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Embattled Shadows

Embattled Shadows: A History of Canadian Cinema, 1895-1939

Peter Morris
Copyright Date: 1978
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Embattled Shadows
    Book Description:

    Other Canadian film producers concentrated their efforts on short productions, mostly in government or commercial companies such as Associated Screen News of Montreal. The works of Gordon Spalding, Bill Oliver, and Albert Tessier are discussed in this context. Morris concludes with the founding of the National Film Board which, under the dynamic guidance of John Grierson, was to breathe new life into a moribund industry. In a postscript Morris explores some of the reasons for the unique development of Canadian film making -- particularly its use of natural settings and documentary when virtually the rest of the world's industry was following the Hollywood pattern of studio location and fictional plots -- and examines the relationship of the early industry to later developments in Canadian film making. At a time when Canada's cultural industries are struggling to survive in the wake of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States and under the threat of Free Trade with Mexico, Embattled Shadows makes essential reading.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6072-7
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. iii-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    Peter Morris
  5. Preface to the 1992 reprint
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Peter Morris
  6. CHAPTER 1 Came the Dawn
    (pp. 1-26)

    Ottawa, July twenty-first, 1896. The temperature had touched eighty-one degrees during the day and it is still warm at 8:00 p.m. In the open air at West End Park, 1,200 Ottawans are enjoying the tricks of Belsaz the magician and watching the first public exhibition of movies in Canada.¹

    It was a quiet enough occasion, perhaps surprisingly quiet for the first view of a new form of communication that was to change the social and cultural life of Canada. The OttawaDaily Citizen’s report of a preview showing the night before was enthusiastic but the anonymous review was buried at...

  7. CHAPTER 2 The Early Years
    (pp. 27-56)

    The dearth of production in the first years of the century was a situation not peculiar to Canada. In the first decade after the invention of the movies, it was characteristic of most other countries—even of countries such as Italy, Germany, and Sweden, which were later to develop significant domestic film industries. Those countries which had played key roles in the invention and marketing of film cameras and projectors—Britain, France, and the United States—also dominated production internationally. Not that anyone then paid any attention to a film’s country of origin. Stars, directors, and all the later paraphernalia...

  8. CHAPTER 3 The Years of Promise
    (pp. 57-94)

    In 1922, pioneer American producer and distributor, Lewis Selznick, wondered aloud why Canadians bothered producing films. “If Canadian stories are worthwhile making into films,” he commented, “companies will be sent into Canada to make them.”¹ Though he could not have known it, his words were prophetic. That year was perhaps the most active for Canada’s private producers with more features and shorts made for theatrical release than ever before. But though 1922 was the most active year it also marked the end of a period of intensive production that had begun early in the First World War and peaked in...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Ten Percent Ernie
    (pp. 95-126)

    It is difficult in retrospect to decide whether Ernest Shipman was a rogue or a genius. Perhaps like all great entrepreneurs he was a little of both. A typical example of the “Diamond Jim” kind of opportunistic promoter who flourished in North America in the late nineteenth century, he went through two fortunes and five wives during the course of his chequered career—eventually dying at fifty-nine of thebon viveur’s disease, cirrhosis of the liver.² Nell Shipman, the fourth Mrs. Shipman and herself a talented producer, actress, and writer, described him affectionately. “Men like Ernie Shipman made the Nineties...

  10. CHAPTER 5 The State and the Movies
    (pp. 127-174)

    Among the most significant defining characteristics of film in Canada is the manner in which governments have had a persistent involvement in film production. Indeed, the Canadian experience with government film production is unique. Since 1900, the federal and provincial governments have sponsored the production of films. Production units have been maintained at various times by several provinces—notably by Ontario. And, since 1918, the federal government has operated a national film production organization: the oldest continuing operation of its kind in the world.

    It seems remarkable that the Canadian experience is, in fact, unique. Film is an efficient and...

  11. CHAPTER 6 The Years of the Quota
    (pp. 175-216)

    “You in Canada should not be dependent on either the United States or Great Britain. You should have your own films and exchange them with those of other countries. You can make them just as well in Toronto as in New York.”¹ These words of American director D. W. Griffith in Toronto in 1925 might have offered timely encouragement for rescuing Canada’s film industry from the desert to which it had been consigned. The optimistic expansion that had marked film production during the war and the ensuing years had long evaporated by 1925. In the face of Hollywood’s determined and...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Supporting Program
    (pp. 217-236)

    Though less glamorous than making feature films, the production of sponsored industrial films, documentaries, and travelogues has always been an important part of the Canadian film industry. Such films can provide a basic commercial underpinning, a pool of trained technicians, and the laboratory facilities necessary for the development and maintenance of a viable, ongoing film industry. The production of feature films may have a high profile in the public’s eyes but, even at the best of times, it is a high risk business. The production of films sponsored and paid for by industrial companies or institutions can be predictably profitable....

  13. CHAPTER 8 Postscript
    (pp. 237-242)

    It is possible to construct a theoretical model for the history of film in Canada, based paradigmatically on the histories of film in most European countries. This model would begin with showmen exploiting a new technical invention, exhibiting films the origin of which was irrelevant to everyone concerned. Some of the showmen might even make a few films on their own account. By 1903, as public interest in simple record and trick films began to wane, these showmen/producers would begin, gradually, to draw on the narrative tradition and its formal techniques as exemplified in the nineteenth century novel and melodrama....

  14. APPENDIX I: A Chronology of Film in Canada, 1894–1913
    (pp. 243-250)
  15. APPENDIX II: Filmography: Select List of Canadian Productions, 1913–1939
    (pp. 251-274)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 275-326)
  17. Film Title Index
    (pp. 327-334)
  18. General Index
    (pp. 335-350)