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Verna Fields: Editing Sorceress of JAWS

Updated on March 21, 2015


Verna Fields

Verna Fields: 1976 Academy Awards.  Awarded for Best Editing for JAWS
Verna Fields: 1976 Academy Awards. Awarded for Best Editing for JAWS | Source

A Short Summary

After working as sound editor on various 1950s television shows, Verna Fields began a career in the 1960s at the University of Southern California, and soon after was given her first big break as sound editor for the 1961 classic El Cid , starring Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren. Having received a Golden Reel award for her work on the film, she then went on to co-edit 1973's American Graffiti'alongside director George Lucas. Shortly thereafter she would begin editing the film that would not only change her life, but would become one of the most famous films of all time. JAWS was the first film in cinematic history to surpass the $100-million-dollar mark. And according to director Steven Spielberg this was due in large part to none other than Verna Fields.

It's no secret to movie buffs what a virtual headache the making of JAWS was for everyone involved. But, regardless of the constant delays due to "Bruce" the shark(s) breakdowns (there were in fact three sharks), weather changes on Martha's Vineyard, the Orca sinking, etc. , Spielberg would take his daily, paltry offerings to Verna. For the first few months of shooting, she hardly had enough footage to seemingly do much with. But, there she would be--conjuring-up her editing magic in a little room which sat directly behind her home. Thanks to Verna Fields, movie audiences in 1975, and even today, understand that sometimes what you don't see, can be scarier than what's right in front of you. What happened after that, was one of the most famous films in movie history.

In 1976, at the 48th. Annual Academy Awards, Verna received the honor of being awarded Best Editing for JAWS as well as an American Cinema Editors award for her editing skills that same year. Even though JAWS was the last film she would edit, 1976 also saw Verna Fields become Vice-President For Feature Production at Universal Studios. Her influence at Universal was such an important one that in her honor, the Verna Fields Building (building #2282) can be found at Universal City, CA.

Until her death on November 30, 1982, Verna continued her executive position at Universal and her influence on women; especially those within the entertainment industry. In 1981, she was awarded the 'Women In Film Crystal' award from the Women In Film Foundation.

" In the record business, you have Berry Gordy and Ahmet Ertegun. They're executives who actually made records. In the movie business, as an executive who's worked with film, you have only Verna. She saves Universal a fortune...every day."

---Joel Schumacher (1982)

Verna Fields At The 48th Annual Academy Awards 1976

"Bruce" The Shark



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