Please don’t say “eh?”

Florence Lawrence.

Mary Pickford.

Christopher Plummer.

John Candy.

James Cameron.

Michael J. Fox.

I could continue, but I’d like to get to the gist of the blog before I bore you to tears. What do these actors and directors have in common? Good luck trying to figure that one out. I’ll wait…

Give up?

Canada! They’re all originally from various provinces in Canada and they all played significant roles in Hollywood at one point in their lives and some continue to do so! So many people ask me why I moved to Canada. Well, no, I didn’t move here to see the setting of Canadian Bacon featuring John Candy and Rhea Perlman wreaking havoc at the Canadian border. I also didn’t come here because I wanted to live in James Cameron’s native province (Ontario). There are so many reasons to love Canada and I have barely scratched the surface since living here — it’s a HUGE country!

Today, I want to bring your attention to some of the people who have touched your lives in the entertainment industry that you perhaps did not realize were, in fact, from Canada. Or maybe you didn’t realize they existed since I talk about the classics…

I’ve already mentioned Florence Lawrence. Some say she was the first ever “movie star” in every sense of the term. You see, in the silent era, it wasn’t until much later that people came to watch films for the actors and actresses in them – their lives were relatively unknown. And, get real, the pictures were MOVING! Who cares about the people in them? Carl Laemmle developed a publicity stunt surrounding the actress who had formerly worked for Biograph Pictures and now worked for Independent Moving Pictures Company (run by Laemmle). He told her “fans” she had died in a terrible street car accident, which generated a lot of attention around her personal life and piqued the interests of viewers. Then Laemmle posted advertisements indicating that they had lied and she was alive and well. Supposedly, this incident created what is known as “The Star System” and that is why, my dear readers, you must know if Ryan Gosling brushes his teeth with Colgate or Crest.

Laemmle the Liar.

Laemmle the Liar.

Ever heard of Douglas Shearer? Probably not. You might have heard of his sister Norma Shearer as she was a big-name actress in the 1930s. They both came to Hollywood from Quebec! Anyhow, everyone gives undying credit and gratitude to The Jazz Singer (1927) for being the first talking picture. Well, it might be the first full-length talking picture (though that is debated among scholars due to technicalities of “true” sound on film), but Douglas Shearer was one of the earliest innovators of sound on film in Hollywood history. He created a talking trailer for one of his sister’s films Slave of Fashion (1925) and the trailer was a roaring success. However, the rest of the film didn’t talk… and therefore audiences were enraged! (Doesn’t this sound slightly like the audiences who went The Artist in 2011?) If you watch most of MGM’s films in the 30s, 40s, and 50s, you will likely see Douglas Shearer’s names in the credits. Thankfully, he didn’t stop working with sound on film after Slave of Fashion flopped. He was an innovator of sound mixing, as well, and earned 7 Academy Awards for his achievements in Sound and Special Effects!

So, without these Canadians… would we have the Hollywood we know and love today? In my next blog, I would like to talk about my favourite Canadian film The Red Violin. Until then, watch this outstanding video of Niagara Falls!


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