Émile Genest. Actor and radio host. (Quebec City, 27 July 1921 - Hallandale, Florida, U.S., 17 March 2003) This actor enjoyed a long career in television and film, in Quebec and Hollywood, in both English and French. In Quebec, Émile Genest is associated with the adventure of the first téléroman, or televised drama series, in the history of Quebec television, The Plouffe Family, as well as in its film version 30 years later. Between the two, he lived in the United States, where he appeared in a dozen films and a number of television series.
While still a young man, Émile Genest joined the Royal Canadian Navy at the time of World War II. Afterward, he began working in radio in Quebec City before moving on to Montreal, where he got work with Radio-Canada's radio service and was eventually offered a position as a sports commentator in both official languages. A fan of hockey in general and the Montreal Canadians in particular, Mr. Genest fuelled popular frustration, according to some accounts, with his radio commentary in 1955 at the time of the riot following the suspension of player Maurice "Rocket" RICHARD three games shy of the playoffs, when the Canadians were battling for first place. Denying the impact of his role in the event, Émile Genest turned to acting shortly afterward. He was offered the role of Napoléon, the eldest of the Plouffe family, which he played first on radio, in 1952, and then in the series THE PLOUFFE FAMILY, a huge hit in the early days of television, running from 1953 to 1959. Adapted from the novel by Roger LEMELIN, published in 1948, the program recounting the daily life of a working family in Quebec City after World War II starred Émile Genest along with Paul Guèvremont, Denise PELLETIER, Jean-Louis ROUX and Pierre Valcour among other notable actors.
In the early 1960s, in addition to appearing in the series CF-RCK and La Pension Velder, Émile Genest took on the first of a long run of roles in American films, including a number of films for Walt Disney Pictures: after a star turn in Nikki, Wild Dog of the North (1961), shot in the Rocky Mountains, he decided to move to Los Angeles, where he stayed for the remainder of the decade. Mr. Genest was involved in productions of Big Red (1962), Rampage (1963), The Incredible Journey (1963), Norman JEWISON's The Cincinnati Kid (1965), The King's Pirate (1967), In Enemy Country (1968), The Hell with Heroes (1968) and Don't Just Stand There! (1968). The actor also made guest appearances on numerous television series, including Gunsmoke, Route 66, Ironside, Daniel Boone, Perry Mason, The Fugitive, The Virginian and Mission Impossible. After returning to Quebec, Émile Genest took roles in a number of television series, among them Le Paradis terrestre (1968-1972), Dominique (1977-1979), Les As (1977-1978), Monsieur le ministre (1982-1986). He also appeared in a film by Claude Lelouch, À nous deux, in 1979.
A committed federalist and a founding member of the Canadian Unity Council, Émile Genest campaigned diligently for the "no" side leading up to the first sovereignty referendum in Quebec in 1980. Ironically, he accepted a role the following year as the father, Théophile Plouffe, a Quebec nationalist ahead of his time who refused to allow his son to go off and get killed in war fighting for "les Anglais" (in other words, English Canadians) in the film Il était une fois des gens heureux... les Plouffe, by Gilles CARLE, a work more than four hours in length that brought Roger Lemelin's characters to the screen. The role gave Mr. Genest, a seasoned actor at this point, an opportunity to recreate a disquietingly truthful character by juxtaposing anger and tenderness in a performance that remains unforgettable - doubtless the greatest of his career. In 1988, Émile Genest was appointed Quebec Delegate General in Los Angeles by the Liberal government of Robert BOURASSA, a position he held until 1991. He went on to further appearances in television series such as Virginie and Urgence.