by Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(January 1, 2018 – Toronto, ON) The new year 2017 was only hours old when Bill Marshall’s family released the news that this icon of film in Canada had died in hospital of a heart attack. He was a driving force behind the establishment of numerous industry organizations, including the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, The Toronto Film and Television Office, and was past President of the Canadian Association of Motion Picture Producers. He was the man behind the Niagara Integrated Film Festival, which he launched in 2013, but he will always be remembered for being a cofounder of the Festival of Festivals which grew up to become the Toronto International Film Festival. Bill Marshall was 77 when he died in Toronto on January 1st.
Heart issues would fell the next two Canadians actors. Although he was born in Italy, Tony Rosato grew up in Canada and became an actor. Remembered for his work on Saturday Night Live, SCTV and Night Heat), Rosato was 62 when he died of a heart attack on January 10th.
Joy Coghill was born May 13, 1926, in tiny Findlater, Saskatchewan and grew up to spend 7 decades in the Vancouver theatre world, a span that saw her honoured with the Order of Canada and the Governor General’s Award for the Performing Arts. In addition to her theatre work she did a fair bit of TV and movies — she was DaVinci’s mother in the long-running CBC drama DaVinci’s Inquest. But Coghill never let her success go to her head. When she was cast in the children’s movie, Jacob Two-Two Meets The Hooded Fang in 1976, she told The Vancouver Sun’s Patrick Nagle, “Look at me — my first feature film and I’m playing a chicken.” Called the “queen of actresses in Vancouver since the ’40s,” by Norman Young, the former chair of Vancouver Civic Theatres, Joy Coghill was 90 when she died at St. Paul’s Hospital after suffering massive heart failure. Joy Coghill died on January 20th.
The first month of 2017 ended with the news Toronto-born filmmaker Rob Stewart had drowned. Stewart disappeared near Alligator Reef, about four nautical miles southeast of Islamorada. He had made it to the surface following his third deep dive where he had been filming for a new feature-length movie about his favourite subject, sharks, and the threat they are under from over fishing and environmental change. It had been reported that he had given an “OK” sign after surfacing, but when one of his diving companions appeared to be in trouble and fell unconscious, attention focused away from Stewart. When people looked back to make sure he was indeed okay he was nowhere to be seen in a vast and otherwise empty part of the water surrounding the Florida Keys. Rob Stewart was 37 when he died on January 31st.
Canadian-born American television producer and writer Howard Leeds died on February 11th. He had worked on such popular series as The Brady Bunch, Silver Spoons and Diff’rent Strokes. Leeds was 97.
Stuart McLean isn’t listed on Northernstars, but we mark his passing on February 15th because he was, quite simply, a radio performer and writer of remarkable talent. Born in Montreal West on April 19, 1948, McLean’s run on CBC began as a researcher for Cross Country Checkup in 1974. Twenty years later, McLean launched The Vinyl Cafe as a summer series. Following the show’s second summer run in 1995, McLean published Stories from the Vinyl Cafe, his first book in that series. The show became part of CBC’s regular schedule in 1997. He was given the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour three times and was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2011 “for his contributions to Canadian culture as a storyteller and broadcaster, as well as for his many charitable activities.” Stuart McLean was 68 when he died of melanoma on February 15.
Just four days later actor Chris Wiggins died. Born in England, Wiggins was a banker there, but changed careers after arriving in Canada in 1952. He headed west coast to Trail, British Columbia and worked in newspaper and radio advertising prior to auditioning for an amateur theatre group which required an English voice. This piqued his interest in a possible career move. After winning a Best Actor award (Henry Osborne Challenge Trophy) for stage performance in 1955 at the Dominion Drama Festival, he was advised to head east to Toronto, where there would be more work. In Toronto, he performed on the stage with the Museum Theatre and Crest Theatre and from 1959-1960, he was also a member of the Acting Company with Ontario’s Stratford Festival. Chris Wiggins was 86 when he died from complications from Alzheimer’s disease on February 19.
More than a month would go by before we learned of the passing of Betty Kennedy. Known in Toronto for her career as an interviewer on her show on CFRB radio, Kennedy was also a regular panelist on the CBC news quiz show Front Page Challenge. Kennedy also served as a Canadian Senator in 2000 and 2001. Betty Kennedy was 91 when she died on March 20.
On March 28, French-born Canadian actress Janine Sutto died. Born in Paris, her credits on Northernstars lists more than 45 films and television series that she appeared in. In 1986 she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and was promoted to Companion in 1991. In 1998, she was made a Knight of the National Order of Quebec. Sutto received a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award in 2014. She was less than a month away from her 96th birthday when she died in Montréal. Janine Sutto had stopped performing just four years earlier when she was 92.
Québec actor and theatre director Paul Hébert was 92 when he died on April 20. Born on May 28, 1924 in Thetford Mines, Quebec, Hébert became an icon of Québec theatre, film and television. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada on June 29, 1987 for his services to French Canadian entertainment and was made a Knight of the National Order of Quebec in 1994. In 1984, the Université du Québec awarded him an honorary doctorate; as did Université Laval in 2000. In 2007 he earned the Denise-Pelletier Award for Performing Arts, a Governor General’s Award, the Academy of Quebec Theatre’s Hommage Award and the Victor-Morin Theatre Award. He died in Québec City on April 20th.
Four days later, actress Glory Annen Cibbery died. Born in Kenora, Ontario in 1952, she moved to England when she was 17 to pursue a career as an actor. Her film and TV credits are few. She was 64 when she died in England on April 24 from complications from diabetes.
Georgie Collins was born June 12, 1925 in Calgary, Alberta and grew up to have a career on stage and to a much lesser degree in television and film. Many of her screen credits were in Westerns including the 1987 made-for-TV movie Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge, Cowboys Don’t Cry in 1988 and in six episodes of Lonesome Dove: The Series. Considered the Grand Dame of theatre in her hometown of Calgary, she was 91 when she died there on May 3rd.
Musician Jimmy Dale started out in England in 1935 as James Edwin Dale. He moved to Canada with his famly when he was 11 and went on to become a renowned musical director in television. After attending the Royal Conservatory of Music and studying composition with Gordon Delamont, he played in Peter Appleyard’s band then went on to work as a musical director on many of CBC’s prime time and late night shows in the 1960s. Moving to Los Angeles in 1969, he continued as musical director on the Smothers Brothers, Andy Williams and Sonny and Cher shows. He returned to Toronto in 1972, and joined his old friends Rob McConnell and Guido Basso as the pianist in McConnell’s band, The Boss Brass. He continued to be a force in the Canadian jazz and TV scenes, winning a Juno award for his work with the Boss Brass, he was also nominated for Emmy and Grammy awards. Dale also composed and arranged for film, theatre and live shows. He moved to Naples, Florida in 1997 and died there on May 20th after a long illness.
Sylvia “Cadesky” Stoun Mureddu was 96 when she died on May 25. Don’t recognize the name? Her career spanned 70 years of entertaining as a piano player, singer, and comedian, and humorist under her stage name “Miss Saucy Sylvia”. Born in Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada on July 27, 1920, at age 6, she began playing the piano, which she learned from the nuns at Sisters of St. Joseph Academy. She went on to college and graduated from the University of Toronto with a teaching degree and a master in languages. While at UofT she worked at CFRB. She later moved to Cincinnati where she was hired as a staff vocalist on radio station WLW. Other staff vocalists at the time were Rosemary and Betty Clooney, and Doris Day. The Sylvia Show would be heard every week with guests stopping by including Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington. She also worked at W.J.R. in Detroit and WINS in New York.
The Canadian-born US TV producer Marilyn Hall was 90 when she died on June 5th. Born in Winnipeg on May 17, 1927, Hall graduated from the University of Toronto. She later earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. Born Marilyn Doreen Plottel, she married Monty Hall in 1947. Monty Hall would also pass away in 2017. Famous for hosting the TV game show Let’s Make a Deal and for being dad to Tony Award-winning actress Joanna Gleason, Monty Hall was 96 when he died of heart failure on September 30th.
American-Canadian film director and screenwriter George A. Romero died on July 16th. Known for Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Creepshow. Romero was born on February 4, 1940 and raised in the Bronx. He moved to Toronto in the early 2000s and attained Canadian citizenship in 2009, becoming a dual Canada-U.S. citizen. Romero was 77 when he died in his sleep in Toronto of lung cancer.
The very next day, July 17th, brought news of the passing of venerable actor Harvey Atkin. Remembered primarily for his roles in the TV series Cagney & Lacey and his film work, particularly Meatballs, Atkin was 74 when he died of cancer.
More than a month went by when Québec novelist and playwright Réjean Ducharme died on natural causes in Montréal. Ducharme was 76.
As mentioned earlier, Monty Hall died on September 30th. The crime writer Max Haines as died on September 30. He wrote 27 true crime books before retiring in 2006. In 2005, he was awarded the Derrick Murdoch Award, one of the Arthur Ellis awards, by the Crime Writers of Canada.
On October 15, Canadian Mi’kmaq artist, musician, composer and playwright Cathy Elliot died after being struck by a car. Elliot was known for working with Indigenous youth across Canada to express their culture through theatre and documentary film. Born June 5, 1957 in Québec, Cathy Elliot was 60 when she died in Essa, Ontario.
The actor John Dunsworth began acting in elementary school when he was the Voice of God in The Creation. But it wasn’t until taking an elective course at the University of Guelph that he fell in love with drama and was cast as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and Oscar Wilde in The Masque of Wilde. He returned to Halifax in the early 1970s and co-founded Pier 1 on the Halifax Waterfront – the first alternate professional theatre on the east coast. He directed and acted there and for Theatre Canada in Newfoundland; taught at Dalhousie University and directed productions for many theatre companies including a dozen comic operas for the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Nova Scotia. In the 1990s he landed the role of Jim Lahey in Trailer Park Boys. Dunsworth also had an extensive career in television and film dating back to 1978. One of his more prominent roles in a career with close to 70 credits, was as Dave Teagues in 52 episodes of the series Haven. John Dunsworth was 71 when he died on October 16 after a brief and unexpected illness.
Dunsworth’s passing was overshadowed, as was almost all news on October 17th when The Tragically Hip singer and songwriter Gord Downie died. He was only 53 and had remained quite active despite treatment for an incurable glioblastoma. Those last few months were documented in the documentary Long Time Running co-directed by Nicholas de Pencher and Jennifer Baichwal. Gord Downie was named Canada’s Person of the Year by Canadian Press. He was also Person of the Year in 2016.
You need to be of a certain age to remember “Our Pet, Juliette.” A mainstay of early CBC, Juliette was born in Winnipeg and grew up in Vancouver. A performer from the beginning, she was singing with the Dal Richards’ band at the Hotel Vancouver when she was just 13, and, by 15, she already had her own show on CBC Radio. Her big star turn came in 1956, when she launched her Saturday night television show, which was scheduled right after the enormously high-rated hockey game. The show was cancelled in 1966, a time when tastes were changing and rock ‘n’ roll was rising. She was married to musician Tony Cavazzi for 40 years, until his death in 1994. Juliette Cavazzi continued to sing in CBC specials, and later hosted an afternoon talk show, Juliette and Friends, from 1973-1975. She was 91 when she died in Vancouver on October 26.
On November 6, writer and filmmaker William Weintraub passed away. He worked at the National Film Board as writer, producer and/or director on more than 150 productions. He is usually remembered for his satirical 1979 novel The Underdogs, which provoked controversy by imagining a future Socialist Republic of Quebec, in which English-speakers were an oppressed minority, complete with a violent resistance movement. His 1993 documentary The Rise and Fall of English Montreal dealt with the migration of English Quebeckers out of the province that began in the 1960s and accelerated rapidly after the 1976 election of the separatist Parti Québecois. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2003. Weintraub was 91 when he died in Montréal.
Five filmmakers died in the last month of 2017. Fil Fraser was 85 when he died on December 3rd. He was a broadcaster and producer. The animator, actor and filmmaker Grant Munro died on December 9. In 1952, he co-starred with Jean-Paul Ladouceur in Norman McLaren’s famous short, Neighbours. He worked on the films Two Bagatelles (1953), Seven Surprizes (1963), Christmas Cracker (1963) and Canon (1964). Christmas Cracker, was nominated for an Academy Award in 1962. Born in Winnipeg, Grant Munro was 94 years old when he died in Montréal, Québec.
Actor Bruce Gray died December 13. Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico to Canadian parents, he was 13 when his parents decided to return home to Toronto. Usually remembered for his role as Ted Hartley, Jessica’s harried publisher in the long-running U.S. series Murder She Wrote, in Canada he was known for the five seasons he spent portraying investment banker Adam Cunningham on the TV series Traders which brought him a Gemini Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role. Bruce Gray was 81 when he died on December 13.
Canadian producer Bob Crowe died on December 15th. He was a co-owner of Angel Entertainment in Saskatoon and had his hand in everything from feature films to TV series, commercials and live events. He was 62 when he died suddenly in Vancouver.
Finally, actress Heather Menzies-Urich was best known for her role as Louisa von Trapp in the 1965 musical film The Sound of Music and as Jessica 6 in the TV series Logan’s Run. She was 68, when she died on Christmas Eve, December 24th.
Ralph Lucas is the founder and publisher of Northernstars.ca. He began writing about film and reviewing movies while in radio in Montreal in the mid-1970s.