Oscar Artists: Greenberg, Gerlad, Editor of French Connection and Apocalypse Now, Dies at 81

Editor Gerald B. Greenberg, whose work on 1971 crime thriller The French Connection earned him an Oscar, died on December 22 ate age 81.

Jerry Greenberg, as he was known by this friends, earned two additional Oscar nominations — twice in the same year (1980) for Kramer vs. Kramer and Apocalypse Now. In 2015, he was honored by American Cinema Editors with its Career Achievement Award.

He began his career in 1960 in his native New York, where he learned how to edit music and began familiarizing himself with the Moviola, splicers, synchronizers and recorders.  His big break came when he was offered an apprenticing job for Dede Allen on Elia Kazan’s America America.

By 1967, when Greenberg and Allen were working closely together and on Bonnie and Clyde, Greenberg was given the task of editing a couple of the shootout scenes and worked closely with Allen and director Arthur Penn on them. He cut his first solo feature Bye Bye Braverman for director Sidney Lumet in 1968 and won the Oscar and BAFTA for editing William Friedkin’s The French Connection a year later.

Greenberg is known for his work on many of the films of the American New Wave working for directors like Arthur Penn, Francis Ford Coppola, Sidney Lumet, Michael Cimino, Brian De Palma and William Friedkin.

His filmography includes Bye Bye Braverman, Dressed To Kill, Alice’s Restaurant, The Boys in the Band, They Might Be Giants, Scarface, Still of the Night, Reds, Heaven’s Gate, Wise Guys, The Untouchables, The Accused, Awakenings, Trapped, Get Carter, Inspector Gadget and American History X.

Apocalypse Now

Presenting the ACE Career Achievement Award to Greenberg in 2015, editor Carol Littleton spoke of his work on Apocalypse Now, saying “Jerry masterly edits the taking of a Vietnam village using Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries, which Robert Duvall’s character plays to inspire his troops and horrify the enemy. This iconic scene—nothing better captures the apocalyptic madness of the war in Vietnam, a picture of the American dream turned nightmare.”

She continued: “Jerry takes great pride in his approach to editing, vigorously working a scene for its maximum psychological and kinetic effect. He controls the emotions, never letting sentiment fall into sentimentality. He lines the actors takes, finding gold nuggets, polishing a performance until it shines. He examines every take for the right camera move, a spark of brilliance when the actor becomes the moment. His action sequences are tight, controlled, focused and always suffused with character. Never gratuitous; never chaotic or lacking in psychological impact.”