Actor Film editor Film producer

Peter Zinner

Quick Facts

IntroAmerican film editor (1919-2007)
Was Film producer
Film editor
From United States of America
Type Film, TV, Stage, Radio
Birth 24 July 1919, Vienna, Austria
Death 13 November 2007, Santa Monica, USA
(aged 88 years)
Star signLeo


Peter Zinner (July 24, 1919 – November 13, 2007) was an Austrian-born American filmmaker who worked as a film editor, sound editor, and producer. Following nearly fifteen years of uncredited work as an assistant sound editor, Zinner received credits on more than fifty films from 1959 – 2006. His most influential films are likely The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, both of which appear on a 2012 listing of the 75 best edited films of all time compiled by the Motion Picture Editors Guild.

Early life

He was born in Vienna, Austria, and studied music there in the Theresianum and at the Max Reinhardt Seminar. Following the occupation of Austria by Germany in 1938, Zinner and his parents, who were Jewish, emigrated. They went first to the Philippines, and in 1940 to the United States. As a young man, Zinner worked in Los Angeles as a taxi driver and occasionally as a pianist at screenings of silent films.


In 1943 Zinner became an apprentice film editor at the 20th Century Fox Studios. In 1947 he became an assistant sound-effects editor at Universal Studios. Much of his work as an assistant sound and music editor is uncredited; he worked with composers Miklós Rózsa, Jacques Ibert, André Previn, Adolph Deutsch, and Bernard Herrmann on films including Quo Vadis (1951), Singin’ in the Rain (1952), The Band Wagon (1953), Gigi (1958), and Gene Kelly’s experimental Invitation to the Dance (1956). His first credit as a music editor was for For the First Time (1959); his other credits for music include X-15 (1961), the US version of King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), and Lord Jim (1965).

Zinner had wanted to move into film editing, and following his music-editing work with producer-director Richard Brooks on Lord Jim, Brooks asked Zinner to edit The Professionals (1967) and In Cold Blood (1967). His work on The Professionals was nominated for an American Cinema Editors Eddie Award. By 1970 Zinner had become sufficiently established as an editor that, Zinner was asked to edit the latter half of The Godfather; William H. Reynolds edited the first half. The film, which was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, has been very successful with critics and at the box-office. One of its sequences has become an icon of film editing. As critic Tony Sloman described it in 2007, “As the newly born child of Michael Corleone is christened, the young Don Michael, heir to the murdered Don Vito Corleone, wreaks his revenge on his enemies, eliminating them to the soundtrack of the priest’s baby-blessing and the church’s organ music. It is unquestionably one of the most dramatically satisfying and audience-shattering sequences in contemporary cinema, a magnificent example of the art of motion-picture editing, the craft of story-telling by montage. The editor of the sequence was Peter Zinner.” Director Frank Pierson said, “…That’s the kind of thing that he was brilliant at, and it’s become a classic sequence in movie history.”

Zinner was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Film Editing three times for his work on The Godfather (1972), The Deer Hunter (directed by Michael Cimino-1978), and An Officer and a Gentleman {directed by Taylor Hackford-1982}. He won the Oscar, a BAFTA, and an Eddie for The Deer Hunter. His work (with Barry Malkin and Richard Marks) on The Godfather Part II (1974) earned a second BAFTA nomination. Zinner was nominated four times for Emmy Awards, and won for the miniseries War and Remembrance (1988) and for Citizen Cohn (1992). His peers in the American Cinema Editors honored him with six Eddie nominations of which he won four.

His many other film editing credits include Blake Edwards’ Gunn, Foolin’ Around, Darling Lili, Dirty Pictures, Crazy Joe, Mahogany, A Star is Born (with Barbra Streisand) and Somebody Has to Shoot the Picture.

In 1990 he played the role of an admiral in the film The Hunt for Red October. Zinner also produced four films. He directed The Salamander (1981) with Anthony Quinn.

Personal life

Zinner had married his wife Christa, a German-born photographer and artist, in 1959. Their daughter, Katina Zinner, is also a film editor as well as an artist. Zinner died on November 13, 2007, aged 88, in Santa Monica, California, from non-Hodgkin lymphoma. His funeral was held on January 5, 2008.

Awards and nominations

1967American Cinema EditorsBest Edited Feature FilmThe ProfessionalsNominated
1972American Cinema EditorsBest Edited Feature FilmThe GodfatherNominated
1973Academy of Motion Picture Arts and SciencesBest Film EditingNominated
1974British Academy of Film and Television ArtsBest EditingThe Godfather Part IINominated
1978American Cinema EditorsBest Edited Feature FilmThe Deer HunterWon
1979British Academy of Film and Television ArtsBest EditingWon
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and SciencesBest Film EditingWon
1983Academy of Motion Picture Arts and SciencesBest Film EditingAn Officer and a GentlemanNominated
1984Academy of Television Arts & SciencesOutstanding Editing for a Limited Series or MovieWar and RemembranceWon
1989American Cinema EditorsBest Edited Television Mini-SeriesWon
1990Academy of Television Arts & SciencesOutstanding Editing for a Limited Series or MovieWon
1992American Cinema EditorsBest Edited Television SpecialCitizen CohnWon
1993CableACE AwardsBest Editing in a Dramatic SpecialNominated
Academy of Television Arts & SciencesOutstanding Editing for a Limited Series or MovieWon
2000American Cinema EditorsBest Edited Motion Picture for Non-Commercial TelevisionDirty PicturesWon
2002Academy of Television Arts & SciencesOutstanding Television MovieConspiracyNominated
Academy of Television Arts & SciencesOutstanding Editing for a Limited Series or MovieNominated