Edward Abroms, Steven Spielberg's First Film Editor, Dies at 82

Ron Regalado
Edward Abroms

He cut an episode of 'Night Gallery' and 'The Sugarland Express,' received an Oscar nom for 'Blue Thunder' and worked on 'Columbo.'

Edward Abroms, the film editor who worked with a young Steven Spielberg on Night Gallery and The Sugarland Express and received an Oscar nomination for cutting John Badham's Blue Thunder, has died. He was 82.

Abroms died Tuesday of heart failure in Los Angeles, daughter Lynn Abroms told The Hollywood Reporter. He was the recipient of the American Cinema Editors' Career Achievement Award in 2006.

As a film editor and director on the long-running NBC hit Columbo, Abroms won the second of his two career Emmy Awards for cutting an episode in 1972. He landed a second nom that year for helming another installment.

Abroms also edited Sam Peckinpah’s final feature as a director, The Osterman Weekend (1983), and one of his last assignments before retirement came on Street Fighter (1994), starring Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Abroms was an editor on the 1969 pilot for Rod Serling's Night Gallery that featured a segment directed by Spielberg in his TV debut, "Eyes," starring Joan Crawford. Spielberg then employed Abroms on his feature debut, The Sugarland Express (1974).

Between 1971-81, Abroms directed dozens of telefilms before opting to return to the editing room.

Editing "was my first love," he once said. "I found as a television director in most cases you're more or less a traffic cop. You've got a schedule, you have to shoot so many pages a day, and as far as the editing is concerned, you don't have a lot of input."

Born on May 6, 1935, Abroms was raised in Hollywood. He attended the USC School for Cinema but dropped out to take a job in the mailroom at Republic Studios.

After a stint at Technicolor, he was hired as an apprentice editor at Review Productions (now Universal Studios) and later was given a sequence to cut on a 1966 episode of NBC's Tarzan, starring Ron Ely. He then worked on installments of another NBC show, Ironside.

Abroms won his first Emmy for the 1970 NBC telefilm My Sweet Charlie, starring Patty Duke.

That was the first of several collaborations with director Lamont Johnson; they also worked together in 1972 on the films You'll Like My Mother and The Groundstar Conspiracy and on That Certain Summer, the landmark ABC telefilm about homosexuality that starred Hal Holbrook and Martin Sheen.

On Columbo, series creators Richard Levinson and William Link asked Abroms if he would supervise the editing on the show, "and his contribution was invaluable," they wrote in their 1981 book, Stay Tuned. "He inserted amusing optical effects, energized the pacing, and whenever any actors — including [Peter] Falk —got an advanced case of the cutes, Abroms left it on the cutting-room floor.

"In gratitude, we assigned him the last episode of the season to direct, and he was the only director to bring us in on schedule.” He received an Emmy nomination for directing that installment in 1972, then landed another nom the following year.

Abroms also edited and/or directed episodes of other series like The Virginian, Kojak, The Rookies, Cannon, The Six Million Dollar Man, Ellery Queen, Hawaii Five-O and Murder, She Wrote.

Abroms shared his Oscar nom with co-editor Frank Morriss for their work on the crime drama Blue Thunder (1983), and he also was an editor on The Jewel of the Nile (1985), starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner.

His daughter Lynn and son, Ed Abroms Jr., are also film editors. Survivors also include his wife, Colleen; another daughter, Cindy; and grandchildren Brandon, Jordon and James.

Abroms spent three decades as a member of the ACE board, with 17 of those as treasurer.

"Ed was a wonderful man and a great talent," ACE president Stephen Rivkin said in a statement. "His passion for his craft and innovation led to an extremely successful and fulfilling career in both editing and directing.

"Ed's many years of service to the American Cinema Editors will continue to have a lasting impact on our organization. It was an honor to serve alongside of him on the board of directors. He is an inspiration."