The film editor behind one of the most famous car chases in movie history has died. Jerry Greenberg, whose work on The French Connection won him an Academy Award for film editing, died Friday after a long illness. He was 81.
The French Connection car chase featured Detective Jimmy Doyle (played by Gene Hackman) chasing a criminal who has commandeered an elevated subway train. It was shot on busy city streets in New York with no traffic control or proper permits, although the NYPD helped close some, but not all, intersections.
Many of the chase’s near-collisions were unplanned, and director William Friedkin operated a car-mounted camera to avoid endangering his family-man camera operators from the hazardous assignment. Greenberg’s editing helped bring the chase to life.
In his Oscars acceptance speech, Greenberg concluded by thanking “the New York City subway system.”
In addition to The French Connection, Greenberg was nominated twice in 1980 for his work on Kramer vs. Kramer and Apocalypse Now. In 2015, he won the Career Achievement Award from the American Cinema Editors.
Greenberg began his career in 1960, getting his big break when he apprenticed on Elia Kazan’s America America in 1963, working for Dede Allen. He later joined Allen on Bonnie and Clyde, editing some of the famous shootout scenes.
He then did The French Connection, winning an Oscar and BAFTA, and his career really took wings. He became known for his work on the American New Wave, working for directors like Francis Ford Coppola, Sidney Lumet, Michael Cimino, Brian De Palma and Friedkin.
His filmography also includes Alice’s Restaurant (1969), The Boys in the Band (1970), They Might Be Giants (1971), Dressed to Kill (1980), Heaven’s Gate (1980), Reds (1981), Still of the Night (1982), Scarface (1983), Wise Guys (1986), The Untouchables (1987), The Accused (1988), Awakenings (1990), American History X (1998), Inspector Gadget (1999), Get Carter (2000) and Trapped (2002).
The French Connection car chase: