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A Notable Editor

Blanche Sewell

With awareness rising on the presence and impact of women throughout our past, a recent article features notable women editors behind 25 classic films from the golden era of Hollywood.

Each of these remarkable women contributed to the advancements and artistry of our cinematic heritage, yet one of these noted "lady-cutters" held a silent, but significant measure of impact on the artistry and advent of animation.

As a young editor in Hollywood, Blanche Sewell worked her way up to assist Viola Lawrence and a later protege of the legendary lead editor of MGM - Margaret Booth. With Blanche's deft handling of emotional scenarios, she was the favored cutter of Irving Thalberg, saving many of the studio's pictures. Sewell's ability to 'knit' a story out of a pile of celluloid was the solution to the "fix-it-in-post" approach to production. Silent star Constance Talmadge declared "her judgement to be almost infallible, her critical ability supreme, and the courage of her convictions unfaltering."

In the early 1920s, Blanche was editor for leading silent film director Marshall Neilan at Metro Studios in the heart of the Los Feliz district. At this time, her older brother Glenn, his young wife, Hazel and their tiny daughter Marjorie were living together with Blanche in Los Angeles. In 1923, a young animator made his way to Hollywood and landed at the home of his Uncle Robert in the Los Felix neighborhood.

Within weeks, Hazel Sewell befriended the young animator and was later responsible for some of the most critical connections and advents to animation. Hazel's presence held lasting impact on Walt Disney and his animated work - from her younger sister Lillian working at the little studio, her artistry applied to cel animation, and the introduction of her sister-in-law, Blanche Sewell. Many Sunday afternoons, over Hazel's famous fried chicken dinners, Blanche Sewell coached young Walt on his animated storytelling. From timing, pacing, comedy and character development, Blanche's expertise held lasting impact on Walt as he was working to develop his latest comic stars – Mickey & Minnie Mouse!

Long after Hazel and Glenn's divorce, Blanche retained a warm family connection with Walt, Lillian and Hazel. Later, Walt Disney's success with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs reciprocated Blanche's creative kindnesses, as MGM green-lit production on Blanche's most noted film and memorable editorial work – The Wizard of Oz.

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