Millie Moore, Film Editor on Dalton Trumbo's 'Johnny Got His Gun,' Dies at 86

Millie Moore - P 2015
Courtesy of Everett Collection

Millie Moore - P 2015

She also worked on 'Cagney & Lacey' and on the Oscar-winning documentary 'The Man Who Skied Down Everest.'

Millie Moore, an editor who cut Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun and fashioned the Oscar-winning documentary The Man Who Skied Down Everest from “hundreds of thousands of feet of film,” has died. She was 86.

Moore, a three-time Emmy Award nominee who in 2008 was honored with a lifetime achievement award from the American Cinema Editors, died on Sept. 10 of dementia and lung cancer in a senior residence in Calabasas, Calif., her nephew, Marc Pepin, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Trumbo, whose career in Hollywood was famously derailed in 1947 when he refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, adapted Johnny Got His Gun (1971) from his own novel.

The anti-war drama stars Timothy Bottoms as a young American soldier who lies in a hospital bed after he lost his arms, legs, eyes, ears, mouth and nose when struck by artillery fire during World War I.

Johnny Got His Gun was the only film that Trumbo would ever direct, and it marked Moore’s first feature as an editor.

“He made all the typical mistakes a first-timer makes, so we had a lot of conversations,” Moore recalled in a 2008 interview with the Archive of American Television. “But he trusted me and allowed me to be the editor.

“He wasn’t really prone to talking about his past,” she added. “But he did say he would do it all over again if he had to. He wasn’t unhappy about the fact that he had been sent to prison [for not testifying].”

The movie won two prizes at Cannes and was nominated for the Palme d’Or.

For her next editing effort, Moore was given “hundreds of thousands of feet of film” taken of a Japanese scientific expedition and tasked with crafting a documentary about one of the members who was attempting the impossible task of skiing down Mount Everest.

“I pulled out the footage of the skier and made a story out of it,” she said. “I knew if I were going to make a feature, I needed to have an antagonist and a protagonist. So I tended to use the mountains as an adversary.

“Between [Johnny Got His Gun] and my second film, it left me feeling like, ‘This is sort of the top of the heap,’” she said. “Where do I go from here?”

Moore went on to work on such films as Lady Sings the Blues (1972), Starship Invasions (1977) and the Burt Lancaster-starrer Go Tell the Spartans (1978).

She received her Emmy noms for her work on a 1984 episode of the CBS drama Cagney & Lacey and on two telefilms — 1988’s To Heal a Nation for NBC and 1993’s Geronimo for TNT.

From 1984 until the early 2000s, Moore worked almost exclusively on TV movies, which included 1991’s Absolute Strangers, directed by Gil Cates, and 1993’s Casualties of Love: The Long Island Lolita Story.

Moore was born Dec. 3, 1928, in East Liverpool, Ohio. Her family moved to California, and she became a still photographer by day and a stage manager in the evenings.

She got her first taste of filmmaking in England when she worked with a woman she had just met on a documentary about the Teddy Boys, a group of hoods in London.

Back in the States, Moore landed a job as a researcher for a travelogue TV series produced by Jack Douglas. She found herself making suggestions to the crews on location and realized that “films were made in the editing room,” she said.

Moore then joined the editors union — there were only about 12 women in there at the time — and spent eight years as an assistant. She was mentored by Sid Levin at Paramount before breaking through to become an editor.

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