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Gordon Sparling

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B: August 13, 1900 in Toronto, Ontario
D: February 19, 1994 in Toronto, Ontario

Gordon Sparling was born when film was still a new medium. Between 1919 and 1923, he attended Trinity College at the University of Toronto, where he became involved with amateur theatre. He joined the Ontario Motion Picture Bureau in 1924, which was at the time the largest government run film office in Canada, and later spent a year with the Canadian Government Motion Picture Bureau in Ottawa. Sparling became a director, writer and producer, after a brief period as assistant director on films including the rare 1928 Canadian feature Carry on Sergeant!. He briefly lived in New York and when he came back to Canada he worked on what were then called “sponsored films” with Associated Screen News (ASN) in Montréal. He insisted that while employed there he could still work on his own short films for theatrical release. While at ASN, Sparling launched the Canadian Cameo series of short films. Most ran about 10 minutes and looked at a variety of themes, including music, First Peoples, sports, drama and history. Sparling produced 85 Canadian Cameos between 1932 and 1954. You will note the gap in his career during the war years, that’s when he supervised the production of newsreels and training films for the Canadian Army. Following the war he rejoined ASN in 1946 and remaining until its production department closed in 1957. For the NFB he directed shorts like Royal River in 1959 and The Queen in Canada in 1964. Following his retirement, Sparling spent his time researching and writing about the history of Canadian film. In 1974, he was interviewed for the NFB film Dreamland: A History of Early Canadian Movies 1895-1939.

Also see: Growing Up in Hollywood North.

Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

Carry on Sergeant (assistant director, 1928)

Forward Canada! (1930)
Miracle at Beauharnois (1931)
Grey Owl’s Little Brother (1932, documentary, short)
The Pathfinder (1932)
Back in ’22 (1933)
Shadow River (1933)
Back in ’23 (1933, documentary, short)
Rhapsody in Two Languages (1934, short)
Grey Owl’s Strange Guests (1934, documentary, short)
Did You Know That? (1934)
Taming the Wild (1935, documentary, short)
House in Order/La maison en ordre (1936)
Crystal Ballet (1937 documentary, short)
Ornamental Swimming (1937, documentary, short)
Wings Over the Atlantic (1937)
Sky Fishing (1938, short)
Music from the Stars (1938, short)
Return of the Buffalo (1938, short)
Kingdom for a Horse (1938, documentary, short)
The Kinsmen (1938)
Cold Facts (1938)
Top of the World (1939)
The Bright Path (1939)
Royal Banners Over Ottawa (1939)

The Mapleville Story (1946)
Spring Comes to Niagara (1949, documentary, short)

Spotlight No. 2 (1951, documentary, short)
Spotlight No. 3 (1952, documentary, short)
Circus on Ice (1954, short)
Spotlight No. 5 (1954, documentary short)
Royal River (1959, documentary short)

Building in the North (1961, documentary, short)
The Water Dwellers (1963, documentary, short)
Canada: Fibres, Yarns and Fabrics (1963, documentary, short)
Landfall Asia (1964, documentary, short)
The Queen in Canada (1964, documentary, short)
Better Housing for the Atlantic Provinces (1965, documentary short)

Credits as a Screenwriter:
Rhapsody in Two Languages (1934, short)
Taming the Wild (1935, documentary, short)
House in Order/La maison en ordre (1936)
Crystal Ballet (1937 documentary, short)
Ornamental Swimming (1937, documentary, short)
Return of the Buffalo (1938, short)
Kingdom for a Horse (1938, documentary, short)

The Water Dewellers (1963, documentary, short)
The Queen in Canada (1964, documentary, short)
Better Housing for the Atlantic Provinces (1965, documentary short)

Carry on Sergeant, movie, poster,