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Ned Scott Hollywood Overview

Though much discussion speculates on the reason why Ned Scott departed the Hollywood film industry after receiving wide acclaim, hardly any effort is given to the reasons why Ned Scott entered the film industry in the first place. Ned's age of 27 had something to do with it. He was still young enough to be molded by new experiences, yet old enough to have acquired training, professional contacts and peer support. This latter refers to Ned's years in the Camera Club of New York where he befriended Paul Strand, Henwar Rodakiewicz and fell under the influence (unwittingly) of Alfred Steiglitz. Also important here was the experience as still cameraman on Paul Strand's Mexican propaganda movie Redes/The Wave in 1934. While these points are key to understanding Ned Scott's preparation for a Hollywood career, they do not explain why he made the decision to join the ranks of Hollywood still cameramen when he returned from Mexico in late December 1934.

To suggest that Ned Scott developed a career path in his early 20's which would ultimately lead to Hollywood is to yield to the lure of simple and convenient explanations. The real story is much more complicated. It can be said, and argued, that Ned Scott wound up in the film industry by accident, or because of the thrust of events. He wasn't given to career planning. His parents considered him a screw-up, as did his older sister, Ellen. He began to take life seriously after a major injury to his hands which left him crippled. Please see his 1929 "letter to mother" which voices his remorse for causing his parents so much difficulty. So, unlike other qualified photographers who planned and trained to join the ranks in Hollywood in those years, Ned Scott sort of bumped into it, unschooled but experienced nonetheless.

This is not to say that he took his role casually. Far from it. He must have welcomed the opportunity with a large sigh of relief. He had just gone through a difficult divorce, and he was legally separated from his first child, a daughter of 3 years in 1934. In those years, Ned was the income beneficiary of a trust fund, and this divorce chopped his income by two-thirds for the rest of his life. Suddenly steady money was scarce. It is reasonable to assume that his residence at 240 E. 79th Street in New York was no longer sustainable in the difficult economic times of 1934. In late 1934 Ned Scott approached the next phase of his life having experienced a certain attack of maturity all in the space of one year. He looked back on his former years as a young man with some regret, his New York roots had loosened and he looked forward to the first clear opportunity to place his resources, talents and training into productive use. Mentally and emotionally he was ready for something new and he was open to the influence of others.

There is no question that his new friends on the production crew of Redes/The Wave gave Ned a grounding he had never experienced before. Unlike Ned, these were men who knew exactly where they were going and what they were doing. Gunther von Fritsch and Fred Zinnemann were both close friends from high school days in Austria. They had become interested in film making years before. Henwar Rodakiewicz was already well known in film making, and he had arrived in Mexico at Paul Strand's request right after finishing a Brazilian film effort called the La Varre Expedition, the same project where Frank Crosby got his start as cinematographer. Ned was the only newbie on the Mexican film crew. Ned was already good friends with Henwar from his earlier Camera Club days, but he found in Fred and to some extent, Gunther, a kindred spirit and like mindedness. Strong friendships developed in the latter half of 1934 as film production proceeded to its conclusion in October. These talented and lively young men were unfettered by marriage and convention. No one knows who thought of it first in the heat and humidity of Alvarado, Mexico, the little fishing village which served as venue for the movie, but they all became one in their plans to head to Hollywood after production ended.

Even before film work ended, all crew members cheered Ned's film stills of actor character portraits, the movie action and the surrounding town. They all wanted Ned to make prints from his group of negatives. Proof of their strong positive attitude toward Ned's talents may be found in correspondence written later in their lives. Gunther referred to Ned Scott as a "very talented photographer" in a 1960's letter. Henwar, with the encouragement of Leo Hurwitz, went much further in letters written to Ned's widow, Gwladys Scott in the 1960's. Henwar was the spearhead in the effort to preserve the record of the film, and especially Ned Scott's stills, in the hallowed shelves of MOMA. Many of the images actually wound up there. And Fred paid tribute to Ned's stills, calling them "classics" in his autobiography. During the memorial service for Fred after his death in 1997, many of these images were featured on the remembrance screen for those in attendance. And Paul Strand told Ned that he was "the most promising young photographer I know" in a 1935 letter. No doubt such strong peer approval from his friends on the movie crew strongly bent Ned Scott's mind toward the possibilities of still photography in Hollywood. After all, Henwar, Gunther and Fred were all going--so why not go along? And so Ned Scott tidied up matters in New York and moved to Hollywood. He was 27 years old.