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E-book Excerpt: Made Males: The Story of Goodfellas by Glenn Kenny

Book Excerpt: Made Men: The Story of Goodfellas by Glenn Kenny


We’re honored to current an excerpt from Glenn Kenny’s Made Males: The Story of Goodfellas, stocked in shops and on-line right this moment, September 15th. Get your copy right here.


Raging Bull was my first characteristic!” Thelma Schoonmaker instructed Scorsese biographer Mary Pat Kelly. “Once I got here to work with Marty, I mentioned, ‘You recognize, I’ve by no means lower a characteristic earlier than.’ And he mentioned, ‘Don’t fear, we’ll do it to­gether, it’ll be okay.’ It was my assistant, Sonya Polonsky, who taught me the way to manage a room for a theatrical movie. Marty had referred to as me a number of instances for different films however I hadn’t received­ten into the union once I was youthful. Now they mentioned I must work as an assistant for eight years earlier than I may very well be an editor. I mentioned no. However on Raging Bull, via Irwin Winkler, [consulting with] attorneys and standby editors […] I received into the union. We had been working all evening. I’m not an evening individual. I’ve by no means adjusted to working all evening. However in that solitude we discovered an unbelievable potential to pay attention.”

That focus turned essential to their work course of, they usually labored to verify they may all the time obtain it. As such, the enhancing room is a closed store, so to talk. David Leonard, who was a part of the Scorsese editorial division from Final Temptation via Goodfellas, recollects, “Thelma did the whole lot. Yeah. I imply, there wasn’t quite a lot of mentoring. That wasn’t the best way they labored. The door was shut. There wasn’t quite a lot of ‘what’d you consider this, have a look at this.’ There was a complete edit­ing lineage that went again to Dede Allen, who was very con­scious about coaching assistants to the edit. So she all the time had an assistant who stood by her, and she or he would edit out loud and discuss. Principally Thelma didn’t actually at the moment lower till Marty was within the room. Dailies would are available in, and there was a really elaborate system of organizing the footage in order that when Marty got here in there have been takes arrange in reels, as a result of it was movie and he may see his preferences from the notes of dailies back-to-back-to-back. So there have been very elaborate assemblies however probably not lower.

“What she would do is she would run via the dailies and she or he’d mark them up with grease pencils, ins and outs, give it to us. We must then pull the sections out and re­construct them into new reels and there have been two logbooks. There was the log of the principle roll of dailies after which there was a se­lect log so that you knew the place the trims went. So it was very or­ganizationally intensive for the assistants.”

One hallmark of Schoonmaker’s enhancing philosophy is that dy­namic discrete moments matter greater than problems with continuity. “Efficiency, efficiency, efficiency,” Leonard recollects as her motto. In a 2014 interview in Movie Remark with the critic Nick Pinkerton, Schoonmaker elaborates. “I don’t perceive why individuals get so hung up on these points, as a result of should you have a look at movies all through historical past, you will notice huge continuity errors in all places, significantly while you’re speaking concerning the [practically square] Academy facet ratio the place you see extra within the body. Even in The Crimson Sneakers, a movie that no one ever has complaints about, there are huge continuity bumps, and it doesn’t matter. You recognize why? Since you’re being carried alongside by the ability of the movie. So all through our historical past of improvisational slicing, we have now determined to go along with the perfor­mance, or on this case significantly with the humor of a line, versus attempting to verify a espresso cup is in the correct place.”

Schoonmaker then cites a pertinent instance: “I keep in mind that once I was nominated for an Academy Award for Goodfel­las and we misplaced to Dances with Wolves for enhancing, the editor of that film mentioned to me: ‘Why did you make that dangerous continuity lower?’ And I mentioned, ‘Which lower? Which continuity error? We now have tons of them.’ He was speaking a couple of scene with Paul Sorvino and one other actor who was an beginner, however great, although he didn’t find out about matching. It was way more essential for us to get this lovely efficiency by this untrained actor than to fret about the place the cigar is in Paul Sorvino’s hand. One doesn’t wish to do this, one would hope not to do this, but when the selection comes between a wonderful, clear line and fun, we’d all the time go for the chuckle.”

Right here Schoonmaker’s recollection just isn’t fully exact: it’s not the cigar within the hand, which stays in continuity, however the cigar within the mouth. It’s the scene with Tony Darrow because the Bamboo Lounge proprietor begging Paulie to rein in Tommy, or take a busi­ness curiosity within the restaurant. It happens about twenty-six min­utes into the film. There’s a behind-the-head shot of Paulie, with the cigar is in his mouth, within the cutaway to a reverse angle there’s no cigar in his mouth. Like so: “What the fuck you assume I’m speaking about, Paulie, please, come on.” Paulie says, “It’s not even honest,” then lower, cigar is out of his mouth, and he finishes saying, “No.” Sure, it’s a “dangerous” lower, and I by no means seen it till I learn that interview and regarded it up.

David Leonard is knowledgeable movie editor to this present day, and he says, “Yeah, I by no means received over that lower. As I watched the film once more, I used to be considering I couldn’t keep in mind what was so good about it or what the opposite takes had been of Paulie in there that they needed to have that second.”

The moments of suggestions or energetic participation he was al­lowed are nonetheless particular to Leonard. “Throughout Final Temptation there’s that very lengthy slow-motion shot of Jesus strolling with the cross. It’s a really lengthy shot. At one level I keep in mind Thelma got here out once we had been consuming dinner late and mentioned, ‘Do you assume that shot’s too lengthy?’ And it was one of many few instances I can re­member that. For me as an assistant the place I received Marty time was the blending of Goodfellas, the scratch mixing, as a result of particularly at that time [Schoonmaker’s husband] Michael Powell wasn’t effectively”—the director, in his eighties, had most cancers—“and Thelma was going dwelling early. So I might typically go do a scratch combine with the mixer after which Marty would come and tweak it. In order that was the place I kind of had some one-on-one time with Marty. I keep in mind as soon as after a screening I went as much as do one thing on the ninth ground and Marty was like, ‘Sounded nice, David.’ There wasn’t quite a lot of that. Don’t get me improper. He’s heat as shit. He’s nice.”

At one level Scorsese’s want to remain within the enhancing room unin­terrupted for so long as potential turned such that he had a sound­proof telephone sales space put in within the room, so he may obtain or make calls privately with out leaving. As they had been setting up it, Scorsese remarked to Leonard that it was just like the isolation sales space on the 1950s tv quiz present The $64,000 Query, so Leonard rigged a tool that may play that present’s “query time” theme music at any time when Scorsese closed the door. Scorsese received an enormous kick out of it. The director’s moodiness waxed and waned: “It relies upon whether or not he’s not proud of what he did that day on set and it’s three months later, or whether or not his agent mentioned this individual’s not going to do that. And I keep in mind Thelma would kind of say he by no means is aware of in the event that they’re going to let him make one other film.” He was previous the purpose of, as rumor had it, destroying enhancing rooms à la Charles Foster Kane rag­ing in his soon-to-be-ex-wife’s bed room on the finish of Citizen Kane. However he may nonetheless be risky. “In case you walked within the ed­iting room with out warning, Marty would soar up and say, ‘How the FUCK am I alleged to get any work finished,’ or some such factor.”

Certainly one of Leonard’s obligations was rounding up sources for the track soundtrack. “I all the time take into consideration this. He handed me an inventory of music to have ready for the slicing room and, like, ninety p.c of what’s within the film was on the listing. And this was whereas he was capturing. It was, like, you recognize, have these things prepared. That was all the time a tremendous factor to me, all that stuff, after which it was in his capturing script. You recognize, ‘Leap into the Fireplace’ crosses with ‘Magic Bus.’

“And there weren’t many CDs round in 1989. So we needed to go discover stuff and at that time you’d switch a 45 or a lower from vinyl onto a quarter-inch tape so you can always re­print magnetic inventory of it, however we must go discover these things and happily we had been upstairs from Colony Data. So you can run downstairs and for 50 {dollars} get a replica of a Dean Martin document with ‘Ain’t {That a} Kick within the Head’ on it.”

Schoonmaker’s husband, Michael Powell, died at age eighty-four in February of 1990, whereas enhancing of Goodfellas was nonetheless underway. “So Thelma disappeared,” Leonard recollects. “She needed to go to England. She was away for about two, three weeks. Mi­chael’s devotion to Marty was great. After a screening of Final Temptation Michael received up. There have been dying threats towards Marty over the film at that time and Mike was, like, ‘Marty, I’ll take a bullet for you.’ I received to have lunch with him loads be­trigger Barbara had an assistant who had this canine, Elvis, a basset hound, and Thelma would say, ‘Why don’t you are taking Elvis to go see Michael,’ as a result of they lived across the nook on 51st and eighth. So I might stroll Elvis over, after which Mike would present up and Mike would have a plate and a teacup arrange for me. And he would run and, like, soar on the carpet to play with Elvis. I’m considering, ‘Nice, Michael’s going to fall and break a hip. I’m going to get Michael Powell killed.’ He hadn’t a care. He could be taking part in with the canine.

“He dictated his autobiography, I feel each volumes, be­trigger he had macular degeneration. So he couldn’t learn. I imply, that’s the factor about Thelma. She would spend all day with that nut within the slicing room, and she or he’d go dwelling and she or he would sort out what Michael had dictated, after which she would learn it again right into a recorder so he may take heed to it and edit it and maintain going. That’s Thelma.”

I had requested Schoonmaker about sitting for an interview once I noticed her in the summertime of 2019, and she or he appeared prepared. However after ending work on The Irishman, and dealing with Scorsese on its promotion, she went to England, to as soon as once more carry out an act of devotion to Michael Powell: she is enhancing his diaries.

Glenn Kenny © 2020 by Glenn Kenny, used with permission from Hanover Sq. Press/HarperCollins.