Oscar-Nominated Film Editor Sally Menke Dies While Hiking

The dynamic and inventive film editor who has collaborated with Quentin Tarantino on every film since Reservoir Dogs has died suddenly at the age of 56. Sally Menke was found dead early Tuesday in Beachwood Canyon where she had reportedly taken her dog hiking in the record heat wave sweeping through the West Coast. No official cause of death has been reported and it remains unclear whether the heat was a factor.

Menke had just come off of her second nomination for the Best Picture-nominated Inglourious Basterds, her eighth collaboration with director Quentin Tarantino. She was close friends with Tarantino and has also worked with other directors Billy Bob Thornton (All the Pretty Horses), John Bailey (The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe), and Oliver Stone (Heaven and Earth). Most recently she edited the straight-to-DVD feature Peacock starring Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page, and Susan Sarandon. However, she will likely mostly be remembered for her groundbreaking editing work in Pulp Fiction, which introduced the world to Tarantino’s eclectic and non-linear style of storytelling.

When listening to interviews where Quentin Tarantino talks about his stylistic choices, I have always gotten the sense that his success is partly attributed to a creative team that knows when to let him go free and knows when to reign him in. It’s obvious that Sally Menke was an important part of that team as Tarantino’s films have always felt perfectly paced despite the frequent use of long drawn out scenes of dialogue. It’s a pity that she did not receive an Oscar before her untimely death and I feel that she was robbed in 1994 for the exquisite cut and paste job on Pulp Fiction. Forrest Gump did employ the gimmick of editing its characters into historical scenes, but that should not have overshadowed the brilliant pacing of Pulp Fiction.

In Contention has posted a video of Quentin Tarantino talking about his work with Sally Menke throughout his career and specifically on the movie Death Proof. It moved me when he spoke of their relationship as “the epitome of collaboration.” Check out that video below.

Who knows how the loss of Sally Menke will affect Tarantino’s films, but the immediate impact is that this is a tragic and premature loss for the filmmaking community.

[Source: L.A. Times]

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  • This is not what I wanted to hear when I woke up this morning. This will definitely change the shape of Tarantino’s films because Menke has left her own individual flair on each of their films together. Not to mention how Tarantino will take the loss personally, having worked with her for more than 15 years and grown a great friendship in that time. I can guarantee that his next film will most definitely be something very different.

  • Andrew R.

    Goodbye Sally. We will miss you. RIP.

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