right there when it was being shot was good. A silly word to say but it helped me, for some reason or another. I was involved in the scenes where the slaves were brought over on board ship. That was brutal to watch. I really became affected by going on the set, which was the slave ships and seeing the conditions in which they were brought to this country. It moved me. I mean, I don’t know how to tell you. It was kind of devastating in a way. I think that mood helped me function on the picture. I gained so much sympathy for them.

On editing Part 1 of Roots:

On editing 1983’s Cujo and learning how to scare an audience through editing:

Cujo was a lot of fun. We were on location up in Santa Rosa. As I recall, Cujo was originally directed and edited by someone else and they brought in Lewis Teague who directed and hired me. It was a switch in that we started all over again. But working with Lewis was fun. He had a good appreciation of what I was doing and I of what he was doing. It’s where I developed a skill of learning how to really scare people. I mean it’s very simple: the skill is to never have something happen where the people expect it to happen. It has to happen either at a different time or from a different direction. As simple as that. You’re looking at a window and you expect the rabid dog to be coming through the window and it comes right here. That’s all that is.

On winning an Academy Award for editing Dances with Wolves:

Oh my heavens, what a great moment for that, winning the Oscar. It was one of the greatest moments of my life. People who poo poo the Oscar, I don’t think they get it. The fact is that the Oscar is the Pulitzer Prize of motion pictures. It’s difficult, for example, to pick the best actor or the best actress or something like that because they’re all good. It was difficult for me to feel that I deserved it. As a matter fact, Thelma Schoonmaker was up for Good Fellas that same time, and the editor of Ghost was up at the same time, and they were all well edited. I felt good about Dances With Wolves because I felt that it was a movie that grabbed the audience’s imagination probably more than the others. Good Fellas was a brutal movie about gangsters fighting and killing one another, and so it’s not as much fun as to watch a white man turn into an Indian. That movie captured people’s imagination; there were people who would come up to me and tell me they’d seen the movie forty, fifty times. They’ve seen the movie as much as I have, it’s amazing. That made me feel like I had a good chance, but I told my wife at the Oscars, I said, “hang on to me, because people have been telling me that I’m going to win, and if I don’t win, I’m liable to stand up anyway. So pull me down will you? Don’t let me stand up.” But I was so nervous up on stage, I screwed up. That night was my wife and my 30th wedding anniversary and I failed to mention her. I didn’t mention her at all, I didn’t mention any member of my family. What happened was, they tell you that you’re only supposed to take like a minute and a half or two minutes and a half or whatever it is for your acceptance speech. But they don’t tell you that there’s a TV monitor facing the stage in the audience, the size of New Jersey, that starts flashing “out of time, out time, out of time,” and that just blew me away. I saw that and I was I lost and my script went right out the window. I did the wrong thing, I tried to remember the speech that I had memorized instead of just remembering the people and saying whatever came to my mind. So I was standing up there just totally lost and what I wanted to say was, “thanks finally to Kevin Costner, who molded us all into a unit and gave us a picture that we can remember for the rest of our lives. Thank you Kevin for trusting me with your first born,” which is a very sort of eloquent way of saying it. What I ended up saying to Kevin Costner, to whom I owe a lot, was that it is a lot of pressure up there on the stage when  it pops into your mind that a billion people are looking at you. It really blows you away.

On how technology changed over the course of his career:

I walked onto the Paramount lot in 1959 a long time ago – I arrived simultaneously with the butt splicer. The butt splicer was a new invention for the editors then, also magnetic tape, magnetic sound. They were used to cutting optical sound. It’s come a long way since then. The editors that I worked with were always very suspicious about butt splicers; they thought that should be used only for sound and they were very suspicious about magnetic sound itself because they couldn’t see the sound. In optical sound you can actually see the striations; you can see where a word starts – it’s just like a graph. They couldn’t see it, so they didn’t like it. The same sort of reaction has repeated itself through history, like when the first flat bed editing system came everybody was very suspicious about that and the first electronic editing system came in and everybody was suspicious about that. It takes a long time for things to get in place. From where I started, spending hours and hours in the splicing room, scraping the emulsion on the film and putting glue on it and gluing it together and doing it again, pulling paper clips off the film that the editor has put on and throwing them at a target on the wall … it’s come a long, long way. We’re up to Avid and I have no idea where we’re going to go after this. I think the envelope is going to be pushed a lot more. 3D is going to be a big deal.

On receiving the ACE Lifetime Achievement Award:

It’s the most exciting experience since I won the Academy Award. I was less nervous than when I won the Academy Award because I knew it was coming. I was called months ago to be told that – it’s like the Irving Thalberg award – you know ahead of time and you can prepare a speech. As I said at the time, it was really cool to be able to get my favorite actor and my favorite director and my favorite producer all to introduce me and to present the award to me: Morgan Freeman, Phil Alden Robinson, and Mace Neufeld were all in my corner and that was a great, great feeling.

On the highlight of his career:

I had a friend who died recently, Dom Deluise, who was a very funny man. He said, ‘if you ever find a million dollars in a purple elevator, you’ll never get into a green one.” I found a million dollars with Dances With Wolves. I got my Academy Award. For that reason and for another reason: Dances With Wolves was a very familiar kind of movie, not a family movie, not meaning G-rated, but that the people who worked on the movie felt like a family. We gave each other Indian names, we all played around with each other out on location. We had softball tournaments, we had water ski tournaments, Kevin Costner’s wife at that time was very helpful at arranging things – we had a bowling night at the bowling alley, we had a night at the pool hall; she always was throwing parties. My Indian name by the way, was “Over The Hill.”

Watch Neil Travis’ full Archive Interview.

Read Travis’ obituary here.

2012 Television Academy Hall of Fame

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Two and a Half Men star and Emmy winner Jon Cryer will host tonight’s 21st Annual Television Hall of Fame Gala at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Performers Vivian Vance and Bill Frawley, executive Michael Eisner, show creator-producer Chuck Lorre, executive producers Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray, host Mario Kreutzberger (aka Don Francisco), and lighting director Bill Klages will become the newest inductees into the Television Academy’s Hall of Fame.

Presenters at tonight’s ceremony include: Gail Berman presenting to Mary-Ellis Bunim & Jonathan Murray, Garry Marshall presenting to Michael Eisner, Sofia Vergara presenting to Mario Kreutzberger, Walter Miller presenting to Bill Klages, Peter Roth presenting to Chuck Lorre, Doris Singleton presenting to Vivian Vance, and Barry & Stan Livingston presenting to William Frawley. Mary-Ellis Bunim, Vivian Vance and William Frawley will be inducted posthumously.

The Archive of American Television has conducted interviews with several of the new honorees, and with many of their colleagues. Below enjoy selections from Archive interviews with or touting this year’s Hall of Fame inductees:

Congratulations to all of the honorees!

More from our Featured Story on the 21st Annual Hall of Fame Inductees.

62nd Primetime Emmy Noms Announced Today

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

With the 62nd Primetime Emmy Nominations, the Archive of American Television congratulates all of the nominees, including our interviewees:
Paris Barclay (comedy series direction, Glee)
Ken Burns (producer nonfiction series, National Parks: America’s Best Idea)
Kevin Clash (producer children’s nonfiction program, When Families Grieve)
Robert A. Dickinson (lighting direction, 82nd Annual Academy Awards)
Dick Ebersol (exec producer special class programs, Vancouver Olympics Opening Ceremony)
Sharon Gless (supporting actress drama series, Burn Notice)
Louis J. Horvitz (variety special direction, The Kennedy Center Honors)
Shirley Jones (guest actress drama series, The Cleaner)
Susan Lacy (exec producer nonfiction series, American Masters)
Christopher Lloyd (producer/writer comedy series, Modern Family)
Sheila Nevins (producer nonfiction special, Teddy: In His Own Words & exceptional merit filmmaking Sergio)
Tim Van Patten (miniseries direction, The Pacific)
Betty White (guest actress comedy series, Saturday Night Live)
Dick Wolf (producer nonfiction series, American Masters)

Special note: With 126 total series nominations, Saturday Night Live has now become the most-nominated series of all-time.

Watch the Emmy Awards Sunday, August 29 on NBC!

55 years ago: "Little Ricky" was born to Lucy & Ricky Ricardo

Saturday, January 19th, 2008

55 years ago, on January 19, 1953, the I Love Lucy episode “Lucy Goes to the Hospital” first aired. In this classic episode, Lucy gives birth to “Little Ricky.” The airdate was chosen to coincide with Lucille Ball’s real-life scheduled Caesarean delivery of her own child, Desi Arnaz, Jr. Not surprisingly, the episode was viewed by more people than any other television program up to that date — 68% (some sources say it was as high as 75%) of all American TV sets were tuned to CBS. A few months later, with the noteworthiness of the birth still in full-swing, Desi Arnaz, Jr. was featured on the very first cover of TV Guide (pictured at right).

From I Love Lucy editor Dann Cahn’s Archive interview:

Lucy went to the hospital for a [scheduled] Caesarean birth on a Monday morning and that night she gave birth to a little boy on the show. The child being a boy had been decided weeks earlier, remember, there was no ultrasound testing — they didn’t know if it’s twins, whether it’s a boy or a girl, or two boys or whatever. They didn’t have that in the fifties. So we went ahead and producer Jess {Oppenheimer] and writers Bob [Carroll] and Madeline [Pugh Davis] wrote that they’d have a little boy, and Lucy and Desi agreed. Sure enough, Lucy went to the hospital and in the morning she had a little boy [Desi Arnaz, Jr.], and on the television tube, little Ricky was born. That was a very big event.

Dann Cahn’s Full Interview Description:
Mr. Cahn talked about starting out as an assistant editor on motion pictures. His first job in television came in 1949, on Lucky Strike Showtime. Mr. Cahn also discussed working at Desilu on I Love Lucy, Our Miss Brooks, Where’s Raymond, The Untouchables, and The Loretta Young Show. He also discussed editing other television shows including Leave it to Beaver, The Beverly Hillbillies, Police Woman, and Remington Steele. He also talked about working at Glenn Larson Productions as head of Post Production, where he worked on The Fall Guy, Cover Up, and The Automan.

50 Years Ago: "I Love Lucy" Ended Its Run

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007


From 1951-57, I Love Lucy was a popular and critical hit. It was the #1 rated network show during most of its run and won Emmys for Best Sitcom and Acting Awards for Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance.

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz continued the Lucy format in a series of hour-long specials in the late 1950s, but the weekly production ceased with the airing, on May 6, 1957, of episode #180, “The Ricardos Dedicate A Statue.”

The Archive of American Television interviewed several significant talents behind the series. Many of these interviews are currently available online, as follows:

Dann Cahn: editor
Bob Carroll & Madelyn Pugh Davis: writers
Barbara Eden: guest star
Jay Sandrich: assistant director
Bob Schiller & Bob Weiskopf: writers
Doris Singleton: recurring character “Carolyn Appleby”

Everyone has a favorite “I Love Lucy” episode. What is yours?
Is it one of the following classic shows?

“Lucy Does A TV Commercial”
“Job Switching”
“L. A. at Last”
“Harpo Marx”
“Lucy’s Italian Movie”
“Lucy Does the Tango”

Voice your opinion by clicking on “comments” below.