Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Ten Richest Women in Movies in 1938

Hollywood's ten richest women aren't as rich as they might be, but they are probably richer than they're going to be. Uncle Sam's income-tax arm is getting no shorter, and by the time next March roars in the Government's "take" will deflate huge salaries of movie queens like a pinprick deflates a rubber balloon.

So with our "We have a war to win—" program gaining acceleration, our tax-collection agencies are going "all out" in efforts to keep the Government's sinking fund from disappearing. Hollywood and the movie industry. synonymous with six-figured pay-checks, is the garden spot for the enlarged appetite of the income-tax giant.

And no line is drawn on sex. A beautiful, talented actress when stopped by a traffic officer might let loose of her "charm" and wind up with a pair of ducats to the policemen's ball instead of a date in court. But when the income-tax bugaboo hovers about, the beauty, the talent, and the celluloid wiles of the actress only give her the willies! She thinks her ship has come in, and it has, only the Government holds first, second and third mortgages on it.
Hollywood's ten richest women, all of whom can describe Henry Morgenthau, Jr. (in many ways), know the spelling of the Secretary of the Treasury's name quite well. In return, Morgenthau knows that, based on salaries earned in 1938. Hollywood's "top ten" actresses would be: Claudette Colbert, who grossed nearly $427,000 that year; Irene Dunne, receiver of about $405,000; Joan Crawford, about $305,000; Norma Shearer, a cool, even $300,000; Greta Garbo, alone with $270,000; Ginger Rogers, nearly $208,000; Loretta Young, about $181,000; Deanna Durbin, an even $174,000; Bette Davis, over $143,000; and Myrna Loy. slightly over $140,000.

These salaries all sound like a pretty fair load of country bucks, but even then Uncle Sam's arm was reaching deep into the actresses coffers. Now, with a new income-tax scale about to become a law, digging is going to be deeper.

Assuming the new tax contemplated becomes a law and assuming the salaried person in each case is married, the following are tax totals on high-bracket figures as computed by the Joint Committee of Internal Revenue of the Congress. (These figures are only approximate, but they present a clear picture of what Hollywood's ten richest women are up against under this new tax set-up.)

Tax on a $100,000 income, joint return, would be $53,000, on a separate return, $41,700. On a $250,000 income, joint return would be $159,000, separate, $143,000. On a $300,000 income, joint return would be $202,250, separate $180,000.

Missing from this dollar parade are Shirley Temple, recently absent from pictures, but who still will pay plenty under the new deal tax; Marlene Dietrich for her $130,000; Merle Oberon at $139,000, Jean Arthur, Alice Faye, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Bennett, others. Despite their less pretentious salaries, the Government will get a lot of "national defense" out of their contributions. Remember! On $100,000, under usual exemptions, the Government will get close to fifty percent of a star's salary! — L. R.
Gadzooks! Nearly 50% of a star's salary....and this at the $100,000 tier.  According to the Federal Income Tax brackets of 1941, it was 76% due for taxes on earnings over $400,000.

Just to put in perspective what these actresses were raking in: $1 in 1938 was about the equivalent of $18 today. So you'll have to multiply each salary by 18 to find out what their incomes were that year....I'll do the first one for you: Colbert made $7,644,784 that year and probably paid over to $3,600,000 in taxes alone. Yikes! Current rates state that for earnings over $426,700.00, you'll pay 39.6% plus $123,916.25, so had Colbert earned her $7 mill today she would be paying $3,100,000. 

Movie Magazine Articles, another one of our ongoing series, feature articles like this reprinted for our reader's entertainment. Click here to view the original article online, which is dated Sept. 26, 1941. In the future, simply search "Movie Magazine Articles" to find more posts in this series or click on the tag below. Enjoy!

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