HOLLYWOOD -- It would be a great plot twist for a comedy -- the story of a movie actor at the tender mercies of his wife who happens to be the film cutter on his movies.
That's exactly the scenario lived by actor Roy Scheider and his wife Cynthia Bebout who is one of a handful of outstanding women film editors in the business.
In 23 years of marriage, Bebout has worked on four pictures in which her husband has starred. And, yes, there have been some scenes that Roy thought were outstanding -- and that Cynthia excised from the finished product.
But her unkind cuts in the booth are never triggered by squabbles at home. According to Scheider, the couple's working relationship is strictly business, and he proudly says that his wife, a former actress, is unerringly motivated by her dedication to her art.
At the moment Scheider, usually a macho figure in such movies as 'Jaws' and 'Blue Thunder,' has become a house husband in Los Angeles while Bebout works as film editor on Steven Spielberg's current movie, 'Batteries Not Included.'
The Scheiders have moved to Southern California from their home in New York for six or seven months for the duration of the film.
'I'll just sit out here and relax in the sunshine,' Scheider said amiably. 'If another picture does come up it would be a couple of months in pre-production before I'd be ready to go.
'We don't always succeed, but Cynthia and I try to arrange our schedules so we aren't separated. When I'm off on location, she comes along with me -- sometimes as film editor. And when she gets an assignment like this, I'm more than happy to accompany her.'
How does Scheider feel about having his own wife involved in the highly sensitive matter of deciding which shot or angle of his work goes into a movie and which is deleted?
The tanned, slender actor grinned and lighted a cigarette before replying.
'Cynthia was assistant editor on 'The French Connection' before I was cast in the picture,' he said. 'It was just coincidental that we happened to work in the same movie.
'Jerry Greenberg was the film editor and won the Oscar for that picture. Cynthia also worked for him in 'The Seven Ups,' in which I starred.
'When I was cast in 'Sorcerer' it meant a long location in South America and I asked (director) Billy Friedkin if Cynthia could come along and work on the picture as well. He was delighted.
'She got her first job as chief film editor on 'Breaking Away,' which was a helluva movie. And her first full credit on any of my pictures was 'The Men's Club,' which is out now.
'Naturally, she has to go over every frame of the film many times. Like all good editors and cutters her first loyalty is to the director. It's her job to perpetuate the director's vision of what the film is supposed to look like.
'Cynthia is a good technician and as an actress she understands the actors' problems. She also knows the dramatic values in a scene.'
Scheider recalled one particular occasion when he questioned Bebout's cut of a scene in which he thought he had done exceptionally well.
When he asked for an explanation, his wife said, 'I know you liked your performance in that sequence but it added nothing to the characterization within the framework of the film.'
Scheider laughed and said, 'I had to agree with her. She was right.
'When I began in movies I had less input and often I'd see a favorite scene lopped off. But after all these years I work with directors, help with the script, make suggestions, provide ideas. Those perks come with experience and mean fewer unkind cuts.
'Actors hate to see what they thought was a good performance get cut. But we're seldom as objective as the film editor.
'A good editor can help a weak picture and a bad editor can hurt a good picture. I'd like to have Cynthia edit all my movies because she's almost always right about what should be cut and what shouldn't.
'I think it's inevitable that we will work together again. At least I hope so.'