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Learning how to wrap expensive gifts


Unusual job offer from George Cukor
Walter Murch Film-maker
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At the end of the first semester of film school, a 3x5 card appeared on a bulletin board that said, 'Need a job over Christmas? Phone Grady at dah, dah, dah, dah, dah' and this was alongside other similar notices but we were all hungry and a job? Yes. Maybe that will pay for some Christmas presents and it turned out that Matthew Robins, my friend, and George Lucas phoned that number, talked to Grady and he told… gave them an address to come to which was just off Sunset Boulevard, near La Cienega. So it was in Beverly Hills but just and they wound up knocking on the door and Grady Sutton opened the door to this very nice house and you would recognise Grady as the sidekick from many Western movies. He usually played the slightly slow person who lost that poker or who was killed early in the film. And he was running the house at that time of George Cukor, the director, and this was who the house was and the job was: 'Follow me, boys', he took them up to the attic of the house and the door opened up and there was a large attic probably about the size of this room and there was a pyramid of Christmas presents in the middle of the room. And he said, 'Your job is to wrap those presents' and these were George Cukor's Christmas gifts to his Hollywood friends. And so he said, 'Lunch will be served at 1 o'clock. Get busy. There's the wrapping paper.' And so George and Matthew began wrapping Christmas presents.

And Matthew's version of the story is that George became increasingly prickly about this job because Cukor, it was known then, was a homosexual and maybe this was a honey trap to get two students, who wanted to wrap Christmas presents, into the attic of the house and that at some unforeseen moment, George Cukor was suddenly going to spring the trap on Matthew and George. So by the end of the day, George was not going to come back the next day.  George's version of the story is that he really had to go back home to Modesto and spend Christmas with his family and so he couldn't continue on this job.

Born in 1943 in New York City, Murch graduated from the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television. His career stretches back to 1969 and includes work on Apocalypse Now, The Godfather I, II, and III, American Graffiti, The Conversation, and The English Patient. He has been referred to as 'the most respected film editor and sound designer in modern cinema.' In a career that spans over 40 years, Murch is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Francis Ford Coppola, beginning in 1969 with The Rain People. After working with George Lucas on THX 1138 (1971), which he co-wrote, and American Graffiti (1973), Murch returned to Coppola in 1974 for The Conversation, resulting in his first Academy Award nomination. Murch's pioneering achievements were acknowledged by Coppola in his follow-up film, the 1979 Palme d'Or winner Apocalypse Now, for which Murch was granted, in what is seen as a film-history first, the screen credit 'Sound Designer.' Murch has been nominated for nine Academy Awards and has won three, for best sound on Apocalypse Now (for which he and his collaborators devised the now-standard 5.1 sound format), and achieving an unprecedented double when he won both Best Film Editing and Best Sound for his work on The English Patient. Murch’s contributions to film reconstruction include 2001's Apocalypse Now: Redux and the 1998 re-edit of Orson Welles's Touch of Evil. He is also the director and co-writer of Return to Oz (1985). In 1995, Murch published a book on film editing, In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing, in which he urges editors to prioritise emotion.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: George Cukor, Grady Sutton, Matthew Robins, George Lucas

Duration: 3 minutes, 12 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 01 March 2017