She's the one who lets Woody be Woody.

Susan E. Morse is the name on the credits. She goes by Sandy. She's tall, given to sheepish seventh-grader smiles, and has edited everything from "Manhattan" to "Radio Days."

She took over as Allen's editor from the esteemed Ralph Rosenblum, who left to make his own films and to write. And now, at 34, she's an Oscar nominee for "Hannah and Her Sisters." She took time off last week from a new picture to appear on a panel at the Women Make Movies film festival at the American Film Institute.

She's here to talk about being There.

"The best part of being nominated," she says in a silky, affable tone, "was telling my mother. She was so proud."

On the balcony of the Kennedy Center, the mood is balmy, languid. The mood of the cutting room, with daily rushes coming in, seems far away, closeted in some cinematic corner of Manhattan where Alvy Singer, Annie Hall and Danny Rose meander in clouds of urban doubt. Here where the bureaucrats trudge it's breezy and sunny. Planes fly over the Potomac. Daffodils push through sod. And Morse, dressed nouvelle brunch in red sweater and flannel slacks, is talking about working for one of America's most popular living directors.

"Back in ancient Rome," she's saying, "they used to have triumphal processions for the conquering hero. He'd ride through the city in a chariot. And there'd always be a slave assigned to ride with him who'd whisper 'you're only a man' in his ear while he was being applauded in triumph."

That, she says, "is the role of the editor."

So what's it like to edit Allen?

She smiles that self-conscious grin, as if you had just screamed, "So tell us about your new boyfriend, Sandy!" across a junior high school quad.

"It's not unlike a marriage," she says, her voice almost lost in the din of an overhead aircraft. "You're working for the same thing, and you're both aware early of the other's flaws. It's very interesting. You're both concerned with the end result. The key thing is honesty."

Part of that honesty is a cold-eyed detachment toward the material. "Your natural impulse is to dismiss everything that works," she says. "You immediately neglect what is good."

The director, she says, "has got built in how he wrote it, how it was conceived, the nuances of the performances he heard in his head, the problems he had in camera placement ... It can distract him from really looking at it."

Being tactful about technical problems -- being something of an ego stroker -- is frequently part of the job description, says Morse, who edited Steve Gordon's "Arthur," Rosenblum's public television drama "The Greatest Man in the World," and assisted on Walter Hill's "The Warriors," Martin Scorsese's "Raging Bull," Jim Kouf's "Miracles" and Marshall Brickman's "Simon."

"You have to force yourself to talk about the good stuff more," she says. "It can be devastating to see someone not laughing at all your jokes ... Although with Woody, you don't have to be as tactful as you do with others. He's more secure in himself."

Allen takes sobering news very well, she says. "He isn't married to the material in the sense some directors are." In fact, many of his films have been radically restructured in the editing room.

In "Annie Hall," which Morse worked on as Rosenblum's assistant, "Woody's original intention was to focus more generally on a midlife crisis," she says. "But it turned out to be about the relationship between Annie and Alvy. The film cried out to be restructured. But Woody's material permitted and even encouraged that. It was easy to move the material around."

And "Zelig," a technical tour de force that interweaves authentic and imitation newsreel footage, was finessed in the editing room over a period of two years, with Allen frequently rewriting jokes and situations for the evolving film.

Yet although "Annie Hall" received Academy Awards for best picture, direction, actress and screenplay, Rosenblum was not nominated for his editing. Indeed -- and in keeping with the baffling vagaries of the Academy -- of the 24 nominations Allen's films have received over the years, Morse's for "Hannah and Her Sisters" is the first in the editing category.

You wouldn't know what the editor does by reading the average film review or even by seeing the average film. Morse and her colleagues can only hope for a brief "and some fine editing by ..." as public recognition. "Nobody knows what happens between any editor and a director," Rosenblum says, interviewed later. "It's the most hidden relationship in the movie business, because nobody's around."

But Morse gets gratification enough when colleagues recognize her work, she says. She hesitates to single out her contributions to Allen's pictures. "It's sort of like team sports," she says, referring to the collaborative aspect of making films. "It doesn't matter who passes the ball, whether so and so gets an assist, or who gets the goal. You just want to come up with the best end result."

What the editor does is transform thousands of feet of film and sound tape -- sometimes up to 40 hours -- into some 90 minutes of intercut image and sound. Consecutive 16-hour days can be spent pondering whether a sound effect precedes or accompanies a shot, whether a reaction shot helps or harms a scene, whether the second take is better than the twenty-second. Hard choices occur at every turn, all in the name of moving the story forward. This means junking the director's jokes, shots and scenes by the score. Morse remembers the unpleasant chore of cutting a friend's performance completely out of "Arthur." The weary cliche' "left on the cutting room floor" is, for her, a daily consideration.

One such outtake, from Allen's "The Purple Rose of Cairo," was a "beautiful, high, wide-angle shot which was envisioned as the last shot ... Cecilia is retreating in front of the theater down the street, where she discovered the screen character from Hollywood had left and was not going to meet her. And that shot was a beautiful shot, poignant and evocative of the Depression of the '30s. It had a wonderful feel, but it was also devastating ... because she looked so dejected and small as she walked off in this desolate setting. The end of the film was too devastating with that as the final image. So we went with something with an uplifting quality."

Some of Allen's jokes cut out of one film can be used again in another. "There was a joke that was part of the cocktail party scene in 'Annie Hall' which turned up as a recall in 'Manhattan,' then was cut ... and likely as not will show up again."

She doesn't want to give the joke away.

Morse learned her techniques mostly at Rosenblum's elbow. After a liberal arts degree at Yale, her interest in making films was piqued while she observed BBC and ITV productions in London. She enrolled at New York University's film school and, in fall 1975, answered a bulletin board ad for editorial help on "A Secret Space," a film for a public television dramatic series. She was then recommended to Rosenblum, who was cutting another film for PBS, originally titled "Remember Those Poker Playing Monkeys."

"He said he was Ralph Rosenblum," says Morse, who was sleeping in on April Fool's Day 1975 when he rang. "I was certain it was a joke and hung up on him. He called later and said, 'Are you awake now? Seriously, it's Ralph Rosenblum.' "

"Obviously, she had the intelligence and the background," Rosenblum remembers. "She was very in control of herself, and a bit anxious and a bit afraid, which told me immediately she wouldn't go to pieces when the pressure was on in the cutting room."

For Morse, working hands-on was a "wonderful experience for someone insatiable about learning filmmaking."

Rosenblum asked her to work on "Annie Hall" the following year. "I had the choice of paying for a film education or being paid for one," Morse says. She dropped out of NYU, and they worked together on that and "Interiors." And when Rosenblum accepted an offer to direct a film, there was a job open on Allen's upcoming "Manhattan."

"I think Sandy was timid about calling him and asking," Rosenblum says. "I encouraged her to call him. And she's been there ever since."

When Allen gave her the job, Morse was "terrified and elated at the same time. A natural question occurred -- how did I become editor? You don't believe it was just a phone call. You feel there has to be something more to it than this."

There wasn't. Morse took "Manhattan." And "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy," "Zelig," "Broadway Danny Rose," "The Purple Rose of Cairo," "Hannah" and this year's "Radio Days."

Since "Annie Hall" there have been profound changes in the Allen oeuvre. He has evolved from "a wonderful, funny gag writer," as Rosenblum fondly remembers him, to auteur. And Morse entered the picture right at the pivotal stage. There are not only thematic differences in Allen's post-"Annie" pictures, but also the difference between Rosenblum's and Morse's approaches.

Morse says she is more concerned with "attention to detail," with things that "are probably not that important. It's like crossing t's and dotting i's." Rosenblum, she says, was "more concerned with the forest than the trees, and I'm concerned with both ... I guess I'm a perfectionist."

"I have a feeling she spends a lot of time in the cutting room," says Rosenblum, "because she's painstaking, extremely painstaking."

"There are absurd moments when you think about editing," she says. Like the time she was looking out at the line between sky and ocean from a California beach and thought, "That looks like a soft edge wipe."

For Morse, her career has been "a fairy tale ... I don't really to this day believe I've been nominated for an Academy Award." She always figured she'd go the route of her older sister, who works at Morgan Guaranty Trust and has two children. Instead Morse makes movies and has been living with playwright Jack Richardson for "eight or nine years."

Asked about the new film, she says, "I can't tell you anything about it. That's the way Mr. Allen is."

Asked to describe the work she's proudest of, Morse says, "It's funny, it's like the Prodigal Son. You think of the films which had the worst problems to face. 'Zelig,' 'Purple Rose' and 'Radio Days' afforded the greater challenges."

Indeed, "Zelig" was a concentrated collaboration among Morse, cinematographer Gordon Willis and many others. Allen wanted to insert his character into old newsreel footage, so Willis shot new scenes through aged lenses and Morse superimposed Leonard Zelig in available gaps in the stock film -- such as next to Adolf Hitler and Babe Ruth. The film was then washed out and the sound quality degraded, and dirt and scratches superimposed for an archival appearance.

It was "a lot of trial and error and experimentation," Morse says. "We went to extraordinary pains." The months of minutiae were "excruciating, but also an enormous amount of fun ... Film does come together in the end." And in the end, Willis won an Oscar for his work.

Now Morse has to go downstairs to her panel presentation on "The Cutting Edge: The Art of Film Editing." As she enters the foyer of the American Film Institute, Washington's regular pack of autograph hounds accosts her.

"Could I have your autograph?" asks one. (Shades of "Hey, it's Alvy Singer!")

Morse points out that he is asking her to sign over the wrong photograph in the program. "Does that bother you?" she asks politely.

It doesn't. It doesn't bother her, either.