(May 9, 2016 – Toronto, ON) While the ongoing work of fully updating Northernstars to our new WordPress platform remains our number one priority, there are many other projects and interests that require our attention on an almost daily basis.
One is the launch of our new Shooting Stars interview series. We produced four new interviews* at Hot Docs, and we’re busy planning more shoots across Canada over the next 12 months. The aim is record as many as 50 interviews a year. We’re marking May 1st as the start of this initiative and we’re already planning a new slate of subjects over the next few months. We’re looking to work with freelance interviewers-writers who have previously covered the Canadian film biz and shooters based in Halifax, Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. Use our Contact Us page to get in touch.
We also continue to acquire rare posters, stills, glass slides and other items for our Northernstars Collection. The Mary Pickford slide above is 101 years old. Rags is the 1915 James Kirkwood silent family relationship romantic melodrama (based on the novel “by Edith Barnard Delano”; about a girl who is the ward of a rich man. She becomes pregnant by a scoundrel and dies giving birth to a daughter who grows up to be a tomboy known as Rags. Pickford played both mother and daughter who, after many adventures, ends up rich and married herself. Rags was billed as “one of her greatest characterizations.” This is one of the movies created during the time when Paramount Pictures was just starting up. At that time, it was solely a loose connection between top studios, who distributed their films together, and so their individual productions went into distribution as being “released on the Paramount Program”. Rags was produced by Daniel Frohman for the Famous Players Film Co., the President of which was Adolph Zukor, who would soon become the President of Paramount Pictures once it became a regular corporation.
This glass slide of the film The Critical Age dates from a few years later. This film was essentially a re-release of the 1923 production Glengarry School Days. Produced by Ernest Shipman (see Nell Shipman) and directed by Henry MacRae, the film costarred Harlan Knight, James Harrison and Pauline Garon. The original film was released by Winnipeg Productions. As this slide clear states, they had been replaced by Ottawa Film Productions for this re-release. Shipman was one of the first producers working in what is generally referred to as the era of Independent Canadian filmmaking.
From the end of that era to the beginning of the next. Bush Pilot is a long forgotten, low-level melodrama and the only film produced by Dominion Productions Limited. It was one of a very few Canadian features made outside of Quebec during the 1940s. Filmed in the Muskoka region of Ontario with a mixed Canadian-US cast, the story is about two quarrelling pilot brothers (Jack La Rue and Austin Willis) – one good, the other bad – who fight over both the affections of a pretty girl (Rochelle Hudson) and the territory for their separate charter operations. Austin Willis was billed as “Introducing Austin Willis noted Canadian stage and radio actor to the American screen.” While many sources state the year of this film as 1947, when the Northernstars Collection acquired a reproduction of the original poster that was produced for a screening of the restored film, the date clearly shown on the poster is 1946.
Gisele MacKenzie was one of Canada’s shining stars in the 1950s. She started out in life as Marie Marguerite Louise Gisele LaFleche. Once known as “Canada’s first lady of song,” she was the daughter of a Winnipeg doctor and a musically-gifted mother. She was playing piano at two years old and went on to play violin and sing. In fact, her first public performance was on the violin when she gave a recital at the Royal Alexandra Hotel in Winnipeg when she was just 12 years old. MacKenzie later moved to Toronto to study at the Royal Conservatory of Music. She entertained our troops during the Second World War and when the war ended CBC Radio offered her a radio show in 1946. Primarily at TV performer, this poster is for a 1953 short, Camp Jamboree. It was a Will Cowan military musical featurette about a group of performers who go to a military camp in San Diego, California, and they entertain Marines, soldiers, and sailors. Gisele MacKenzie costarred with Romo Vincent, Arthur Lee Simpkins and Dorothy Dorben. On the poster Giselle Mackenzie is the singer at the microphone. She appeared on Your Hit Parade in the mid 1950s, and made frequent appearances on the Jack Benny Show. Later, she became a regular “celebrity” on many of the Goodson/Todman game shows.
One equal importance is the written content on Northernstars. One of our most respected contributors is the award-winning television producer Jerry Lawton. He is a fan of Northernstars and a living repository of information about Canada and about Canadians great and virtually obscure. One of the greats is our own “First Lady of Canadian Theatre,” Martha Henry. She is a Companion of the Order of Canada, a member of the Order of Ontario, the recipient of five Genie Awards, Two Betty Mitchell Awards, the Toronto Drama Bench Award for Outstanding Contributions to Canadian Theatre and the New York Theatre Award. She’s a Lifetime Member of Actors Equity. She has honorary degrees from seven Canadian and American universities. She’s a recipient of the Governor General’s Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Stratford Legacy Award, which has been given only to Christopher Plummer, Maggie Smith and William Shatner before her.
After completing biographies of Walter Pidgeon and Glenn Ford, we asked him if he could turn his attention to this remarkable actor who has given so much to her craft both as an actor and director and over the last many years as a teacher. Click here to read this newly added biography of Martha Henry.
We do our best to make your visits to Northernstars worthwhile with content that usually just isn’t available anywhere else. Photos, posters, glass slides and so much more, including exclusive interviews, movie reviews, and well written and researched biographies. It’s our way of thanking you for your support and the time you spend with us online.