British Universities Film & Video Council

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Thomas F. Scales ("Tommy / Tom")

Profile

Born
c.1887
Death
9 October 1958
Dates
1905-1954
Role
Cameraman; Assistant editor
Newsreels / Cinemagazines
Warwick Bioscope Chronicle; Gaumont Graphic; Pathé's Animated Gazette; PatheGazette; British Movietone News
Search
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Notes
Scales is shown in a group photograph in Sunday Times Magazine, 10/1/1971, p.10. The claim that Scales was an official cameraman with the New Zealanders was made by Ken Gordon, both in IWM, MoI (Film) Papers, ‘First World War Cameramen’ file, t/s headed ‘List of Official Photographers’ (nd), and in Cine Technician, April-May 1940, p.25. Also in The Daily Cinema, 29/10/1958, p.8 ‘Tommy Scales’, report of memorial service.

Career

Tommy Scales joined the film industry in 1905 in the darkrooms of the Warwick Trading Company, but he quickly moved to camera work and in 1906 filmed the Derby, apparently for the same company. Scales may still have been working for Warwick when he filmed the funeral of Edward VII in May 1910, and was possibly on the original staff of the Warwick Bioscope Chronicle when it was launched in July 1910. He later remembered having taken aerial shots at Hendon in this year, ‘with the camera balanced upon my knee,' and this certainly sounds like an Aeroscope camera, which the company was then developing. However, at around this time Scales joined Barker Motion Photography, which Will Barker [qv] had founded after leaving the Warwick. He was employed as a cameraman and darkroom technician. It was perhaps for Barker Motion Photography that in June 1911 Scales filmed the Coronation of George V, although Hutchins [qv] also covered the event for Barker’s. In July 1911 Scales filmed the Investiture of the Prince of Wales, an event which Hutchins and Barker also covered. Scales seems then to have moved to Gaumont, perhaps to work on the Gaumont Graphic, but in 1912 he transferred to Pathe as one of the cameraman on Pathe’s Animated Gazette.

On the outbreak of war in August 1914 Scales was instructed by Mayell [qv], the editor of Pathe’s Animated Gazette, ‘to go to Ostend, Belgium, to get what you can out of the war.' He worked with the Belgian army, and it was reported that on one occasion he ‘took up a position so close to the Belgian guns during a big battle on the Scheldt that he was warned to leave. But he still kept to his post, and it was only by threatening to destroy his film that Mr. Scales could be persuaded to leave.' In October 1914 the Kinematograph Weekly reported that Scales had filmed the British Naval Brigade defending Antwerp, and had also worked near Ghent. After the crackdown on newsreel cameramen, Pathe arranged for Scales to work with the Belgian Red Cross, taking his camera ‘as personal baggage.' He later joined the New Zealand Expeditionary Force and served on the Western Front, although, despite later reports, he does not seem to have acted as an official cameraman, admitting that during this period he ‘forsook news reel reporting.'

After the Armistice he returned to Pathe as a newsfilm cameraman, and in December 1918 he filmed the occupation of Cologne, presumably for the Pathe Gazette. In January 1922 Scales filmed the meeting between Lloyd George and Briand, the French Premier for the Pathe Gazette, and in April 1922 he worked with Bassill [qv], Cotter [qv], and Wyand [qv] to film the Football Association Cup Final, pirating it from the Topical Film Company which held the rights. In 1928 Scales joined the embryonic British Movietone News as production manager, and spent three months in the United States learning the new techniques of sound filming. The British Movietone News sound newsreel was launched in June 1929, and in the same month Scales filmed a ‘talkie interview’ of ‘RAMSAY MACDONALD AND HIS LABOUR CABINET’ for No.4. In August 1930 Scales also appeared on camera in ‘DON BRADMAN TALKS TO MOVIETONE’ in British Movietone News No.63, and in January 1933 he appeared again in ‘LEG THEORY BOWLING SHOWN BY DURSTON’ in British Movietone News No.190. In July 1935 Scales was also the commentator for ‘FIRST CLASS CRICKET LOSES JACK HOBBS, BATSMAN NO.1’ for British Movietone News No.320. In December 1935 and December 1936 Scales was involved in compiling Movietone’s ‘REVIEW OF THE YEAR.'

In September 1937 the World Film News noted that as ‘executive boss’ of the British Movietone News Scales himself edited some stories, and by 1938 he had become assistant editor - also known as ‘make-up editor’ - under Gerald Sanger [qv]. Early in 1939 Scales, Sanger, and Pat Sunderland [qv], planned the evacuation of Movietone’s editorial staff to Denham in the event of a war. This was successfully carried out in September 1939, in what Sanger later called ‘a terrific undertaking which might have daunted men of less hardy confidence and experience.' However, Scales and the other staff returned to Soho Square after producing only sixteen issues. Scales was in charge of the daily running of British Movietone News during the war, Sanger later acknowledging that he spent most of his time on official projects, ‘apart from filling in for Tommy Scales occasionally and keeping a watchful eye on our production activities generally.' Scales still occasionally appeared on camera, as in ‘PATSY HENDREN ON THE WAR SAVINGS TEST’ in British Movietone News No.575 of June 1940.

He remained with the company after the war, and in October 1946 sailed to New York with Paul Wyand [qv], to visit the executives of the Movietone parent company. While in New York he fell seriously ill with quinsy, but recovered. In 1947 and 1949 Scales was credited as ‘assistant editor’ of British Movietone News, but in 1948 he was credited as ‘sport editor.' However, according to Terry Gallacher [qv], he was still known as ‘make-up editor’ within the company. Scales was listed in the Movietone staff list for October 1951, and was being mentioned in British Movietone News issue sheets as late as 1954, in an editorial capacity. His death was reported in The Daily Cinema in these terms ‘It was a shock to hear from Drummond Scott of the sudden death of Tommy Scales. When not long ago he was in town, he looked as large as life and as buoyant as ever. He and his invalid wife had recently settled at Mullion Cove in Cornwall. He went into hospital last week for a minor operation and died there on Thursday...There was nobody in the topical field better known liked.'

Sources

Kinematograph Weekly, 15/10/1914, p.13, ‘In the Firing Line’: E. A. Dench ‘Camera Men at the Front,' Picture-Play Magazine, 1/1/1916, p.92: Kine Year Book 1921, p.594, 1931, p.281, and 1945, p.238, ‘Thomas F. Scales’: B. Grant ‘To the Four Corners: The Memoirs of a News Photographer’ (London, 1933), pp.189-90: T. Scales ‘My Life of Reel Thrills,' [Newcastle] Sunday Sun, 20/1/1935, p.8: World Film News, September 1937, p.33, ‘Newsreel Rushes: A Wide-open Letter to Mr.Gerald Sanger’: M. A. A. Sinkins ‘A Salute to the Newsreel Cameramen,' Kinematograph Weekly, 14/1/1943, p.41: G. Sanger ‘The Story of British Movietone News in the War Years,' c.1946, copy in BUFVC: T. Ramsaye (ed) ‘1947-48 International Motion Picture Almanac (New York, 1947), p.896: ‘Year Book of the Association of Cinematograph and Allied Technicians 1948/49,' p.54: P. Noble (ed) ‘British Film Yearbook 1949-50’ (London, 1949), p.275: Cine Technician, January-February 1952, pp.2-5: P. Wyand ‘Useless If Delayed’ (London, 1959), p.181: P. Norman ‘The Newsreel Boys,' Sunday Times Magazine, 10/1/1971, p.10: The Daily Cinema, 13/10/1958, p.3, ‘Commentary’.

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