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Rawlings, Terry (1933-)


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Shortly after completing two years' National Service, Terry Rawlings was offered a job in the Rank film library. Intrigued by the film industry, he moved on to become a dubbing assistant. The first project he worked on was Town on Trial (d. John Guillermin, 1957). Several years as an assistant followed, often working with Jack Harris, until Rawlings gained his first full credit as sound editor on The Pot Carriers (d. Peter Graham Scott, 1962). He followed this with the prestigious The L-Shaped Room (d. Bryan Forbes, 1962). Rawlings worked briefly as sound and music editor on the first series of Granada Television's World in Action, which taught him how to meet tight deadlines yet maintain high standards. During the 1960s and 1970s he worked as sound, dubbing and music editor on films directed by emerging new talents including Jack Clayton, Karel Reisz, Ken Russell, and Michael Winner. The passion for music he shared with editor Michael Bradsell fed into films such as The Music Lovers (d. Ken Russell, 1970).

Rawlings' perception that sound editors were "the poor relations of the cutting room" eventually led him to cross over into picture editing. He edited an impressive run of films in the late 1970s and early 1980s: Alien (US/UK, d. Ridley Scott, 1979), Chariots of Fire (d. Hugh Hudson, 1981) and Blade Runner (US, d. Scott, 1982). With his love of music and policy of "always looking in people's eyes when I'm cutting", Rawlings relished editing sequences combining musical numbers and dialogue in Yentl (US/UK, d. Barbra Streisand, 1983). One example is when Yentl (Barbra Streisand) eats at Hadass' (Amy Irving's) house and sees for the first time how much Hadass loves Avigdor (Mandy Patinkin): "It needed everybody's looks and observing what's going on, but going to Yentl in the right places and getting all the lines of dialogue in amongst the words of the song."

From Alien onwards a recurring aspect of Rawlings' work has been experimentation with expressive dissolves. They feature prominently in White of the Eye (US, d. Donald Cammell, 1987), a film he describes as a "fantastic editing exercise". The narrative is about a serial killer who murders women as a form of bizarre ritual or artistic practice. The film is a virtual compendium of editing devices: unusually placed dissolves; flash frames; freeze frames; inter-cutting; flashbacks given a "steely, grainy grey look" through treble duping. Rawlings recalls that he and Cammell "would try so many different things", and says of their experiments:

I'm not one for over tricksy editing. I don't think it's necessary all the time. But you're working with a story like that which is very hard to swallow, so you can take it a stage further so the audience are not offended so easily by what it's about, but are stimulated by it...the editing takes you away for a second, but then it makes you concentrate more.

Roy Perkins/Martin Stollery, British Film Editors: The Heart of the Movie (BFI Publishing, 2004)

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Selected credits

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Oscar-winning story of two British Olympic athletes

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Light-hearted comedy in which a gang of thieves pose as monks

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Ken Russell's controversial film about the political abuse of religious faith

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Pierce Brosnan's debut brought the James Bond cycle back from the dead

Thumbnail image of L-Shaped Room, The (1962)L-Shaped Room, The (1962)

Leslie Caron plays a pregnant Frenchwoman who starts an affair

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Maggie Smith gives an acting masterclass as a lonely Irish spinster

Thumbnail image of Watership Down (1978)Watership Down (1978)

Lively, grisly animated version of Richard Adams' children's classic

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