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From the Archives: Film editor Verna Fields finds success with ‘Jaws’

July 1975: THE DIFFERENCE IS SKILL--With an impressive list of movies already to her credit, film ed
July 1975: With an impressive list of movies already to her credit, film editor Verna Fields recently added the blockbuster “Jaws.”
(Joe Kennedy / Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA)

For years, Verna Fields learned her craft working on smaller projects. But she developed ties with George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Peter Bogdanovich. In a July 24, 1975, Los Angeles Times article, Mary Murphy reported on her success:

A skillful film editor can make all the difference between a movie that doesn’t work and a movie that does.

In the past few years film editor Verna Fields has pulled together such films as “What’s Up, Doc?” “Paper Moon” and “Daisy Miller” for Peter Bogdanovich, “American Graffiti” for George Lucas, “The Sugarland Express” for Steven Spielberg and her most recent, and perhaps best editing accomplishment, Spielberg’s “Jaws.”

“I had to make a choice between editing ‘Jaws’ or ‘At Long Last Love.’ Because of an impending actors’ strike I picked ‘Jaws,’ ” says Fields, with nothing less than a massive grin on her face.

In appreciation for her work on “Graffiti,” Lucas, who had studied with Fields, gave her a cranberry red BMW. Spielberg, in a gesture of recognition, asked her to produce his next film. Bogdanovich sent her a letter saying that when he realized he would be making his next film without her, he burst into tears. ….

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Fields received an Academy Award nomination in film editing for “Graffiti.” She won the film editing Oscar for “Jaws.”

Within a year after the release of “Jaws,” Fields was appointed as vice president for feature production at Universal Pictures. One of the first women to enter upper-level management in the entertainment industry, she stayed at Universal until her death in 1982 at age 64.

See more from the Los Angeles Times archives here


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