THE PICTORIAL THAT DIED
HAROLD B. CROW
Until July, 1921, the Canadian Government enabled the “Canadian National Pictorial” to “carry on” by making a grant of about $30,000 a year. Hard times have compelled the subsidy's withdrawal Is this wisdom? or folly?
QUICKLY they gathered around, popping out of unexpected nooks and corners of Vancouver Chinatown’s narrow streets and alleys. In a minute or two a motion picture camera-man was almost swallowed up in a knot of staring, muttering, but characteristically impassive, Chinese.
So far everything was according to plan. The camera was pointing at something and the camera-man, William C. Brennan, was intently grinding away at the crank. Suddenly he stopped grinding and, swinging around, resumed cranking in the opposite direction, but with a motive that was at once apparent.
The Vancouver police van was hurtling up the street and had come to a stop but a short distance away. Its
uniformed occupants, in businesslike fashion, proceeded to carry out one of the most spectacular raids in the recent history of the B.C. Metropolis. The net for the Chinese opium smugglers had been well and truly laid and the cinematographer was on hand by pre-arrangement with detective headquarters to photograph for the “Canadian National Pictorial” the apprehension of the “villains” of a real and startling conspiracy.
Mr. Brennan, the movie-man who covered British Columbia and Alberta for the “Pictorial” acted well his part. He was by no means a strange figure in Vancouver, but in view of the frailty of human nature it was only “according to Hoyle” that a crowd should collect when he set up his “box” and appeared to be “shooting.” Not only did this furnish him the desired setting for his picture but it proved a useful and effective cover for the operations of the custodians of the public weal. Even the look-out of the den about to be raided permitted his curiosity to master his discretion and joined the inquisitive throng about the camera. The police were among them before their presence was suspected and the look-out was the first man taken. Hastily forcing the door the police themselves brought the first warning to the inmates of the dive. They and their wonderful collection of pipes and opium made a notable capture.
What happened to the pictures? The negative came to Toronto in the usual way for developing, printing, editing and titling, so that it could appear across Canada in the well-known Canadian current event film the “Canadian National Pictorial ’. But the “Pictorial”, for reasons to be elaborated later, had peacefully passed into history before the picture of the raid on the opium smugglers’ den could be flashed on the screen.
Spread out over half of America lies a Dominion which requires almost a week to traverse at top speed. There are a few Canadians fortunate in being able to study it first hand and at their leisure. The rest of the nine millions of her people however, are busy carving out their individual livelihoods. For them there are other eyes, and these eyes are mechanical.
“Click! Click! Click!” Cranking away as the giant uglas fir crashes to Vancouver Island earth stands a 'adian National Pictorial” camera-man. What is g? Recording the operation on film for the people ’e Edward Island to see.
Hick! Click!” Forty, fifty, a hundred feet Te’s negative, and soon the people of the
Pacific Slope will see the little silver black fox pups of the Garden of the Gulf, as they romp across the screen with their tabby cat fostermother.
“Click! Click! Click!” What is going on here? Simply the similar recording in film by “Bill” Berdick of the king of the world’s wheat growers, Seager Wheeler, of Saskatchewan, as he drives his team on the drill; or of a thousand and one other operations which are daily performed in this broad Dominion.
Canada’s Daring Cinematographers
In the carrying out of
these activities a staff of expert cameramen, properly called cinematographers, have ’ been const a n 11 y employed through out the length and breadth of the country. They have spared
no expense. They have jumped from Van couver to Edmonton, from Toronto t o Timmins , from Montreal to Tadousa, from St. John to Charlo ttetown, without hesitation and without stint as regards running of value could
up accounts, as long as a picture be filmed. Many trips have been futile, due to adverse weather or other uncontrollable causes, but expenses have kept right on mounting up.
As a fitting and by no means infrequent example of the camera-man’s sincerity and perseverance, an incident in the experience of E.J. Savage, Maritime “Pictorial” man, is of interest. Receiving a wire from the editor of the “Pictorial” at Toronto that an ocean vessel was on the rocks, Mr. Savage set out to find it. After a railway journey of some hours and a ten-mile motor trip on top of it he found he was still three miles from the wreck. A seventy-five pound outfit would be load enough for most of us to carry on the level while Mr. Savage’s way lay over a pathless rock-bound coast. When he reached the scene there was not enough wreckage left, barring the vessel’s name plate, to indicate that a good ship and nine liveshad been lost, but
what there was Mr. Savage photographed. Then he walked the three rough miles back to the car again. The picture he made appeared before the eyes of Canadians across the Dominion.
Being always on the job is, of course, the camera-man’s duty. A convincing example of what this means was furnished by Mr. Savage on two occasions when so unexciting an event as a ship-launching was on the bill. As is commonly known these events are timed to suit the convenience of the “big wigs” participating in the christening ceremonies and the hour is announced in advance. Mr. Savage was in North Sydney, N.S., to film the launching of the “Permanencia”, the first all-concrete vessel constructed in the Maritime Provinces. Although the hour was set for 9 o’clock, a.m., Mr. Savage arose early and was on the job by 6.30. He had just ground a few feet of the vessel on the ways when, to his astonishment, she started to move. Recovering from his momentary inaction he continued cranking and obtained a fine picture of a most premature launch.
A parallel case happened some months later when Sir Robert Borden, Hon. C. C. Ballantyne and other notables were to help the Canadian Government Merchant Marine steamer “Canadian Explorer” into the water at Halifax. Again Mr. Savage was on the job early and with equally good results. Twenty-three minutes earlier than scheduled the big freighter started her ocean career by slipping gracefully down the ways. Workmen beneath her and in her path ducked for their lives and fortunately escaped injury.
Tragedy is a matter of perspective. It is unlikely that the plight of the victimized traveller was tragic from the angle of the priest or the Levite; but the importunity of a hapless deer was potent enough for “Samaritan” Savage mentioned above. It was a lonely part of the New Brunswickian coast that the cinematographer found the little fellow drowning in a pool. The rocks were sheer, and the water deepening with the tide. Presently, the juvenile buck lay trembling from exhaustion and fear on the higher rocks—but instinct is a rare teacher and it was fear of the sea and not of man. While he panted himself back to strength Mr. Savage hurried off a mile away for his camera, nor did the wil d young thing bid his rescuer adieu until the posing was complete. Mr. Savage jammed the legs of his tripod into the dirt and hurriedly turned the crank without even having opportunity to focus. His picture was next thing to perfect. The distinguished launching party were as flabbergasted as the shipyards’ management. They were somewhere around but were lucky to even catch a glimpse of their escaping ocean baby. A mentally alert workman engaged on the ship’s deck in the preliminary work of releasing her from her shackles seized the waiting bottle of champagne, as the film plainly showed, and dashed it against her bows as the ship plunged with him off the ways
into the sea, thus freeing the “Explorer” from the'odium of an un-christened launching.
Taking their lives in one hand and grinding away at the camera crank with the other is not an every-day pastime of camera-men, but it sometimes happens so. Mervin W. LaRue has thrust his camera over the top edge of
twenty-storey Royal Bank skyscraper in Toronto, rested his body on the parapet and, with his legs held by a strongarmed assistant photographed the busy thoroughfare below. Mr. Savage has found himself in the path of stampeding cattle which bowled him over without ceremony and wrecked his valuable camera.
Most camera-men have a thirst for air trips and are as willing as anybody to risk making their wives widows by this means. All the “Pictorial” men took their flips in the air whenever a chance came along. Michael J. Shiels courted danger with a vengeance when he got within uppercut reach of the famous U.S. Navy Balloonists of refreshing memory, who descended from the clouds near Moose Factory. Mr. Shiels had spent a week around Cochrane and Mattice waiting for the Hudson’s bay Company’s Indians to emerge from the woods with their charges. He did not happen to be present when the fisticuffs were flying but he shot everything else and by wiring his titles in from Mattice made it possible for his allabsorbing film to get to the public twenty-four hours ahead of his competitors.
He’s Not Proud of This Shot
BUT before leaving the aviation adventures of cameramen let it be recounted for the first time why the 1920 International Baseball League opening in Toronto did not work out as advertised. The real fans will remember that the ball to be used in the frilly opening ceremonies on this occasion was to be delivered from the air— a sort of bombing raid was to be the means of effecting
this unique programme, and it fell to the lot of a “Pictorial” camera-man, who, for reasons that will be obvious, shall go nameless, to drop the bomb. The air pilot, himself a gallant veteran of the Western front with an elongated strip of ribbons on his breast, was to give the signal to “let ’er go!’. The plane hovered and circled and banked and hummed, and the waiting thousands in the ball park eagerly watched for the descending ball. So that it would not bore a hole through some unoffending Baltimore Oriole’s cranium or bury itself out of sight in front of the pitcher’s box where it was expected to land, and to be in keeping, too, with the gaiety of the occasion, the ball was beautifully dressed up like a hanging basket, a mass of flowers and ribbons. Well, the Captain said the word and the camera-man was obedient to the command. But neither of them likes to hear it mentioned now, for the posy-bedecked horsehide did not even hit the Island. If the D.C.M. were awarded for his act of heroism it could appropriately be interpreted to mean “Darn comical miss.”
Both danger and humor were combined in the experience of another camera man, F.S.
Huffman, in Kingston. He could not very well complete a travelogue of the Limestone City and leave out of it that pile of stone called the penitentiary. So he got a long shot and followed up by setting up at close range. Apparently this was the next thing to a capital crime, at any rate the three-legged machine gun he had dared to set up was viewed with considerable suspicion and alarm. While he was taking
aim at the
fortifica -t i o n s a guard of ten men descended and toted man, camera and all before the warden. The latter was decidedly ruffled and continued so for a whole hour during which Mr. Huffman, who is really a law-abiding citizen, experienced for the first time the horrors of the third degree and visions of himself in irons and dungeons. The long line of queries was finally interrupted by the appearance of the Governor himself, who, with a smile and a nod, dismissed him with instructions to fire away and shoot what he would.
Kingston always has been more or less of a hoodoo spot for Mr. Huffman. It was there that he ran foul of the Mayor when Varsity and McGill were having their big Rugby play-off last fall. By taking the usual liberties of advancing
close to the sideline to photograph the kick-off, the cinematographer incurred the wrath of His Highness. Now the camera-man knew very well that a motion picture of a
crucial rugby match without the kick-off would be like a City Council without a Mayor. It needed only eight or ten feet of film, but it was important. No matter where he set up to shoot the Mayor chased him away and as the kick-off was momentarily expected the camera-
man was a bit riled. His Worship finally clinched the argument by deliberately placing his back in front of the camera lens, thus shutting off the view, and causing Mr. Huffman to be ejected when his objections to this obstruction were rather more caustic than polite. While the cinematographer was climbing back into the field over the back fence the kick-off took place, so his film story was made with this formality missing.
Under somewhat similar circumstances, M. W. LaRue, ejected from a lacrosse match at Orangeville, returned to the fray and even got a close up of his “enemy” the Chief of Police as that worthy officer indulged in a snooze on the grass alongside the fence.
Prince of Wales Caught off his Guard
HIS Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has a worldwide reputation for good humor. Once during his Canadian tour the movie camera caught him slightly off his guard. A slight frown, a glance behind and a beckon to his watchful aide de camp—these movements consumed but a moment, but the people of Canada saw it all on the screen. It happened at the reception to His Royal Highness at the Ontario Government House. Every handshake, as the long column of guests trooped by, made His Royal Highness wince with pain, and under the circumstances it is not surprising that the “Canadian National Pictorial” man, W. H. Bird, was invited to stop “shooting”. The handshakes themselves were dispensed with a moment later and the rest of the line-up received
the Royal smile and nod.
Of a different sort of humor was the manner in which a “Pictorial” camera-man caught a clergyman working industriously at the moist end of a long cigar. The incident would not be worth mentioning had it not been for the conduct of the reverend gentleman himself. Now there is no law which makes it a misdemeanor for a divine to be thus detected, and it is no part of motion picture work to catch him at it. All unconsciously was he enjoying the weed, as one of a large group of people, and quite possibly but few moviegoers would have noticed his emulation of Raleigh had his hand not shot to his mouth and the smoking cigar disappeared hastily behind
hastily his back. Of course the film recorded it all, and it was too good to cut out. But the
experience of the man who went to cover the big horse race at
Windsor had more interesting angles, one of which was the financing of a new pair of trousers by the “office.” The picture had to be stolen, if it was to appear immediately on Canadian screens, for the reason that the track authorities had sold the exclusive picture rights to an American promoter, and it was considered that there would be considerable delay before the Canadian public could view it. Paying his five dollar entrance fee the camera-man, Charles G. Roos, boldly entered the gate. Fifteen feet inside he ran into the arms of a waiting “cop”, one of a standing army engaged for the day, who invited him to check his camera and amuse himself with the ticket in exchange thereof until the race was over. Instead of complying Mr. Roos bolted back through the gate. Outside he engaged a covered moving van, which, when turned into a movable machine gun emplacement, with a loop-hole, gave his “box” a view of the grounds over the fence. Shortly the exigencies of traffic congestion forced the van to move on, fatally for the undiscovered picture pilferer.
The back stretch was bordered by woods.
The back stretch was bordered by woods. Walking clear around unobserved, the machine gun man singled out a tree close to the fence arid soon, by laborious physical effort, had his “gun” and himself resting in a convenient crotch twenty feet up. The detectiveguards were pacing about a short way off unconscious of his presence. Everything seemed bright for the intruder until a patrolling watchman called “Hi, there!” That’s where the trousers were sacrificed. The hasty retreat was undignified but without other serious mishap. As the race was due to commence, it looked like defeat. But this proved the turning point in his fortunes, for the guards were compelled to busy themselves clearing the track. Crawling along the ditch and poking his lens through a tuft of weeds and grass, the persistent cameraman was rewarded by finding a clear field and “Man-o’ War” and “Sir Barton” at the post. Here again he was spotted by one of the legitimate operators entitled to film the event, but this man had his own worries and dared not divert his attention from the race of a century. The fact that the film exposed did not reach the public is no reflection on the ingenuity of the adventurous sniper. By altered arrangements the authorized film was played in its entirety in Canada very soon after, in the identical theatres regularly presenting the “Pictorial” and the much shorter stolen film was accordingly si tracked as superfluous.
Digging up the Dinosaur
WHO of our nine millions of Canadians hr with wonderment as University of Alberti carefully uncovered and examined the petriF
Continued on page 40
Continued from page 17
of the Dinosaur and Stegosaurus which cavorted over the tropical swamps of the Canadian West from three to six million years ago? True, the Editor of MacLean’s happened to be there, but he is a privileged person. For the others the “eye” of the “Canadian National Pictorial,” in the hands of Mr. Stennan, recorded every movement of the giant reptile’s since its two thousand teeth received their first brushing. By this time, from Cape Race to Nootka Sound the story has been told in film to thousands.
From Britain’s Mother of Parliaments comes a distinguished gentleman, Hon. J.W. Lowther who presents to our House of Commons the replica of the chair which he graced as Speaker of that august body for sixteen years. The oak which furnished the wood for the coat of arms on this handsome gift owned British soil two centuries before William the Norman, and, to further sanctify it as a fitting symbol of British freedom and parliamentary authority, it was itself part and parcel of the House of Parliament at Westminster since the year .1357. What Canadian who saw the picture of this bit of oak, this chair, this representative Briton, as all Canada has by this time seen but could feel the thrill of the actual ceremony and could express in words of his own the sentiments which led the poet to pen his immortal lines,
“Breathes there a man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself has said, ‘This is my own, my native land’!”
Take a sample weekly issue of the “Canadian National Pictorial” say No. 81, one that long ago has finished its run and left its “pictures of memory” impressed on nearly a million Canadians. It contained:
1. The development of hydro-electric power on the Nipigon River at Cameron Falls, Ont.
2. An expert tamer of wild horses, at Strathmore, Alberta.
3. Nova Scotia fishermen harvesting their winter’s crop at the fisheries, Canso, N.S.
4. The “Farmerette” dependents and next of kin of fallen, wounded or returned soldiers receiving
farming instruction under the Soldier Settlement Board at Point, Grey, B.C.
5 The depositing of the colors of the 2nd Battalion, at Bowmanville, Ont.
6. The inauguration of a passenger service on the Canadian Government Merchant Marine steamers, Halifax, N.S.
7 A monoplane sails away from
Brandon. Manitoba, for the oil fields of the Northland.
8. The making of a violin m a Canadian factory; one_ of the interesting and instructive series of pictures under the general title “How it is done in Canada.
9. Two “shots” from England, a unique donkey race at Stamford Bridge, and a cross country run at Roehampton, with Cambridge and Cornell University athletes in competition.
10. "Sense and Nonsense from the
Canadian Press”; terse bits of editorial humor which MacLean’s has selected for the entertainment of Canadian screen patrons.
This programme, it will be seen, covers five different Provinces and the United Kingdom. Many instances could be cited where scenes from seven different Provinces were included in one “weekly”; where pictures of even greater instructional value were used, as well as Motherland or other Empire scenes calculated to awaken the keenest satisfaction among loyal Canadians.
It is worth recording, too, that many of these pictures used in the “Pictorial” have been sent to the Motherland, where they have shown to the British Isles the ways and the methods of Canadians and the fascinations of our land.
How many Canadians have seen their own Parliament open its session, the Governor-General presiding in state, and members of the Privy Council, Senate and Commons in their places in the handsome re-built structure? Well, the answer to that query is a few thousand at Ottawa and close to a million elsewhere in the Dominion, for the “Canadian National Pictorial” men were there in force.
A Few of the Topics Treated
CONSIDER a few other subjects the “Pictorial” has included in its various weekly releases:
H.R.H. the Empire’s future King on his tour of Canada and Australia, and at home.
Smelting British Columbia ore at Trail, B.C.
Trapping Lobsters at Loggieville, N.B. The Squaw Packing contest at Banff, Alberta.
Unloading British West India grape fruit from Canadian National Ships at Montreal; Oriental silk at Vancouver; West India raw sugar at St John, N.B.
The scenic beauties of Jasper Park in the Northern Rockies.
The golden stream of grain pouring through Port Arthur and Fort William.
Raising Karakul sheep for their “Persian Lamb” fur, at Calgary.
The new Canadian Navy received at Halifax, Victoria and Vancouver.
The operations of “Rainmaker” Hatfield at Medicine Hat, Alberta.
The celebration in French-Canada of the victory of Dollard des Ormeaux over the Iroquois at the Long Sault rapids.
A trip below the sea’s surface in a new Canadian submarine.
His Majesty the King as a farmer and as a yachtsman.
The romantic Royal Canadian Mounted Police at their spring training, Macleod, Alberta.
Their Majesties the King and Queen touring Scotland and the Isle of Man.
The loading of Canadian products on Canadian Government Merchant Marine vessels bound to all parts of the world.
The influx of immigration at Canadian ports and the facilities for their comfortable reception.
The rehabilitation of soldier veterans in the re-training centres and on the land.
The sports of Canadians in all longitudes.
The development of Canadian aviation.
Alberta’s great irrigation system at Bassano.
The running of the Hudson’s Bay Dog Derby at Le Pas, Man.
How the Governments of Manitoba and Saskatchewan fight the Grasshopper plague.
A Good Roads Demonstration at Winnipeg, Man.
Shipyards activities in Quebec, Nova Scotia, etc.
Historic spots in Quebec, Ontario,
This has been the work of the “Canadian National Pictorial” and its achievement has been colossal. Consider the effectiveness of the motion picture. Remember the words of a recent writer, that “it affects the thinking of the people and moulds their character as does no other industry,” and dwell particularly upon his remark, “let me make the movies of the country and I care not who makes its laws.” Who can gainsay the screen as an influence in this age?
One of the attractive features of the past winter has been the Made-in-Canada series mentioned above. By these pictures many Canadians doubtless learned for the first time how cotton is woven into fabric by Canadians, how a wedding ring, a shaving brush, an automobile tire, a silk ribbon, a briar pipe, a felt hat, a silver spoon or tea-pot, a bi-focal lens, a billiard ball, a fur coat, a club bag, wallpaper, a newspaper, is made in their own country. The screen has told one half of Canada how the other half lives.
For two years an effective, far-reaching and systematic education al programme has been carried on through the medium of the camera, the “Canadian National Pictorial” and the motion picture theatre. In upwards of two hundred theatres, located in every Canadian Province, this picture has been regularly see-h.
Depict Canada and Canadian development upon the screen and Canadians will know their Canada better and be better Canadians. Darken these same screens or illuminate them with the scenes and activities of the foreigner, and we encounter “de-Canadianizing” influences.
This has been the attitude of the Dominion Government. This is the knowledge that gave birth to this now widely-known film. For two years the “Canadian News Pictorial” has laid Canada bare to her children, one year sponsored by the Department of Public Information, since disbanded, and one year by the Department of Trade and Commerce, through its Exhibits and Publicity Bureau. The Government and these departments respectively deserve the gratitude of the Canadian people for their financial support and co-operation in producing this education film for Canadians. Incalculable good has resulted.
Financial Support Withdrawn
DUT what is the position now? To commend the Government for its support in the two past years carries with it the necessity of questioning its wisdom in withdrawing that support at a critical time when various influences, among which the film is by no means the least forceful, have succeeded in fostering and accentuating a national spirit that is as the breath of life to loyal Canadians everywhere. If the nurturing of this new-born national spirit is a worthy task for prosperous times, is it less worthy, less necessary, in times of stress and transformation?
The “Canadian National Pictorial” has been partially financed by the Dominion Government for the whole Canadian people. Government backing undoubtedly gave standing to the film. But it gave still more. The Government’s stamp was a guarantee to the Canadian people that these pictures were unbiased and genuine and produced in the interests of a continent-broad Dominion. A misdemeanor of the advertising sort would have brought down a well-merited governmental rebuke. That this was not necessary and that the picture was produced in a public-spirited and efficient manner is testified in a letter written from Ottawa on the expiration of the 1921 contract, which says: “If all our contracts were carried out as well as the ‘Canadian National Pictorial’ contract our official life would be a bed of roses, frankincense and myrrh.”
True, there are other films which carry Canadian scenes. But whereas these
accord a quarter at the best of their film to Canadian scenes, and frequently none at all, the “Canadian National Pictorial” has been truly Canadian with occasionally a subject from elsewhere in the Empire. In addition, considerable care has been exercised in selecting and editing the films included in the “Pictorial”. There have always been more subjects filmed than could be used. Those chosea for the public to see have been selected on the principle of their educational or informative value to Canadians, and not because of possible sensational or passing interest.
There is little defence for flooding Canadian screens with news and industrial film depicting foreign enterprise, when equally picturesque and interesting scenes may be secured in Canada. Herein lies one of the chief reasons for regretting the Pictorial’s demise. The screens must have their pictures. The well-rounded out cinema program must regularly have something scenic or topical. The insatiable appetite for animated pictures must be fed, and if Canadian scenes and events are not forthcoming, then others will be.
The first and only Canadian topical film produced by Canadians, for Canadians, and depicting exclusively Canadian scenes except when tinged with Empire, is dead. Until it, or an equally Canadian production, is revived, the youth of Canadian cities and'the detached population of the more remote sections of the spacious Dominion, to whom the “Canadian National Pictorial” has been the breath of proud patriotism and the recorder of national progress, will lose touch with their land. To them the rest of their country will be “that untravell’d world whose margin fades forever and forever when they move.”
When a young nation has just begun to expand its lungs and dilate its vision with the consciousness and exhilaration of a vivifying national spirit, who in all the world would knowingly remove the vitalizing tonic?
Canada has reached this station on her road to nationhood. There are many and there are varied influences urging her on. The leaven has been working these many years and the results are discernible to the nearest-sighted. The proof of the existence of this condition and its desirability we leave to the reader, but to the Motion Picture that brings Canada home to her own people let us pay a sincere and sufficient tribute.