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Gordon Sheppard – Biography


Born in Montreal, Gordon Harry Sheppard grew up in Toronto. He obtained a bachelor of arts degree in political science and economics from the University of Toronto in 1957, then spent three years studying history at Oxford University, where he obtained his master’s degree. He was an award-winning filmmaker, photographer and author perhaps best known for HA!, his book about Québec separatist Hubert Aquin. Aquin was the literary editor of Les Editions La Presse when he shot himself in 1977. Sheppard wrote two books about his friend’s death, Signe Hubert Aquin in 1985 and HA!, a monumental 900-page study in English published in 2003.

After graduation he returned to Canada and went on to produce and direct several documentaries for the CBC, including The Most, a portrait of Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner, filmed in 1962. In 1967 Sheppard formed his own TV and film production company, O-zali Films. He also co­founded the New Yorker Cinema in Toronto.

Sheppard was just 26 when he was appointed Special Assistant to the Secretary of State for Canada, and then Special Consultant on the Arts to the Secretary of State. In 1966, he wrote the four-volume Special Report on the Cultural Policy and Activities of the Government of Canada.

In the 1970s, Sheppard was an arts columnist for the Toronto Telegram, worked for CBC Radio and wrote a children’s book, The Man Who Gave Himself Away, which was published in the United States and Europe.

He also produced and directed Eliza’s Horoscope, a surreal film that gave Tommy Lee Jones his first starring role. It won five Canadian Film Awards. Because of his work on the film, Sheppard was named Outstanding Canadian Filmmaker in 1975. Other highlights of his career include writing the hit song “Mr. Plum” for Québec singer Robert Charlebois

Sheppard was 68 when he died of cancer at the Montreal General Hospital. Quoted by the Montreal Gazette, veteran Montreal film producer Harry Gulkin said of Sheppard that “He was at the front ranks of whatever he was doing, be it filmmaking, photography, writing, or restoring and renovating a Victorian home. He was at an extreme level of being there, no matter what he was into.

Also see: Gordon Sheppard’s filmography.