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William Henry Reynolds (June 14, 1910 – July 16, 1997) was an American film editor whose career spanned six decades. His credits include such notable films as The Sound of Music, The Godfather, The Sting, and The Turning Point. He also was associated with two of the biggest American box office bombs in history, Ishtar and Heaven's Gate, which he executive produced.
The most notably gay figure in editing was William Reynolds, named by Film Comment as one of the top three film editors of all time.
Born in 1910 in Elmira, NY, to an affluent family, he graduated from Princeton with a degree in English, but in 1935 joined a "swing gang", prop movers, at Fox, so determined was he to get into the movie business. "I very quickly zeroes in on the cutting department, and just by sort of making a nuisance of myself, I managed to get in as an apprentice," he recalled. He quickly mastered the craft. "Keep it simple" became his guiding philosophy: "Keep the storyline clean so the audience understands what's happening."
Reynolds began his career in 1934 as a member of the swing gang at 20th Century Fox. He became a protégé of film editor Robert Simpson, who brought him to Paramount Pictures as his assistant in 1936. The following year, he edited his first project, the musical film 52nd Street. In 1942, he joined 20th Century Fox, where he remained for twenty-eight years. It was there that he frequently collaborated with two notable directors. His wartime service put a temporary halt to his career. However, he did manage to sustain continuity by editing U.S. Army training films from 1942 to 1946. For Robert Wise, he edited The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Sound of Music, The Sand Pebbles, Star!, and Two People. Director Robert Wise would say of Reynolds, "I valued Bill's judgement more than I did anybody's. It's part of the editor's job to evaluate what he has, and sometimes not use all of it. Bill had very good taste."
His work for Joshua Logan included Bus Stop, South Pacific, Fanny, and Ensign Pulver. Additional credits include Algiers, Come to the Stable, Beneath the 12-Mile Reef, Three Coins in the Fountain, Good Morning, Miss Dove, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, Carousel, Compulsion, Wild River, Taras Bulba, Hello, Dolly!, The Great White Hope, The Great Waldo Pepper, Nijinsky, Author! Author!, The Little Drummer Girl, Newsies, and the television adaptation of Gypsy.
Reynolds was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Film Editing seven times and won twice, for The Sound of Music and The Sting. He received the American Cinema Editors Career Achievement Award in 1991. In 2012, the Motion Picture Editors Guild published a list of the best-edited films of all time. Two films edited by Reynolds appeared on the list. The Godfather was ranked sixth, and The Sound of Music was sixty-fourth. He won and Oscar for The Sound of Music, and was still editing into the 1980s. His opening sequence for The Godfather was hailed as an editing masterpiece.
The Los Angeles Times called Reynolds "one of the quiet legends of Hollywood, a gentle man with impeccable timing and an innate sense of what an audience wanted to see." "He had an extraordinarily successful Hollywood career," said a longtime friend, speaking on condition of anonymity. "He certainly would not have felt his homosexuality ever inhibited his career. He kept his life very private, very separate from his career." Part of that separation was the requisite female date to industry functions like the Academy Awards. But Reynolds' friend insisted that the editor was never attempting to obfuscate his homosexuality: "People knew. It didn't make a whit of difference to anyone." He played the game and won, surviving the Darryl Zanucks and Louis B. Mayers to emerge into the post-studio, post-Stonewall world with aplomb, editing, in fact, Hollywood's very fist openly gay romance, Making Love, in 1982.
Reynolds died of cancer in South Pasadena, California at the age of 87.
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