Grace Garland Janisz was an exceptional editor whose academic film
work encompassed forty-four titles for Encyclopaedia Britannica films. One such
New England Fisherman, 2nd Ed. (1967), produced by Thomas
Chamberlin. About the film, Tom Smith writes:
"It may have been one of Grace Garland's last academic films as editor. She
played a very important role in the making of this film. As I recall, Bill [Deneen]
handed Tom a camera, a box of film and a two-way ticket to the Northeast. Tom
had very little experience and I doubt he even had a script to work from. He
shot all the film provided and when he came back Bill gave it to Grace. I
suspect Bill wrote the narration. This is the kind of film that provides a
valuable artifact about American life in the 20th century."
addition to her work in academic film, Grace edited 100 films for feature film and industrial companies.
spanned the years from 1940 to 1994. Born in Weybridge, England on November
24, 1920, she was noted for her keen eye, attention to detail, and long work
hours. "From my father, an engineer and champion race car driver, I
learned to be an independent risk taker with a bit of a daredevil attitude," she
stated, in her unpublished autobiography. Beginning her editing career in
1940, as an assistant to editor David Lean, who was not yet noted for his
directing. Soon, her reputation brought her to Alexander Korda, for whom she
edited 'Bonnie Prince Charlie.' She married Polish officer Teddy Janisz
after the war, and immigrated to the United States, where she soon began editing
for Jam Handy Films, while her husband took on a teaching and research role at
the University of Detroit. Bill Deneen,
who at the time owned a Detroit-based film company, was desperate for a film
editor to fix a film that had not synched properly, and had heard about her
reputation. He didn't know her married name, but knew her husband worked
at the University, and was Polish. Calling nearly every Polish-named
faculty member, he finally found her, beginning a cinematic partnership that
would span four decades.
Deneen who created a series of films on the world's cultures, had a
reputation for doing whatever had to be done to get a film made, even if it
involved not operating strictly within the laws of the host country. She
recalls her nerve-wracking experience with Deneen, in this 3-page excerpt from
her memoirs, as they skirted Mexican authorities while making a series of films
in the 1960s:
As a rule a feature film
editor need never leave her editing studios other than to visit the
shooting stage, but with Bill Deneen it requires much more. I have the
experience and though Bill has tremendous potential as writer/director,
he lacks experience; it is an advantage if I present scripts and films
with him. This requires a flight to Britannica in Chicago that takes all
day for a two-hour conference. Bill solves that problem by buying a
plane and getting a pilots license. He is a terrifying driver on the
road. Only 10% of his attention is directed to the road while 90% is
directed in deep conversation with front and back seat passengers. Now,
he wants me to fly with him! The trip from Berz airport, a mile from my
house, to the private airport at Britannica takes only half a day
including a two-hour conference. It makes sense to both of us.
Poor Teddy [her husband], he says, "I'll pay for commercial airfare, darling."
Having no alternative, I have to risk flying with Bill. Much to my
amazement Bill is extremely careful and attentive. I read the 32
checkpoints ... he checks. He pays very close attention to flying and we
have many uneventful trips. Bill has only a visual flying license. One
winter we are flying to a Film Festival in New York to pick up two gold
medals. Weather predictions are clear all the way. By the time we reach
Pennsylvania a snowstorm has developed and the wings ice over. I am able
to read the aerial maps by this time. Bill pays attention to the
instruments while I search for an airport or airstrip ...ah ah ... a
windsock. A narrow strip of land at the confluence of two rivers ... an
island . . . looks no bigger than a parking lot covered by snow, but we
have to trust the windsock. We land toward the confluence of the two
rivers ... the water comes closer... closer .. . running out of runway
... I am sure I am going to get my feet wet but the plane stops at the
waters edge. We are in Sunbury, a coal mining town in Pennsylvania and
have had enough excitement for one day. We rent a car and I drive thru
the snowstorm to New York. Bill doesn't like driving at night! On the
return, we drive back to Sunbury to pick up the plane.
Our 44 films in Encyclopedia Britannica’s library are from all over the
world, Japan, Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, India, Egypt, South Africa,
Iceland, Central and South America. Frequently we make several films in
the country covering the various school grades.
Bill has an assignment for five films in Mexico and because this will
take six months, he decides to take his family. When he is out of the
country. Bill ships the film back to me and I have it processed. Mexico
at first refuses to allow this, wanting to process it so they can see
what he has shot. Schoolboys only go to school when their father's don't
need them in the field; not a good image. The Mexican authorities will
confiscate the film if they see it. Weeks later Bill gets the film to me
but there is no way I can start editing until we see it together. For
Bill there is always a solution. He gets a pilot to fly me to Mexico in
his plane so that we can hide the film. Mrs. Guerin, my housekeeper, and
Teddy look after the children for a week.
Dick Brethen was a B52 Bomber pilot during the war, so this single
engine plane is a fly to him. We do not bother to stash the film because
Bill says he will fly up to Brownsville, on the U. S./Mexican border to
meet us. I presume we will see the film there and not fly into Mexico.
My first comment after we take of is "How do I get this thing down?" My
flying lessons begin. It takes two days to fly to Brownsville. We arrive
at the same time. Bill says, "I only flew up to fly down with you." We
tell him we have already located a small airport 12 miles north where we
can stash the film.
Bill says, "No problem, the Americans don't care, let's do it before
"But the plane is right under the tower!" I protested.
"Stop fussing, stop being a little old lady, it's fine."
These are famous last words. Each man takes a dime out of his pocket and
proceeds to dismantle the panels looking for a place to stash twelve
cans of film without interfering with the equipment. After taking off
four exterior panels, they decide to stash the cans inside the plane,
among the seats and chair backs. We have lunch. On returning to the
plane two custom officials flash their badges. Out came the dimes, out
came the panels, they look inside the plane and through our luggage.
A custom man says, "Well, we didn't find anything.'
Dick Brethen said, "I'm sure glad you didn't."
This is my first silent heart attack. Bill explains what we have and
shows the documents permitting him to shoot in Mexico, and the custom
officials let us leave.
Five miles south we land at Matamoros, the Mexican border to file a
A custom official searches
the plane and then says, "Where is the film?"
Bill shows him a small
roll of film and he says, "No big film."
I see bars in front of my
face; I am never going to see my children again. But worse! Bill pulls
out a wad of pesos. I nearly faint, this is surely death, bribing a
customs man but he accepts it. Dick files his flight plan and they let
us go. We attempt to land at Tampico to refuel, but after identifying
the plane they make us fly around for half an hour before landing. As we
touch down I look behind us to see a jeep with four armed soldiers
following us. Obviously we are on their radar. We refuel, with soldiers
under each wing, and then take off. Half an hour out of Tampico, the
weather turns bad. Since the plane is not pressurized and we are heading
for a 13,000-foot mountain, we turn back to Tampico to stay the night.
We encounter the same delay procedure when we ask to land. After
searching our luggage, we are permitted to stay the night with the plane
under guard. We leave for Mexico City in the morning. When we request
landing and give identity, there is another half-hour of flying around.
When we touch down, another jeep with armed guards follows us. A
decision is made to leave the film and come back for it later. By this
time I am a nervous wreck, but the thought of the American Embassy being
close is of some comfort. John, Bill's secretary is at the airport to
meet us. We drive to Bill's house in Cuemavaca 40 miles away. About 11
p.m. Dick announces he did not fly all this way to leave the film in the
plane, so the three men return to the airport.
The plane is in an isolated part of the airport with two armed guards
protecting it with no other people around. Pretending not to speak any
Spanish, they indicate with sign language they need to get to the plane.
With much protesting, one guard leaves to get his superior. Dick opens
the plane and brandishes a pile of maps, and with Bill's help they get
the film out wrapped in the maps, pass them over the fence to John and
escape before the other guard returns. This is approximately early 1960.
For a week Bill and I work on the footage, write a script, shoot more
footage to complete "Boy of Mexico." My mission is accomplished, now to
get home. There is a 48-hour restriction on taking a plane out. They
file a flight plan to fly 80 miles south of Mexico City, supposedly to a
small private airport. Dick and Bill take the plane, I take the car with
film and head for the airport. I arrive in the vicinity but cannot see
the airport or a windsock. I watch the plane land and drive in that
direction. The landing strip is in the center of a cornfield, and as the
plane lands it shears off cornstalks either side of the wings. By the
time I get out of the car, two armed guards are making their way through
the cornstalks. I freeze, letting Dick and Bill handle this. I notice
some little urchins crawling out of the corn. I walk toward them opening
my handbag and one by one giving them everything but my passport. This
creates such squeals and commotions that the guards drift toward me,
giving Dick and Bill time to get the film from the car and stash it in
We head back to Mexico City to file a flight plan to the U. S. While we
are waiting, a young man approaches and asks if we will give him a lift
to Matamoros. He is a meteorologist. Another silent heart attack, but
Dick says "Sure" totally indifferent to the implication. An hour later I
manage to catch Dick's eye and register alarm. The young man is sitting
on the film when we arrive at Matamoros. It is 1:00 p.m. on Good Friday.
The young man says there will be no custom officials until 3:00 p.m. but
he will get us clearance. Miraculously he does. I want to kiss the
ground when we land in Brownsville.
--- from "Grace", an
unpublished memoir, 1999
Grace Garland was never reticent in discussing her editing philosophy:
For what it's worth this is the
way I go about editing. There are only three simple criteria worth noting,
emotion, story and rhythm. First, like the director I take on the persona of
each character, that way I'm tuned in to action and reaction. I play all the
dailies for that sequence until I've memorized them. 23 angles, multiple takes:
chosen takes being arbitrary at this point [the kitchen scene in] "'Family of
Strangers". I walk around for a day or two to let it marinate. When I start to
edit I know exactly which angle and which section of each take I'm going to use.
At the moviola, I am totally unaware I am handling film, picture in one hand and
sound in the other. My hands automatically interpret what's in my head. Rhythm
automatically follows because I know what comes next. Obviously, I never stop
until I've finished the whole sequence. Hence, late night and weekend editing.
If I'm not satisfied with a reaction or delivery that I feel is not right, I'll
search in the N.G.s. That's easy with 16mm they're right there, but with 35mm
they have to be printed. With Technicolor three strip it was very expensive
(which got me in trouble with the accounts dept.) but worth it when I find just
the reaction I'm looking for. The greatest compliment a director can give me is,
"Where did you get that?' They usually remember the dailies but never the
I don't think I ever look at it from the audience point of view I just satisfy
me. Rhythm is critical, even static scenic shots have a rhythm, not one frame
more or less.
Grace passed away on January 27, 2005, having spent her final few months in the
Lillian Booth Actors' Home of The Actors' Fund of America in Englewood, New