Peter Zinner, film editor on the first two “Godfather” films, and an Oscar winner for 1978’s “The Deer Hunter,” died Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2007 at 88.
Zinner died of complications from an almost five-year battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Zinner was born in 1919 in Vienna, and fled the Nazis with his family and moved to the Philippines in 1938. He arrived in Los Angeles in 1940 and “always wanted to be in film,” his daughter was quoted as saying by Associated Press.
After working as a taxi driver and piano player in silent movie theaters, Zinner landed a job as an apprentice film editor at 20th Century Fox in the early 1940s.
In 1960, he quit MGM and started his own company with two other film editors, his daughter said.
Zinner also worked on such major movies as 1967’s “In Cold Blood,” 1974’s “The Godfather: Part II” and 1976’s “A Star Is Born.” Along with his Oscar for “The Deer Hunter,” he was nominated for the first “Godfather” film and “An Officer and a Gentlemen.”
Director Francis Ford Coppola told the Associated Press the music that accompanied the Godfather’s climactic and bloody baptism sequence was Zinner’s idea.
“Peter had the inspiration to add the organ music that pulled the sequence together,” Coppola said.
Screenwriter-director Frank Pierson, whose “A Star Is Born” and four other movies Zinner edited, told the Los Angeles Times Zinner had a great sense of music, and cited the Godfather baptism sequence.
“That’s the kind of thing that he was brilliant at, and it’s become a classic sequence in movie history,” Pierson said.
Zinner told a 2003 interviewer he considered “The Godfather” to be “the most classic movie” he ever worked on.
“Not until we did a screening for the exhibitors did we know the impact was going to be enormous,” he said.
Zinner’s last work was with his daughter Katina, also a film editor, on a documentary about California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.