AND THE BITTER STRUGGLE FOR TREE SCENE - DE PALMA WANTED IT OUT, THE PRODUCERS WANTED IT IN
In between Hi, Mom! and Sisters, Brian De Palma went to Los Angeles to make his first studio film at Warner Bros., Get To Know Your Rabbit. Paul Hirsch, who had edited Hi, Mom!, found himself back in Manhattan, cutting trailers for a "fly-by-night company" run by Sig Shore, as Hirsch describes in his book, A long time ago in a cutting room far, far away.... (out in paperback as of this week). In chapter four of the book, Hirsch, who had been editing a trailer for a film called Detective Belli, tells of meeting up with De Palma in late 1971 (almost 50 years ago) and attending a screening of a rough cut of Get To Know Your Rabbit, which would end up being released in 1972, a long delay after De Palma had been fired from the movie and locked out of the editing room:
The negative for Detective Belli was to be made in a lab in L.A. from materials supplied by the Italian distributor, and I was dispatched there in late 1971 to make sure everything was copacetic. Brian De Palma was also in Hollywood then, editing his picture Get To Know Your Rabbit. It was Brian's first studio picture, and he hadn't been able to hire me to work on it because I wasn't even in the New York union, not to mention L.A.'s.
I called him to say I was in town. He invited me to come see a rough cut of his movie, which he was screening that afternoon out at Warner Bros. I went and watched the picture with Brian, his editor, and his producer. When the house lights went up, all eyes turned to me, since mine were the only fresh eyes in the room. The producer asked me what I thought, and I tentatively offered that there was one scene in particular I thought they could do without, a scene in which Tommy Smothers is up in a tree.
As soon as the words were out of my mouth, a silence fell on the room, and I could feel a kind of tension. Brian thanked me, and we made a date to get together for dinner later. He explained to me that night that the scene I had mentioned had in fact been the subject of a bitter struggle between Brian and the producers, Brian wanting it out, them wanting it in. They wrongly assumed that Brian had told me what to say. I went on to give Brian a more detailed list of suggestions, which hadn't seemed appropriate to offer in front of anyone else.
I returned to New York and shortly thereafter left Sig Shore's employ.