Industry Profiles: Anne Bauchens
Updated: Mar 1
Every other month we will be focusing on the unsung heroes of the film world. The individuals selected have all played a vital role in shaping the industry with their ground-breaking work. Despite this, these figures are often overlooked in the history of film and we, at Closely Observed Frames will be celebrating their commitment to the craft.
In 1941 at the 13th Academy Awards, Anne Bauchens became the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Film Editing for her work on Cecil B. DeMille’s North West Mounted Police.
Born February 2nd 1882 in St. Louis, Missouri, Bauchens moved to New York City at the age of twenty to pursue a career on stage in Broadway. After struggling to establish herself as an actor, Bauchens took a job as a secretary for William de Mille, ultimately sealing her fate. After several years Bauchens and de Mille ventured to Hollywood. Upon her arrival, Bauchens worked for William’s brother, the director and producer, Cecil B. DeMille. It was during this time when Bauchens became interested in the editing process, pointing out continuity errors in several Famous Players Laskey films. There remains debate around the creation of the role of script clerk, nonetheless, Bauchens was a key figure in its development and DeMille, impressed with her eye for detail, trained her as an editor.
Their first collaboration came in 1915 when Bauchens co-edited DeMille’s film. Carmen. Despite DeMille’s initial reluctance on hiring an editor, as he was often the sole editor of his films, his collaboration with Bauchens lasted for over forty years. Bauchens cut thirty-nine of DeMille’s films and their final film together was the 1956 epic The Ten Commandments. During this period Bauchens earned the nickname “Trojan Annie,” with her ruthless cutting and ability to work 16-hour days. Bauchens was usually also present on set, working alongside DeMille throughout the entire process. Bauchens occasionally worked with other filmmakers such as Victor Fleming, John Farrow and William Dieterle, editing films such as the 1945 film Love Letters, Commandos Strike at Dawn (1942) and Tomorrow, the World! (1944).
Editors are often overlooked when it comes to the filmmaking process, despite the integral role they play in splicing a film together. During the Golden Age of Hollywood many of the behind-the-scenes roles were filled by men and men largely occupied the Academy Award categories. However, with the creation of the Best Film Editing category at the 1934 Academy Awards, Bauchens was nominated for her work on Cleopatra and was the first woman to be nominated for the award. Throughout the Golden Age there were a number of prominent women editing films and shaping the industry.
In his 1959 autobiography, Cecil B. DeMille wrote, "In every contract I sign to produce a picture one essential clause is that Anne Bauchens will be its editor. That is not sentiment, or at least not only sentiment. She is still the best film editor I know". After winning an Academy Award in 1940, Bauchens was nominated a further two times for The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) and The Ten Commandments (1956). Despite this, Bauchens remains a relatively unknown figure in the industry, alongside her counterparts such as Margaret Booth, Barbara McLean and Dorothy Spencer.