Ben Burtt probably knows more about the creative history of sound editing and sound design than anyone else. I asked him this morning who he thought the great sound editors were before 1970 in the US film industry. He mentioned three names… Treg Brown, Jimmy MacDonald, and Murray Spivack… the three I thought he would name. Both of us had a hard time coming up with more.
One reason the list is short is that for many decades only one or two people received screen credit for sound editing, and very often the only person who received credit was the head of the studio’s sound department, though that person may have done little or no hands-on creative work on the film. Another reason is that a significant number of sound mixers before the 1980’s did whatever they could to minimize the creative contribution of the sound editors, a shameful practice that is thankfully now nearly eradicated.
The result is that there were no doubt quite a few amazing sound editing and design talents working in the decades before the 1970’s whose names we will never know.
If you do know any of those names I would love to hear about it.