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Bill Varney, CAS, Passes Away at 77

Bill Varney, CAS

Retired re-recording sound mixer, Bill Varney, CAS, passed away on April 2 in Fairhope, Ala., of congestive heart failure at the age of 77. A veteran of more than 80 feature films, Varney’s sound work won him two Academy Awards, in 1981 and 1982, for the films Star Wars: Episode V—The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Varney was also nominated for the films Dune and Back to the Future. His work on Roots secured him an Emmy nomination.

Varney was a past president of the Cinema Audio Society and in 1990 received the Cinema Audio Society’s highest honor, the Career Achievement Award.

Varney worked for 30 years as a re-recording mixer and joined Universal Pictures as vice president of sound operations, where he was responsible for the complete remodeling and upgrading of the studio’s sound facilities. He also spent a 14-year stint at Goldwyn Studios as supervising re-recording mixer.

Varney began his career in radio and television in the early 1950s. His first motion picture was a government-funded project at MIT featuring folk singer Joan Baez, whose father was a professor of physics there. This film caught the eye of some filmmakers, and before long, he moved to the West Coast. Along with Walter Murch, ACE, MPSE, CAS, he used a 58-page memo from Orson Welles to reconstruct the sound for the DVD re-release of the Director’s Edition of Touch of Evil in 1998. Verney’s other film credits include Poltergeist, Gremlins, Grease, My Favorite Year and Ordinary People.

Mr. Varney leaves behind his wife, Suzy, and daughter, Lisa. Cinema Audio Society Past President Edward L. Moskowitz, CAS, had this to say regarding Varney: “I recall as very young production sound mixer meeting Bill and finding him to be gracious and welcoming to me. He was incredibly supportive in establishing and strengthening the camaraderie among all the mixers in the CAS”.

Arrangements are pending and will be held in Alabama.