Tuesday, September 28, 2010

SALLY MENKE 1953 - 2010

UPDATED 10:02 a.m.
UPDATED 4:35 p.m.

This is incredibly sad news to report. Those who have followed Quentin Tarantino's career are well familiar with the name Sally Menke, who was the director's film editor for every movie he made, from Reservoir Dogs in 1992 to last year's Inglourious Basterds. Menke went hiking with her dog during a wave of extreme heat yesterday (Los Angeles temperatures hit a record high of 113 on Monday) and was discovered dead early this Tuesday morning by rescue searchers combing the Beachwood Canyon area.

Her locked car was parked in a lot in Griffith Park, indicating that she had gone into the trails among the hills. After receiving information from friends that she had not returned home from her scheduled outing several patrol officers and a helicopter from the Los Angeles Police Department began a search for Menke that lasted hours and ended with the discovery of her body at the bottom of a ravine early this morning. Menke's dog was found alive and sitting next to her body, according to the L.A.P.D.

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, sources familiar with the death investigation believe Menke became disoriented and collapsed, and the county coroner's office is trying to determine whether the heat played a role in Menke's death. As of 9:00 a.m. this morning, no official cause of death had been reported.

Menke was 56 years old and was also the editor on, among many other films, Lee Tamahori's Mulholland Falls and two films directed by Billy Bob Thornton, All the Pretty Horses and Daddy and Them. She was twice nominated for the Academy Award, for Pulp Fiction in 1994 and for Inglourious Basterds in 2009.

(Thanks to Andrew Blankstein of the Los Angeles Times, who will be continually updating this story as more information becomes available.)


From the Inglourious Basterds DVD/Blu-ray, this reel of acknowledgments of Sally Menke from the cast and crew of the movie. It's almost too painful to watch right at this moment, but the clip is comforting evidence that she knew just how much she was liked, loved and respected by those who worked with her. I'm sure I can be presumptuous enough to say that the hearts of SLIFR readers go out to those who knew and loved Sally Menke, as well as our thanks to those who worked with her and put this tribute together.

And of course, from the Death Proof DVD, Tarantino himself talks about his collaboration with Sally Menke. (Plus some more now-heartbreaking "Hi, Sallys.")

(Thanks to David Hudson, MUBI and especially Bob Westal, who passes along a wonderful quote from Menke regarding her work on Inglourious Basterds, for calling attention back to these tributes.)


UPDATE 4:35 p.m.: Here's S.T. Vanairsdale's astute breakdown of Seven Quintessential Clips from the Quentin Tarantino/Sally Menke Canon. Current and future film editors, take note and take a little joy while mourning the untimely end of what Vanairsdale rightly describes as "one of the longest, most inspired and fruitful creative collaborations in Hollywood."



bill r. said...

This is awful. Her work with Tarantino is brilliant, and I somehow think if she weren't so closely associated with a single director, she would have been a bigger name, and gotten more respect. Either way, I think she was probably one of the top editors working today.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

I think you're right, Bill. When I looked at her IMDb page this morning I was surprised that more filmmakers didn't take advantage of her sharp instincts and intuitive talent. Whether out of loyalty or for whatever reason, her star was aligned with Tarantino and though she certainly got recognition from that (two Oscar nods ain't bad), it's clear that perhaps her steady hand had more to do with realizing Tarantino's rather radical ideas re storytelling than has been noted. I think back on how rapt Inglourious Basterds held us, especially through that midsection that featured the virtuoso set piece in the German pub, and I know I will never forget what Sally Menke brought to the table.

Bob Westal said...

Extremely sad. To Tarantino's credit he acknowledged her as a kind of co-writer.

bill r. said...

I love all of Tarantino's films, but no other films in history feel quite like JACKIE BROWN, the two KILL BILLs, or INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. You mentioned IB's tavern scene, Dennis: that's an extraordinary testament to her talent and storytelling instincts.

And Bob, you're right. Since reading around about Menke's passing, I've come across many, many instances where Tarantino has showered her with praise, at one point apparently calling her his "one true collaborator". And this is before she passed away, so it can't be chalked up to the emotions of the moment.

le0pard13 said...

I don't think watching a QT film (whether they are old or new) will ever be the same for me after this sad news. This is quite a shocking loss to her family and movie fans. You're right, Dennis. We won't forget what she "brought to the table."

Meredith said...

truly awful. what a sad day and what a loss.

Pablo Hernández said...

I'm really Sad.
I've dedicated some entries to her on my blog...

What a loss, yeah, FUCK! :(

Greg said...

I somehow think if she weren't so closely associated with a single director, she would have been a bigger name, and gotten more respect.

It just depends. Thelma Schoonmaker is tied to Scorsese and has incredible respect and recognition (3 Oscars). Susan E. Morse is tied to Woody Allen, doing incredible work for him through the 90's. Result? One nomination, Hannah and her Sisters. I don't know why that happens but she should have been more well known and celebrated by Hollywood. This is truly sad, sad news.

bill r. said...

Greg - True, but Allen and Scorsese tend to crank them out at a faster pace than Tarantino. While Menke worked with other filmmakers, from 2001 until her death it was almost exclusively Tarantino. I think that makes a difference.

Not that I'm blaming Tarantino, or anything ridiculous like that. I don't know what the story is, and I'm sure, or at least I hope, she had a satisfying professional life. It just seems strange to me that in that time frame she wasn't making other films for other directors, because she was one of the more blatantly talented editors out there.

frankbooth said...

Shocking and sad news, a real loss. I agree, that montage is tough to watch.

Jordan Ruimy said...

such an underrated talent, she wll be sorely missed. If anybody wants to see editing at its best, check out Jackie Brown.