Peter Zinner - Obituaries - News - The Independent

Peter Zinner

Oscar-winning film editor


Peter Zinner, film editor: born Vienna 24 July 1919; married (one daughter and one stepson); died Santa Monica, California 13 November 2007.

In 1972 Francis Ford Coppola's epic film The Godfather climaxed with one of the finest examples of narrative cross-cutting in the history of commercial cinema. As the newly born child of Michael Corleone is christened, the young Don Michael, heir to the murdered Don Vito Corleone, wreaks his revenge on his enemies, eliminating them to the soundtrack of the priest's baby-blessing and the church's organ music.

It is unquestionably one of the most dramatically satisfying and audience-shattering sequences in contemporary cinema, a magnificent example of the art of motion-picture editing, the craft of story-telling by montage. The editor of the sequence was Peter Zinner.

On the film Zinner shared the editing credit with the veteran editor William Reynolds, and although rightly nominated for the Oscar they lost to David Bretherton for his equally superb inter-cutting on Cabaret – perhaps because the latter could be seen to be the work of one single editor. Zinner's work on The Godfather is detailed in the studio head Robert Evans's garish autobiography The Kid Stays in the Picture (1994), where Evans refers to Zinner as "an ace editor", and relates how, under Evans's supervision, Zinner added texture (and length) to Coppola's 12-reel edit.

Zinner eventually won the coveted Academy Award for editing in 1978, for his work on Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter, a long film with a remarkable three-act structure, and a wedding sequence that bears more than a passing resemblance to the wedding in The Godfather. He was Academy-nominated again for An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), but did not win, and also took home the British Bafta for best editing for The Deer Hunter and for The Godfather Part II (1974), which he shared with his co-editors Barry Malkin and Richard Marks. The Deer Hunter also won Zinner the American Editors Guild own best editing award, the Eddie.

Peter Zinner was born in 1919 in Vienna and studied piano, composition, and music theory first at the Theresianum in the city and then at the Reinhardt-Seminar, part of the University of Vienna; in later life as a film editor he recalled that white gloves had been a part of his school uniform. But he had to leave Austria when he was 17 years old, fleeing the Nazis with his parents in 1938.

He arrived in Los Angeles in 1940, after a two-year so journ in the Philippines, and began to earn a living as a taxi driver, whilst also playing the piano for special screenings of silent films. His musical ability helped secure him a position in 1943 as apprentice film editor at 20th Century-Fox studios (now Century City) in Hollywood, and he learnt to appreciate the crucial role of the editor in the process of making films. Like many others before and since, Zinner realised that the editor was key to the production of successful motion pictures, and was a position that existed in no other medium.

In 1947 Zinner left Fox for Universal Studios as an assistant sound-effects editor and in 1949 he moved across to MGM at Culver City, at the peak of the studio's success. Here he worked in the music department on many major movies, uncredited on the screen but fortunate to be involved with some of the finest motion picture talent on some of the best films ever made: he worked with the composer Miklós Rósza on Quo Vadis (1951) and Ivanhoe (1952), for the producer Arthur Freed on Singin' In The Rain (1952), The Band Wagon (1953) and the multi-Oscar winning Gigi (1958), and on Gene Kelly's experimental Invitation to the Dance (1956).

He worked with Jacques Ibert, André Previn, Adolf Deutsch and Bernard Herrmann among other composers and with such artistes as Fred Astaire, Maurice Chevalier and Mario Lanza, the latter particularly on For The First Time (1959), for which Zinner had graduated to music editor. He was also fortunate to collaborate at MGM with two of the industry's great arrangers, Conrad Salinger and Roger Edens.

He freelanced as a music editor on a variety of independent features, including King Kong vs Godzilla (1962), They Saved Hitler's Brain (1963) and The Naked Kiss (1964). Finding it difficult to make the break from music editor to film editor in a very conservative Hollywood, Zinner joined up with two other MGM editors to set up the first independent film editorial company in Los Angeles, Post Production Inc. In 1965 he was taken on by Columbia on their production of Lord Jim, which involved spending a considerable time in London with the producer-director Richard Brooks.

Brooks liked Zinner, and the following year asked him to picture edit his feature The Professionals (1966), starring Burt Lancaster and Lee Marvin. The popular and critical success of the film helped consolidate Zinner's reputation and he worked again with Brooks, on the masterly In Cold Blood (1967). He also established a working relationship with the producer-director Blake Edwards on Gunn (1967) and Darling Lili (1970), both for Paramount under Robert Evans. This in turn led to The Godfather in 1972, via some major salvage work on the US-Russian co-production The Red Tent (1969).

Now firmly established as a film editor, Peter Zinner worked on many other titles in this period. As well as The Deer Hunter, in 1978, the films he edited include Mahogany (1975), starring Diana Ross, and five pictures for the director Frank R. Pierson, including the Barbra Streisand version of A Star Is Born (1976). Pierson believed Zinner "was definitely in the top rank of editors of two or three generations" and highlighted as a distinguishing characteristic "his great sense of music".

In 1981 Peter Zinner directed his only feature, an adaptation of Morris West's thriller The Salamander, with an all-star cast headed by Franco Nero, Anthony Quinn and Claudia Cardinale, but it was lack-lustre and only achieved spotty box office results. Offered An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) by Paramount to edit, Zinner returned to the cutting room and thereafter edited two of the most successful television mini-series ever, The Winds of War (1983) – winning an Eddie for one of the episodes – and its sequel War and Remembrance (1988).

He continued to alternate feature work, such as the boxing flick Gladiator (1992), with prestige television drama, and won another Eddie for Citizen Cohn in 1993. He also made a rare acting appearance in the Sean Connery vehicle The Hunt for Red October (1990), playing the Russian Admiral Yuri Ilyich Padorin.

Peter Zinner's last job was on the Arnold Schwarzenegger feature documentary Running with Arnold (2006), which he edited at the age of 86, sharing the credit with his daughter, the film editor Katina Zinner.

Tony Sloman

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Programme Test Manager

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently seekin...

IT Network Manager - Shepherd's Bush, London

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Network Manager - Shepherd's Bush...

Secondary supply teachers needed in Peterborough

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary supply teac...

Modern Foreign Languages Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Full time German Supply Teacher...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week