Elmo Williams, Oscar-Winning Film Editor on 'High Noon,' Dies at 102

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Elmo Williams

He received another nom for '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.' Olivia de Havilland is now the oldest living Academy Award winner.

Elmo Williams, the celebrated Hollywood film editor who won an Academy Award for his clockwork, minute-by-minute efforts on the classic 1952 Gary Cooper Western High Noon, has died. He was 102.

Williams, who received another Oscar nomination for his editing on the 1954 sci-fi film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, died peacefully Wednesday at his home in Brookings on the coast of Oregon, the Curry Coastal Pilot newspaper reported.

With his death, Olivia de Havilland, 99, is now the oldest living Oscar winner, according to film researcher Rhett Bartlett.

Williams’ editing on High Noon, directed by Fred Zinnemann, is particularly remarkable as “the running time of the story almost exactly parallels the running time of the film itself,” as a 1986 Criterion Collection article points out. “This effect is heightened by the frequent use of clocks throughout the film that remind the characters — and the audience — of the imminent arrival of Frank Miller, the villain, on the noon train.”

In fact, some over the years have claimed that Williams “saved” the drama with his deft touch.

He also directed a handful of movies, including The Tall Texan (1953), starring Lloyd Bridges, and served as a producer on the war films The Longest Day (1962) starring John Wayne, The Blue Max (1966) with George Peppard and Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), co-directed by his 20,000 Leagues director Richard Fleischer.

  

A native of Lone Wolf, Okla., Williams came to Los Angeles and got his start as a protege of Merrill G. White (The Brave One, The Fly), whom he met while serving the film editor a meal as an employee of a Westwood drive-in.

Much of Williams’ early work came at RKO Studios, and his résumé as a film editor included Nurse Edith Cavell (1939), No, No, Nanette (1940), Nocturne (1946) starring George Raft, Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (1947) and Cleopatra (1963), on which he went uncredited.

In 1990, Williams received a career achievement award from the American Cinema Editors.

With his late wife, Lorraine Williams, he produced, directed, photographed and edited the documentary The Cowboy (1954).

According to the newspaper, Williams and his family celebrated an early Thanksgiving on Tuesday, toasting him with his favorite German wine. Survivors include his daughter, Stacy.

A memorial is scheduled to start at — quite appropriately — high noon on Dec. 12 at the Brookings Elks Lodge.

Twitter: @mikebarnes4

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