Tom Priestley — whose skilled editing played a crucial role in shaping the 1972 thriller Deliverance — has died. He was 91.
His death was announced in late January by the J.B. Priestley Society, the organization devoted to preserving the writing of celebrated British author J.B. Priestley, who was Tom’s father. No cause of death was given.,
It with the utmost sadness we announce the death of out President Tom Priestley. Tom who was J. B. Priestley’s only son became one of this country’s finest film editors. Perhaps his most famous film was Deliverance for which he was Oscar Nominated. He was a most charming man.
— J.B. Priestley Soc (@JBPriestleySoc) January 26, 2024
Tom Priestley was a much in-demand editor and sound editor from the 1960s to 1980s, working with a whos’-who of British and European auteurs.
His collaboration with John Boorman on Deliverance was his most celebrated achievement, earning Priestley an Oscar nomination for editing. Priestley was forced to pare down certain passages due to their explicit nature, including a reference to oral sex during the film’s infamous “squeal like a pig” anal rape scene.
He later re-teamed with Boorman five years later on Exorcist II: The Heretic.
Priestley first worked with Roman Polanski as sound editor on his 1965 psychological thriller Repulsion, creating eerie sound effects to conjure Catherine Deneuve’s disintegrating state of mind.
He collaborated again with Polanski on the acclaimed Tess (1979), serving as one of the editors during the movie’s difficult and drawn-out post-production process during which multiple versions with different run times were created for European and U.S. audiences.
Priestley edited two of British director Karl Reisz’s most notable films — Morgan! and Isadora, both starring Vanessa Redgrave.
He also worked with Lindsay Anderson on two films — This Sporting Life and O Lucky Man!
His other work includes famed theater director Peter Brook’s film Marat/Sade, and Michael Radford’s big-screen adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984.