Taxes

Something as mundane as income taxes can reveal significant details about the life of a working person in the United States.  So it is with Ned Scott, Hollywood still photographer.  Despite the intervening 75 years from the days in the '40's when Ned Scott practiced his art, his tax records survive just as is imagery does.  This is most unusual when one considers it, but it is a fact that Ned Scott kept meticulous financial records in those years, and he filed these records in a systematic way.  The result is that his work years from 1936 through 1948 are recorded in Federal and State returns for each year.  These returns are supplemented with scratch sheets, and these are often very revealing.  

No matter the detail, it is important to record--officially through tax records--that Ned Scott was a bona fide practioner of the art form.  Careful reading will reveal that he was earning income from different studios during the years 1936-44.  From 1945-48, these studio names disappear and only Columlbia Studios is recorded as an employer.  All of this coincides with the known facts of his career.  But what is not known, and only hinted at through his records, is the fact that he worked for productions companies that heretofore were not known as his employers.  This fact alone opens up a totally new avenue of research into his career. 

Ned Scott used a tax preparer to complete his forms.  He supplied the preparer with scratch sheets with all the relevant information listed.  This info incuded income amounts, sources of income whether from the studios or from other professional activites.  It is already known that he worked professionally for the Gantner & Mattern clothing company of San Francisco between film assignments.  But he did not confine himself to just that activity.  Other off-studio activites are listed, some of these are already known, and others unknown up to now. But it was only the Gantner & Mattern relationship he protected in is Columbia Studios Contract which he signed in March, 1945. 

It helps enormously to keep in mind while reviewing the dollar figures found here that a 15 multiplier for inflation is generally accepted as a guide to reconcile 1940's dollars with 2015 dollars.  Here is an example: For Lester Cowan Productions Ned Scott worked two films in 1944 for which he was paid $8071.  That represents about $121,000 in 2015 purchasing power. 

1942

This year Ned Scott made two major location films:  It's All True and Commandos Strike At Dawn.  The first took him down to Rio de Janeiro just after the attack on Pearl Harbor. And the second found him in British Columbia.  Notations appear in his notes for these activities.  The third major film for 1942 was Hangmen Also Die

The Rio film really never made it to the screen in the timeframe.  There were reasons for this:  The major impetus for rhe film was the United States War Department's need to establish a convinvcing Allied presence in a major urban hub on the Atlantic Coast of Latin America. The goal of  such a presence was to preclude the establishment of a German submarine base from which the Nazis could harass Allied shipping in the Southern Atlantic.  This concern was well founded because right at that time the United States was shipping contingents of Sherman tanks destined for North Africa to bolster the defense against Rommel's Africa Corps.  Despite the timeliness of this film production, the usual reasons for making a film were absent.  And Orson Wells, picked by the governemt to lead the enterprise, was himself in peculair and unclear circumstances in Hollywood where he was making the film The Magnificent Andersons when the war broke out.  It wasn't until 1993 when the film was released under the title It's All True.

There are 1099's for the for-profit films.  No 1099 exists for the Rio film.  No income is recorded.  But expenses, oddly enough, are recorded.  Travel, with clothing and incidentls, cost $330.00 for the Rio enterprise.   Ned Scott earned $1700 for Hangmen Also Die and $1600 for Commandos Strike At Dawn.  Travel cost for location work in Canada (British Columbia) was $212.00,

Income from Professional activities off-studio is presented.  Along with that are the recurring deductions for equipment depreciation, donations, dues, etc.  This was the last year of productive work for Gantner & Mattern.   Adding machine tapes record that modelling fees for this work totaled $148.60. It is unclear whether G & M reimbursed him for these fees, or whether he included them pro rata in his prices he charged G & M for prints. 

One non-recurring item in the professional income area is work he did for Erbit-Varady, a poster making firm which created promotional posters for the advertising side of the film industry.  He was paid $319.  Clues do not exist for the precise nature of this work, however, it surely involved imagery he created in the timeframe. 

Tax Document Tax Document Tax Document Tax Document

1943

1943 was another year of Hollywood activity during which Ned Scott freelanced as a still photographer.   Posted is Ned Scott's estimate of income from studios and production companies.  Notice the reference to "vic" (victory tax); this is required tax for the war effort. Major sources of income were Arnold Productions of 1000 North Las Palmas, Hollywood and Columbia Studios.  He also earned money from other professional activities.  The tax preparer made a holographic copy for Ned Scott's records, and that is displayed here.  The scratch sheet is written in Ned Scott's hand. 

The W-2 from Columbia Pictures makes it clear that Ned Scott did most of his Hollywood film work for Columbia that year.  The amont he earned, $7400, is a significant sum. At this point of research, February 2015, he is credited with working three films with Columbia in 1943.  The magnitude of the earnings from Columbia suggests that he worked at least twice that number of films. One credited film was a war film with Humphrey Bogart titled Sahara during which he went on location to the dunes near Yuma, Arizona.  

The Arnold Pressburger films were Hangmen Also Die and It Happened Tomorrow.   He worked for one day for the Hunt Stromberg Production company on a film titled Lady of Burlesque. 

Tax Return Scratch Sheet 1943-w2

1944

1944 was the final full year that Ned Scott functioned as a freelance still photographer in Hollywood.  He worked with both Columbia Pictures and Lester Cowan Productions, an independent film producer.  By far the most lucrative assignments came from Cowan who assigned Ned Scott to work two films: Tomorrow the World and The Story of G.I. Joe.  G.I. Joe most likely consurmed most of Ned Scott's still photography time for Cowan Productions due to the fact that much of it was shot on Location in Chatsworth, California. As usual with freelance work, Ned Scott worked exclusively as the assigned still man.  In his 1943 article on Still Photography the Motion Picture Industry, Ned Scott mentions that he prefers this kind of assignment just because it was so financially rewarding.  He was very busy that year.  Along with Cowan's two films, Ned Scott participated in five films for Columbia.  Going by the number of surviving images, Cover Girl was the film which took most of his time for Columbia.  But others kept him around the studio, too.  These included What a Woman, Jam Session, Once Upon a TIme, The Mark of the Whistler and Together Again.  It is during these assignments for Columbia that he comes into lengthy contact with Columbia contract stars Rita Hayworth, Janet Blair, Ann Miller and Janis Carter. 

His equipment inventory below reveals that he kept up his depreciation schedule of ten years.  This schedule was likely updated every year and submitted with his tax forms as required by the IRS.  Yearly additions to the inventory indicate that Ned Scott was keeping up with changes in the industry.   He purchased two cameras: a 4 x 5 Speed Graphic and a 4 x 5 Graflex Series D with a Zeiss Tessar lens.   His favorite view camera for portrait work, the Ansco 8 x 10, is not listed.  This did not mean that he no longer owned it, but it did mean that he had already depreciated it the full ten years.  The same is true of the Graflex 5 x 7.  Both of these cameras were mainstays of his inventory since the early 1930's. 

Ned Scott depreciated his equipment.  As seen below, for 1944 he wrote off $139.00.  He also paid union dues of $46.  His equipment insurance cost $46.  These figures are roughly the same from year to year.  He travelled to Chicago for a reconciliation meeting for union employees, and he kept records of his expenses. 

The list of decuctions also points out medical expenses for the year.  The highlight of that list is the birth of a baby boy in Los Angeles.  It apears that there were complications arising from that event, and that further medical expenses were incurred to the end of the year.  This fact captures my attention in a special way since that baby boy and this writer are one and the same person.

Deduction Inventory 1944-w2 State Return