Bill Butler, Oscar-Nominated Film Editor on ‘A Clockwork Orange,’ Dies at 83, He also worked with famed writer-director Melvin Frank on ‘The Prisoner of Second Avenue,’ ‘A Touch of Class’ and ‘The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox.’
Bill Butler, the British-born film editor who received an Oscar nomination for his work on Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 classic A Clockwork Orange, has died. He was 83.
Butler died June 4 at a hospital in Sherman Oaks, his son Stephen Butler told The Hollywood Reporter.
Butler earned his first film editor credit when he collaborated with Melvin Frank on the romantic comedy Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell (1968), starring Gina Lollobrigida, and he also edited A Touch of Class (1973), The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox (1976) and Lost and Found (1979) — all three starring George Segal — for the famed writer-director.
The London native also cut movies including One More Time (1970), directed by Jerry Lewis and starring Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford, and A Little Sex (1982), helmed by Bruce Paltrow.
Butler was introduced to Kubrick by a fellow editor, Ray Lovejoy (who would later edit The Shining), and joined A Clockwork Orange two weeks before the end of shooting. Hunched over a Steenbeck and two Moviolas, he then worked alongside the notoriously perfectionist filmmaker in Kubrick’s garage seven days a week, 14 hours a day, for nearly a year.
“I thought that I was going to be left alone to put it together, which is a normal procedure,” Butler said in a 2001 interview. “The director shoots it, the editor assembles it. Then you have your first cut, you get input notes from the director, you fine cut that, and then you work with the director.
“Of course, with Stanley it was a different story, it didn’t happen. I would say there should be a close-up here and a long shot there, and it would materialize maybe weeks down the road — but not right away, no way. My understanding was that he was like that with all the departments.”
Born in 1933, Butler and his family survived the Battle of Britain, and he spent many days as a youth playing amid mounds of rubble scattered throughout London. He sometimes found random streams of 35mm film.
After World War II, Butler regularly visited the guards at Gainsborough Studios in Islington, pestering them for bits of film. He noticed the minuscule progression from box to box and became hooked on reading books about developing film and manipulating negatives.
His brother found him a job at a local studio, and Butler got a chance to work briefly with prominent British editor Jack Harris on The Crimson Pirate (1952), starring Burt Lancaster, before he went off to serve as a member of the Royal Army Ordinance Corps.
In the mid-1950s, Butler began as an assistant to sound editor Leslie Hodgson (Apocalypse Now) and worked on such films as Moby Dick (1956), The Naked Earth (1958), The Unforgiven (1960) and Jack Cardiff’s The Lion (1962).
Butler was the sound editor on A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966) when he first met Frank, who had co-written the picture. The pair also collaborated on 1975’s The Prisoner of Second Avenue (he was second editor on the Jack Lemmon comedy) and the 1987 film Walk Like a Man.
Butler also worked as a film editor on the acclaimed 1980s NBC series St. Elsewhere and on the 1994 Antonio Banderas film Of Love and Shadows.
According to his son, Butler was “always nostalgic for the physical touch of his white gloves, a grease pencil in his hand and gazing into a projection machine of the past.” All three of his children — Stephen, Lynne and Les — were inspired by him and now work in the industry.
Survivors also include Mary, his wife of 60 years, four grandchildren, a great-grandchild and his sister Jean.
He also worked with famed writer-director Melvin Frank on ‘The Prisoner of Second Avenue,’ ‘A Touch of Class’ and ‘The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox.’