Raymond Brousseau was born in Montréal in 1938 and grew up to become a film director. His list of credits isn’t long with seven of his eight credits falling in the 1970s. He was 83 when he died in Québec City on July 4.
Alfred “Alfie” Scopp was born September 15, 1919 in London, England to a Russian-Jewish father and an English mother. His family emigrated to Montreal when he was still a child and he grew up in that city. He joined the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) in World War II. He became interested in radio and at one point attended Lorne Greene’s Academy of Radio Arts after the war, along with Leslie Nielsen, Gordie Tapp and Fred Davis. Most of his work was in television including live dramas in series such as the General Motors Theatre. Like Paul Soles he was also a voice actor on productions like Tales of the Wizard of Oz and Spiderman. His film credits are few but of note he was in the 1961 3D horror film The Mask, and played the role of bookseller Avram in the 1971 Norman Jewison film Fiddler on the Roof, which won three Academy Awards. Alfie Scopp was 101 when he died in Toronto on July 24.
We reported on the death of Québec-based film producer Rock Demers the day after he had passed away in Montréal. Usually remembered for his first film, La guerre des tuques (1984), his career produced some 160 awards. Film writer Marc Gervais once called Demers “one of the major architects of Canada’s new success – a success based on experience and professionalism.” Rock Demers was given the prix Albert-Tessier by the Government of Québec, the prix François-Truffaut by the Giffoni Film Festival and was an Officer of the Order of Canada, which was elevated to a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2008. Demers was 87 when he died at the I’institut de cardiologie de Montréal on August 17.
Born on August 26, 1930 in Illinois, French Alexis Tickner ended up in Canada and held dual citizenship. He began working when he was 16 just after the end of World War II. Known but rarely seen, he was a voice actor who worked primarily for animated TV series. With some 150 credits to his name, the actual number is far higher given the number of individual episodes he would work on. For example he was the voice of Wiser in the 2005-2006 series Firehouse Tales. That counts as 1 credit, but his voice was used in 15 episodes. French Tickner was exactly 91 when he died in Vancouver on the same day he had been born, August 26.
Legendary animator Jacques Drouin held a unique place in the world of animation. Using a rare tool called a pinscreen, which was created by husband-and-wife team Alexandre Alexeieff and Claire Parker, he worked with a board that had 240,000 holes, each of which housing a retractable pin that goes through it. By lighting the board at an angle, the pins project shadows in tones from black to white, depending on how deep into the board the pin is placed. By making minute changes to the pins a sense of motion can be created. Drouin championed this technique. Born in Mont-Joli, Québec, on May 28, 1943, after he completed his studies at the École des beaux-arts de Montréal and UCLA, he began his career as a television editor in 1971. Two years later, during an internship at the National Film Board (NFB), he made his first professional film, using the pinscreen to create Three Exercises on Alexeieff’s Pinscreen. He followed that with Mindscape in 1976, which garnered 17 awards and earned praise from NFB legend Norman McLaren and Alexeieff himself. “Jacques Drouin was a major figure at the NFB, with an extraordinary career path: for three decades, he was the only animator in the world using the pinscreen technique,” said Claude Joli-Coeur, Government Film Commissioner and NFB Chairperson. “An outstanding filmmaker, he was also unfailingly generous, forever ready to share his knowledge with young filmmakers and his colleagues. Not only did he create unforgettable works, but he also ensured that work could continue to be created using the pinscreen – another of his generous legacies.” In 2009, the NFB released the DVD box set “Jacques Drouin – Complete Pinscreen Works.” Some of his NFB animations can be seen here. Jacques Drouin was 78 when he died on August 28.Funnyman Norm MacDonald started out in show-biz as a stand up comedian, performing in small comedy clubs across Canada. Eventually he was booked by bigger and bigger clubs and moved to Los Angeles. He became a writer and joined the cast of Saturday Night Live where he made his mark doing impressions of Larry King, Burt Reynolds, David Letterman, Bob Dole and others. His most notable position on SNL was his three-year stint as anchor of the news-spoof segment, Weekend Update. He was the host for the 2016 Canadian Screen Awards. Norm Macdonald was 61 when he died on September 14 after a long and private battle with leukemia.
As in past years, we often stray from the performers and artists that populate our film and television industries when an executive of note passes away. I spent a little more than two years of my broadcast career working with Allan Slaight and appreciated the respect he showed when he would drop into my office at Toronto’s CFRB and ask, “How’s it going, boss?” I had spent almost half my career working for Standard Broadcasting and had hoped to stay and grow with the company, which went from a widely held division of Conrad Black’s empire to a privately owned family business. I hit the glass ceiling at 40 and decided to move on a few months later. Slaight had a vision for the company and he grew it successfully. He was a character with some flaws but generally an interesting guy with diverse talents. I find it amusing that with his passing the first thing obituaries often mention is that he was a magician. He also became a media mogul and amassed a fortune allowing him to gain even greater stature as a philanthropist. Allan Slaight was 90 when he died on September 19.