Marty Cohen, a longtime editor and post-production chief who worked on more than a dozen Steven Spielberg films for Amblin and DreamWorks and whose producing credits include such hits as The Hunger Games and Godzilla, has died. He was 67.
An Amblin spokesperson said Cohen died May 17 of natural causes after a long battle with heart disease.
Marty, or Mendy, as he was affectionately called by his friends, abandoned studies in geology for a degree in communications from Queens College. He eventually landed a job with a courier company that offered to relocate him if he would help set up its offices in Los Angeles.
Cohen left the Big Apple and after being in L.A. for only a year, he quit for two reasons: one, he didn’t like working for a courier company; and two, it wasn’t movies.
He began his four-decade career in movies as a P.A. for Ralph Bakshi before working as an apprentice editor on the 1981 films American Pop and Pennies from Heaven. When the latter’s editorial crew was relocated next door to the Poltergeist cutting room on the MGM lot, Cohen was low man on the Pennies totem pole.
The story goes that Cohen found himself underneath a Kem, trying to help his neighbors put a fuse into the dead machine. Positioned like a mechanic under a car, he heard a voice from the other side of the room inquire, “Should we get a new Kem, since this one has been around the world?”
When Jane Jaffe brought Cohen back to the Pennies cutting room, she smiled and asked, “You know who that was, right?” Cohen answered confidently, “The P.A. on Poltergeist.” Jane responded, “No, Marty. That was Steven Spielberg.”
That would eventually lead to a long career of working with the future multiple-Oscar-winning filmmaker. Starting with 1985’s The Color Purple, Cohen worked on Spielberg films including Empire of the Sun, Always, Schindler’s List, Hook, Amistad, Saving Private Ryan, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Minority Report, Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal, Munich and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull .
“Marty began in the editing room with Michael Kahn and me on The Color Purple and then made the transition to a post-production supervisory role on both DreamWorks and Paramount films,” Spielberg said in a statement. “Later, he worked with me and other filmmakers on film preservation, a passion we both shared. But more than anything, Marty was a dedicated and loyal member of our Amblin family for more than three decades. He cared deeply about the way movies looked to audiences, both in theaters and in homes. His keen eye and warm heart will be missed dearly at the finish line of every film we make from here on out.”
Cohen also worked with a myriad of other big-name directors throughout his long career including Michael Mann, Sam Mendes, Robert Zemeckis, Gary Ross, Michael Bay, Gareth Edwards, Todd Phillips, Penelope Spheeris, Gore Verbinski, Simon Wells, Cameron Crowe, Ridley Scott, Neil Jordan, Joe Dante, Mimi Leder, Richard Donner and Herbert Ross.
On learning of his passing, the Motion Picture Editor’s Guild, which presented Cohen with its Fellowship & Service Award last October, posted a remembrance on its web site. MPEG said Cohen “mentored countless post-production workers in our industry with good humor, a real love of the moving image, and abiding wisdom.”
His post-production career included overseeing such trademark Amblin films as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Back to the Future Parts II and III, Hook, Schindler’s List and Little Rascals.
Cohen was also the longtime head of post-production for DreamWorks, managing the Spielberg-helmed Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can, Minority Report, War of the Worlds and Munich, as well as the studio’s Best Picture winners American Beauty and Gladiator.
After DreamWorks, Cohen served as head of post-production at Paramount Pictures until 2010.
Cohen’s love of the moving image was manifest in his work as a film preservationist. During his career, he supervised the restoration of classics including Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather trilogy and Jaws. He teamed with Spielberg to resture a number of classics from the Amblin and DreamWorks libraries.
He is survived by his wife, Kathy, a retired physical therapist; his daughter, Maggie, a Riverside public defender; and grandchildren, Alexis and Maya; his son Gabriel, a marriage and family counselor, and his wife Zynette; son Hershel, who works at EFILM, and his wife Marysa; and son Elijah, a middle school history teacher, and his wife Brianne.
Due to circumstances and safety precautions around the ongoing pandemic, the family will have a private burial at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary on Friday, May 22, 2020. A celebration of life will follow at a later date, tentatively set for April of 2021.
The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Martin Cohen Memorial Scholarship Fund at Queen’s College.