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Looking Back at Iconic Editor Thelma Schoonmaker’s Career as She Turns 80

Thelma Schoonmaker turns 80 on Friday. The longtime editor and Martin Scorsese collaborator is a three-time Oscar winner and has edited over 40 films. The Scorsese/Schoonmaker collaboration dates back to 1980 when she worked on “Raging Bull,” which would win her her first Academy Award.

Most recently, the duo teamed up to work on Scorsese’s gangster epic “The Irishman.” The story of Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) and his involvement in the mob covers five decades.

Over the 30 years that Schoonmaker has worked with Scorsese, the process remained the same. She is on set from the first day until the very end, she and Scorsese communicate from the get-go.

Schoonmaker prefers to let the film evolve in the edit. “I read the script and then I put it away,” she says. She adds, “What Marty puts into a movie is often not in the script.”

Scorsese has made no secret about editing being a favorite part of the filmmaking process. “He comes and works on the editing with me,” Schoonmaker says. “He loves editing.”

Scorsese has built a language with his films with the use of narration, long takes and his pacing. His techniques are distinguishable, and they’ve always been at the forefront of filmmaking.

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Long takes were first used in “Mean Streets,” and he continued to use them in the edit.

Along with narration, Scorsese uses montages to advance the story, as seen in “Raging Bull.”

But you can’t mention “Raging Bull” and editing without bringing up the “You never got me down, Ray” scene. It’s one of the most famous fight scenes in film and encompasses the fine craft of Schoonmaker’s editing, Frank Warner’s sound design and Michael Chapman’s cinematography, all working together seamlessly.

In “Goodfellas,” Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill is walking Karen (Lorraine Bracco) through the Copacabana. He’s showing her his world and the glamour behind it — they’re given special treatment at the club and a table is set just for them, right at the front of the stage. Scorsese and Schoonmaker weave in a long take. The scene also highlights how the combined use of diegetic and non-diegetic sound, weaving in The Crystals’ “Then He Kissed Me” with Karen and Henry’s dialogue.

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