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Remembering Ned Comstock

The above screen shot won’t mean much to most people. It’s a partial list of cues from Elmer Bernstein’s 1981 score to Going Ape!, which I’m proud to say we released from the Paramount Pictures library on Intrada.

The handwriting belongs to Ned Comstock of the USC Cinema-Television Library. I probably have dozens if not hundreds of scans with his handwriting on them, which were essential to producing countless CDs.

And I was so terribly sad to learn yesterday, via Jon Burlingame, that we’ve lost Ned to a rare form of leukemia.

Ned was an absolute mensch. He basically was the research department at USC. Because USC had the historical M-G-M archives as well as the papers for many prominent composers (Bernstein, Duning, Poledouris, Tiomkin, numerous others) I found myself in need of his assistance often.

And wow, would he deliver!

Even now I can hear his voice on my office answering machine (before iPhones!), something like, “Oh, hi, uh, it’s Ned Comstock at USC. So that, um, Tiomkin score you were looking for, yeah I found the original manuscripts, and it’s all set aside for you. So, uh, let me know when you want to come in. Oh and I’ll fax you the cue list now. Um, okay, bye.”

He trusted me, and I trusted him, and we got so much incredible work done.

Around 10–15 years ago, USC got much more strict with protocol, which basically meant I couldn’t just call Ned and ask him to find what I needed and drop a handwritten list of cues in the mail (as with Going Ape!). I’d have to fill out forms and pay fees and wait weeks, and it totally sucked, and is one of many reasons why I closed down the FSM label.

But even then, sometimes after I was sort of spitefully blocked from checking what I needed to check, Ned would slip me the info anyway.

So I adored him.

The one thing I don’t know is, basically, anything about Ned’s life not having to do with the fact that he was the greatest librarian of all time. He seemed shy and we just didn’t have that kind of relationship. I hope somebody writes a proper obituary because I would love to learn more.

In the meantime, here is a remembrance and photograph from Marilee Bradford on Facebook, reprinted with permission:


Those of us who have spent our careers as researchers, writers, and seekers of Hollywood history will feel a great loss for a very long time with the passing of Ned Comstock of USC Cinematic Arts Library, perhaps the finest and most knowledgeable special collections librarian of our time. Ned passed away peacefully last night after a long battle with a rare form of leukemia.

For more than 30 years, he was my ultimate go-to source on countless projects. The 2-hour stream-of-consciousness phone conversations, the huge surprise packages of research arriving in the mail, the under-the-table “you didn't hear it from me” industry insider tidbits... there was no one as present and as dedicated as Ned. Having him in my corner has been an indescribable joy and truly integral to the quality of my work as a writer and record producer. I felt that he was “my person,” and I know for certain that many others felt the same way. And I must add... He really was like family to Jon [Burlingame] and me.

This picture of Ned (with Steve Hanson driving) was taken on December 20, 2019 when USC came to The Film Music Society to pick up the fully catalogued Paul Francis Webster Collection. That smile on his face says it all, and it is one that will stay with me forever. God bless you, Ned.

—Marilee Bradford


Thank you, Marilee, and folks, next time you see Ned’s name in the credits of one of your favorite CDs—that’s who he was, and feel free to just take a moment to say thanks. He would never ask for such a thing, but he absolutely deserved it.

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3 comentários

Randy Skretvedt
Randy Skretvedt
30 de mar.

Thank you very much for this tribute to Ned. He helped me when I was looking for Laurel & Hardy/Hal Roach Studios material in 1980, and he was still helping me 40 years later! I told Ned he was the Ambrose J. Wolfinger of the USC Cinema Library. That's a character in the 1935 W.C. Fields film "Man on the Flying Trapeze," the only guy in his office who knows where every folder or document has been (mis)filed. Ned would not only find what you wanted, he would also provide all manner of things you hadn't thought of which would prove to be vitally important. I was just chatting with him via email in January. He was modes…


Thanks for this beautiful tribute to Ned, Lukas!


Visiting Ned (in the line of duty for FSM) was always a pleasure, not only because he was so gracious and helpful, but because I sensed he loved all this history as well. We’ve been very lucky to have people like him managing our shared cultural heritage for future generations.

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