Sally Menke dies at 56; editor on Quentin Tarantino’s movies
Sally Menke, director Quentin Tarantino’s longtime editor on films such as “ Pulp Fiction,” “Jackie Brown” and the two-volume “Kill Bill,” was found dead early Tuesday morning by searchers in Bronson Canyon after she went hiking with her dog in the severe heat Monday, authorities said. She was 56.
FOR THE RECORD:
Sally Menke obituary: The obituary of film editor Sally Menke in the Sept. 29 LATExtra section said Menke, who was found dead after she went hiking in Griffith Park, had continued on the hike while her walking companion turned back. Police said Wednesday that Menke had cut short the hike and that the other walker had continued. In addition, the article incorrectly said that Menke’s dog was a yellow Labrador retriever. It was a black Labrador. —
Search dogs, Los Angeles Police Department helicopters and patrol unit officers spent hours in Griffith Park searching for Menke after her friends alerted authorities about 4 p.m. Monday when she failed to return home.
The LAPD said Menke’s body was found just before 2 a.m. Tuesday morning in a rugged area of Griffith Park north of the 5500 block of Green Oak Drive.
LAPD Lt. Bob Binder said Menke and a hiking buddy set out about 9 a.m. to hike a trail in Bronson Canyon. An hour later, Menke’s partner decided to turn back. Menke and her yellow Labrador retriever kept going.
Her severely dehydrated dog was sitting next to her body when it was found, according to law enforcement sources.
There was no evidence of foul play, according to an LAPD release, which said it appeared that Menke had become disoriented due to the extreme heat.
The coroner’s office later determined that Menke’s death was heat-related.
“We want to thank the Los Angeles police and fire departments and park rangers for their tireless search, and all of our family and friends for their tremendous outpouring of love,” Dean Parisot, Menke’s husband, said in a statement.
A two-time Academy Award-nominated editor who launched her career in feature films in the early 1980s, Menke was an editor on 21 movies, including “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe,” “Heaven & Earth,” “Mulholland Falls,” “Nightwatch,” “Daddy and Them,” “All the Pretty Horses” and “Peacock.”
But it was during her years as Tarantino’s editor, beginning with his 1992 film “Reservoir Dogs,” that Menke made her name.
In 1995, she received an Academy Award nomination for editing the lurid, multistoried and darkly comic “Pulp Fiction,” and this year, she earned another editing Oscar nomination for Tarantino’s version of a World War II movie, ” Inglourious Basterds.”
“She was truly a brilliant editor,” film editor Joan Sobel, who was Menke’s first assistant editor on four films, including volumes one and two of “Kill Bill,” told The Times on Tuesday.
“She had the ability to see the point of a scene and to see the bigger picture simultaneously,” said Sobel, adding that Menke was “amazingly fast” and “innovative” as an editor. “One thing Sally was supreme at is that she cut for the actor’s performance, meaning that what was significant was the emotional aspect of the scene.”
Describing Menke as “funny, smart, opinionated and refreshing,” Sobel said she was “definitely a role model to editors and certainly to me. I learned a lot from Sally. She just loved editing and loved working with Quentin. They had a truly unique relationship.”
Indeed, Menke described it in a Daily Variety interview earlier this year as a “symbiotic creative relationship.”
“Quentin said he didn’t know where his ideas begin and mine end, and vice versa,” Menke, a member of the American Cinema Editors, told Screen International in 2009. “We have become somewhat joined at the hip. But we differ creatively enough so there’s always a growth.
“I consider myself so darn lucky to work with this guy who pushes me into new genres and pushes me deeper into subject matter and characters.”
Menke was born Dec. 17, 1953, in Mineola, N.Y. A 1978 graduate of the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, she began working as an editor on documentaries and worked with CBS Reports and PBS. Her first feature film as an editor was the 1983 comedy “Cold Feet.”
Menke first met Tarantino when he was interviewing for an editor — “a cheap one,” she once recalled — for the low-budget crime tale “Reservoir Dogs,” his first feature film as a director.
In the Daily Variety interview, Menke praised her assistants and said a documentary background was great training for dramatic features.
“It’s all emotion, impulsive, instinctual,” she said. “Just follow the character’s emotions.”
Besides her husband, Menke is survived by her children, Isabella and Lucas; and a sister, Sue Mason.
Only good movies
Get the Indie Focus newsletter, Mark Olsen's weekly guide to the world of cinema.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.