Stu Linder, 74; Edited Most of Barry Levinson’s Movies

Times Staff Writer

Stu Linder, an Academy Award-winning film editor who worked almost exclusively for Barry Levinson since cutting the director’s 1982 debut movie, “Diner,” has died. He was 74.

Linder died of a heart attack Jan. 12 while on location in Ridgefield, Conn., editing Levinson’s film “Man of the Year,” said his wife, Cathy Fitzpatrick Linder.

“Personally and professionally, we had a great relationship. It was just a perfect fit,” Levinson told The Times on Wednesday. “He shared a similar sensitivity. There was an inherent shorthand from ‘Diner’ on.”

Together they crafted nearly 20 films that were rich in stylistic diversity and included “The Natural” (1984), “Wag the Dog” (1997), “Sleepers” (1996) and “Bandits” (2001).


When Linder received an Academy Award nomination for the Levinson-directed “Rain Man” (1988), the Seattle Times called his editing “a major contribution” that heightened the tension of key scenes. The film won for best picture and director.

Linder’s Oscar, which he shared with three others, came for the first movie he worked on as a full-fledged editor: John Frankenheimer’s race-car melodrama “Grand Prix” (1966).

“As a film editor, he always said, ‘Leave the audience wanting a little more,’ and he lived like that,” said Mike Macdonald of his longtime friend with the self-effacing manner.

“Once we were watching a film and I said, ‘That was a well-edited sequence,’ ” Macdonald recalled. “He said, ‘If you noticed the editing, it wasn’t well done.’ ”


The quiet, private Linder considered his work a perfect fit for his personality.

“He liked being in a dark room by himself,” his wife said.

He also enjoyed the company of Levinson, with whom he shared a similar sense of humor that allowed them to share close quarters for long stretches and made their unusual 25-year collaboration feel natural, the director said.

While working in Reno on the 1961 movie “The Misfits,” Linder awoke after a night of drinking and playing craps, thinking that he was broke and failing to remember where his gambling chips had gone, Macdonald said.

On the hotel dresser he saw a note from John Huston, the film’s director, that said: “A man can drink and a man can gamble, but a wise man doesn’t do both at the same time.”

Alongside the message sat a pile of chips from Huston. Linder cashed them in to buy his first boat, a catamaran he named Zangano de la Playa, which he loosely translated as “sea loafer.”

In the 1970s, Linder became a leading yachtsman whose racing wins included the 1975 Trans-Pacific Yacht Race from Los Angeles to Honolulu.

He met his second wife, Cathy, a former HBO executive, at a 1971 yacht race in San Francisco, and they married a decade later. Other survivors include a son, Stewart, and a brother, Raymond. His first marriage ended in divorce.


Stewart Bridgewater Linder was born Nov. 8, 1931, in Geneva, Ill., the second of three children of Stewart, a banker, and his wife, the former Ruth Bridgewater.

Barely out of infancy, Linder moved to California with his family and grew up in Hermosa Beach.

An avid surfer, he made balsa-wood surfboards and helped pioneer the Southern California beach culture in the 1940s and 1950s, Macdonald said.

At the time, Linder counted legendary surfers Gregg Noll and Bing Copeland among his closest friends.

In the 1950s, Linder designed the first surfboard logos for the commercial boards made by Noll and Copeland, said Matt Warshaw, author of “The Encyclopedia of Surfing.”

While majoring in art at Pepperdine University, Linder was drafted into the Army during the Korean War. He became an illustrator at Ft. Ord’s foreign-language school, where his drawings helped liven up lessons.

After the war, his brother-in-law -- film editor Roy V. Livingston -- thought Linder might like the profession and brought him to Paramount as an apprentice.

As an assistant editor, Linder worked on John Frankenheimer’s “Seconds” (1966) in addition to the Mike Nichols films “Catch-22" (1970) and “Carnal Knowledge” (1971).


Among the other Levinson movies Linder edited are “Good Morning Vietnam” (1987), “Tin Men” (1987), “Avalon” (1990), “Bugsy” (1991) and “Disclosure” (1994). He also did “Quiz Show” (1994) for Robert Redford.

Location shooting often took him and his wife away from their Beverly Hills home of 28 years.

They lived in Northern California for six years and Connecticut for five while maintaining their primary residence: an outbuilding on what was once actor John Barrymore’s estate.

At home, Linder often could be found in the rose garden. But his artistry also was evident in the Tiffany-style stained-glass windows, carved-wood mantelpieces, statues and stone walls that graced the grounds.

“He was extraordinary in his ability beyond film,” Levinson said. “He was just truly a remarkable craftsman.”

On the set of what would be his final movie, Linder was carving his first violin with a how-to book as his only instructor.