David Meuel is back, and his third book, Women Film Editors, further cements the status he achieved among film historians with his first two books, Women in the Films of John Ford (Reviewed here) and The Noir Western: Darkness on the Range 1943-1962 (Recommended here).
David Meuel has been a friend since the time he reached out to send along a copy of Women in the Films of John Ford for review. That exciting volume forced me to eat crow over my initial lack of excitement for the subject he'd selected. It was out of my era and, oh, did we really need another book on Ford?
We certainly did, at least the one Meuel provided. I immediately fell in love with the way he presented his subject, both on a macro and micro level, and his treatment of Ford's films, both the well-known and the obscure, led me to seek out a few I'd missed and give others another chance with an all-new perspective.
The Noir Western, a term which, as regular readers know, combines a style I generally dislike with a genre I typically avoid, was a worthy follow-up to his Ford book. While Meuel hasn't turned me on to every movie he's covered, his writing forces me to read about them all. I began deconstructing his chapters and, as I've told him, have even stolen a few of his tricks for my own film articles. Since David has appeared on the scene he's had a great influence on my own craft.
When I saw David promoting his latest book I congratulated him on the accomplishment and he was kind enough to send along a copy (I returned the favor with my Twelvetrees book, which I admit I got a big kick out of being able to do!). It occurred to me while I was waiting for it to arrive that Women Film Editors as a topic doesn't do much for me, but "Women Film Editors by David Meuel" creates some excitement!
I'm jumping the gun with this review (which is why I've called it a recommendation instead), and am writing after just finishing Chapter 4. It is, so far, exactly what I wanted it to be.
In Women Film Editors David Meuel examines nine different editors in separate detailed chapters, and then he offers quick hits on nine more in a tenth chapter at the end. The big nine are seemingly divided in half between the classic and modern eras and are, in order of their appearance, both in David's book and, I believe, on the film scene: Anne Bauchens, Viola Lawrence, Margaret Booth, Barbara "Bobbie" McLean, Dorothy Spencer, Dede Allen, Verna Fields, Anne V. Coates, and Thelma Schoonmaker.
So far I've read the Introduction and the chapters on Bauchens, Lawrence, and Booth. Each chapter follows Meuel's now familiar successful formula: I - Overview, why each person is worth knowing; II - Basic Biography, containing bio, brief film notes, etc; III - Brief Transition, offers quotes, feminist contributions, summarizes general editing style; IV - A Signature Film, in detail; V - Summing Up.
The reader becomes trained to guess which film Meuel chooses to cover in detail. So far, I've been right all three times, though I was only sure about one of those and really just hoping for the other two!
At this rate I can't wait to finish up Women Film Editors just to pop it on my shelf next to David Meuel's previous two books. Together these three slim volumes offer a complementary view of mostly unexplored* aspects of film and film history that only whets my appetite for more. All three make valuable entries to any library of film books and force movie lovers to hope Meuel eats up more and more of their shelf space and reading hours in the years to come.
*Okay, excepting Ford, but then how many writers get you to whip out your copy of Pilgrimage (1933)?
Women Film Editors by David Meuel is from McFarland & Company, 2016. My thanks again to the author for sending me a copy. You can pick up yours on Amazon.com here.