Skip to main content

Archives of Popular Culture: Viola Lawrence film editor (Collection)

Identifier: APC-2022-68

Scope and Contents note

The Viola Lawrence was the first female film editor in Hollywood. The collection contains awards, film industry magazines, photographs, and articles pertaining to her career.

Most of her 30 year career was spent at Columbia Pictures. She was nominated for Academy Awards for her work on the films Pal Joey and Pepe.


  • 1915-1973
  • Majority of material found within 1915 - 1973


Biographical / Historical

Regarded as Hollywood's first lady film cutter, Viola Lawrence began her career holding title cards for the Brooklyn-based film company Vitagraph. In 1911, she earned a meager $5 as a messenger. But she persisted in the business and worked her way up to edit her first film in 1912. Five years later, she resettled in Hollywood where she was signed by Carl Laemmle for Universal. During the 1920's, she was under contract to First National and to the independent companies of Gloria Swanson and Samuel Goldwyn at United Artists (1927-30). She spent the remainder of her lengthy career at Columbia (1931-60), where she rose to the position of supervising editor. She avidly believed in the power of close-ups and in highlighting actor's eyes to convey drama and emotion.

Lawrence did some of her finest work on two seminal films noir: The Lady from Shanghai (1947) and In a Lonely Place (1950)); and on the musical Pal Joey (1957), for which she received an Oscar nomination. Her swan song was the big budget musical comedy Pepe (1960), an ill-advised attempt at replicating the success of Around the World in 80 Days (1956). Lawrence later claimed that it had been her toughest assignment to date, as she had to pare down 500,000 feet of exposed film to just 20,000. In the end, the picture still ran to 195 minutes. Its relative failure may well have precipitated Lawrence's retirement.

Viola Lawrence was married to pioneer editor Frank Lawrence, who had been her mentor back in her days at Vitagraph.

Source: IMDb Mini Biography By: I.S.Mowis


4 boxes (2 legal size boxes, one mini box, and one manuscript box )

Language of Materials


Physical Location

Aisle 5B--Shelf 1

Archives of Popular Culture: Viola Lawrence film editor
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the CSUF University Archives & Special Collections Repository

University Archives & Special Collections
Pollak Library South Room 352 (PLS 352)
Fullerton CA 92831-3599 USA
(657) 278-4751