History

10 surprising facts about Canadians in cinema

Happy National Canadian Film Day! Here's some fun facts about Canadians in cinema
  • Apr 19, 2016
  • 599 words
  • 3 minutes
Though she was known as "America's Sweetheart," actress Mary Pickford was born in Canada. (Photo: Library of Congress)
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Today theatres across the country will screen Canadian films in honour of National Canadian Film Day, a day to celebrate the country’s cinematic achievements. To commemorate the occasion, here are 10 facts about Canadians in cinema from editor Aaron Kylie’s book, Canadian Geographic Biggest and Best of Canada: 1000 Facts & Figures.

First Canadian movie hit
Considered by many as Canada’s first filmmaker, James Freer immigrated to Canada from England in 1887 and settled in Brandon Hills, Man. Freer was sponsored to tour Britain with his films starting in April 1898. His Ten years in Manitoba — 25,000 instantaneous photos upon a half-a-mile of Edison films, which depicted scenes of everyday Canadians, was considered a popular and commercial success.

First documentary
Nanook of the North, a silent movie from 1922 about a group of Inuit living on the coast of Hudson Bay, is widely regarded as the first full-length documentary film.

First documentary Oscar
Following in that tradition, the National Film Board’s Churchill’s Island, a documentary about the Battle of Britain, won the first Oscar for the category in 1941.

Top film fest
The Toronto International Film Festival, held annually in September, is considered one of the most important film festivals in the world. It’s certainly the premiere festival in North America, and internationally it ranks second, after France’s Cannes’ festival. It will celebrate its 40th anniversary in September.

Top docs fest
Not to be outdone, the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival is North America’s largest documentary festival. Each year during its late April/early May run (this year it’s April 28 to May 8), Hot Docs presents more than 200 Canadian and international documentary films. The festival was founded in 1993.

First film fest
Saskatchewan’s Yorkton Film Festival, established as the Yorkton International Film Festival in 1950, was the first film festival in North America. The festival, held each May, was created by James Lysyshyn, a field officer for the National Film Board, and is still going strong today.

First stars in cement
Early Hollywood actress Mary Pickford, and her husband at the time, Douglas Fairbanks, were the first stars to cast their hands and feet in cement in front of the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, on April 30, 1927. Known as “America’s sweetheart,” Pickford was born in Toronto on April 8, 1892.

Highest-grossing movies
Talk about Hollywood North! James Cameron, born in Kapuskasing, Ont., is the writer and director of the two highest-grossing movies of all time, Avatar (2009) and Titanic (1997). The two films have combined to gross nearly $500 million dollars.

The first kiss
When is a kiss not just a kiss? When the year is 1895, and the smooch in question is the first in the very early days of moving pictures. May Irwin, of Whitby, Ont., a Canadian actress and the most well-loved comedienne of her time, puckered up in the short film The Kiss. Many considered the peck a scandal.

First movie star
A Canadian first in Hollywood history: Florence Lawrence, born in Hamilton, Ontario, on January 2, 1886, is believed to be the first movie star known publically by her real name. (Studios didn’t use actors’ real names for fear they’d demand more money). As part of a publicity stunt for the movie The Broken Oath in 1909, her true identity was revealed. Lawrence, who appeared in almost 300 films starting in 1906, is also considered the world’s first movie star.

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