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Canadian Film History: 1939 to 1973

Filmmaking is a powerful form of cultural and artistic expression, as well as a highly profitable commercial enterprise. From a practical standpoint, filmmaking is a business involving large sums of money and a complex division of labour. This labour is involved, roughly speaking, in three sectors: production, distributionand exhibition. The history of the Canadian film industry has been one of sporadic achievement accomplished in isolation against great odds. Canadian cinema has existed within an environment where access to capital for production, to the marketplace for distribution and to theatres for exhibition has been extremely difficult. The Canadian film industry, particularly in English Canada, has struggled against the Hollywood entertainment monopoly for the attention of an audience that remains largely indifferent toward the domestic industry. The major distribution and exhibition outlets in Canada have been owned and controlled by foreign interests. The lack of domestic production throughout much of the industry’s history can only be understood against this economic backdrop.

This article is one of four that surveys the history of the film industry in Canada. The entire series includes: Canadian Film History: 1896 to 1938; Canadian Film History: 1939 to 1973; Canadian Film History: 1974 to Present; Canadian Film History: Regional Cinema and Auteurs, 1980 to Present.

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Chansonniers

Félix Leclerc and Raymond Lévesque were the originators of this new species and of the movement it generated, though some historians point to La Bolduc and even Rolland (Le Soldat) Lebrun as its predecessors.

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Conrad Black

Conrad Moffat Black, Lord Black of Crossharbour, newspaper publisher, author, columnist and historian (born 25 August 1944 in Montreal, QC). Conrad Black owned and published a large network of newspapers in Canada and abroad between 1969 and 2004. He was convicted of mail fraud and obstruction of justice in 2007 and served a prison sentence in the United States. However, Black was pardoned for his convictions in 2019 by US president Donald Trump. He is a well-known author and columnist on history and politics.

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Maisie Hurley

Maisie Hurley, née Maisie Amy Campbell-Johnston, Vancouver-area political activist, Indigenous ally (see Indigenous Peoples in Canada), newspaper founder and art collector (born 27 November 1887 in Swansea, Wales; died 3 October 1964 in North Vancouver, British Columbia). Although Hurley had no formal legal training or law degree (see Legal Education), she worked on several legal cases and advocated for Indigenous peoples’ basic human rights as well as for changes to the Indian Act. In 1946, Hurley started a newspaper called The Native Voice that aimed to bring attention to important issues concerning Indigenous communities across Canada (see Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada). In 2011, Hurley’s collection of Indigenous art was displayed at the North Vancouver Museum.

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Bruce Cockburn

Bruce Douglas Cockburn, OC, singer, songwriter, guitarist, activist (born 27 May 1945 in Ottawa, ON). Bruce Cockburn is one of Canada’s preeminent singer-songwriters, guitarists and social-justice activists. His music blends folk, rock, pop and jazz, and typically addresses spiritual themes and global issues from a politically charged perspective. He has had 17 albums certified gold in Canada and three certified platinum, and has sold more than seven million copies worldwide. The winner of 11 Juno Awards from 31 nominations, he has also received the inaugural Allan Waters Humanitarian Award and the Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award, and been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. Recognized as “a latter-day wandering minstrel whose songs reflect the discontents of modern society,” he received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, and was made a Member (1982) and Officer (2002) of the Order of Canada.

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Pitikwahanapiwiyin (Poundmaker)

Pitikwahanapiwiyin (Poundmaker), Cree chief (born circa 1842 in central SK; died 4 July 1886 in Blackfoot Crossing, AB). Remembered as a great leader, Pitikwahanapiwiyin strove to protect the interests of his people during the negotiation of Treaty 6. Considered a peacemaker, he did not take up arms in the North-West Rebellion (also known as the North-West Resistance). However, a young and militant faction of his band did participate in the conflict, resulting in Pitikwahanapiwiyin’s arrest and imprisonment for treason. His legacy as a peacemaker lives on among many Cree peoples, including the Poundmaker Cree Nation in Saskatchewan.

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Helmut Kallmann

Helmut Max Kallmann, CM, music librarian, historian (born 7 August 1922 in Berlin, Germany; died 12 February 2012 in Ottawa, ON). A pioneering music historian, Helmut Kallmann was the foremost scholar of Canadian music history.

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Shad

Shadrach Kabango (a.k.a. Shad, Shad K.), rapper, singer, songwriter, radio host (born 18 July 1982 in Kenya). Witty, passionate and earnest, Shad is a Juno Award-winning rapper known for his sharp, socially conscious lyrics. His playful musical style blends rap and hip-hop with rock, R&B and other genres. In 2008 and 2010, the National Post named him the best rapper in Canada, and in 2013 CBC Music ranked him No. 2 in their list of the 25 Greatest Canadian Rappers Ever. Paste magazine hailed him in 2013 as “Canada’s most talented, genuine musical artist and one of the industry’s finest poets.” Shad has been nominated for the Polaris Music Prize four times (2008, 2010, 2014, 2019) and hosted CBC Radio One’s flagship talk show q from April 2015 to August 2016.

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Elizabeth Raum

Elizabeth Raum (b Hodges). Composer, oboist, b Berlin, NH, 13 Jan 1945, naturalized Canadian 1985; B MUS and Performer's Certificate (Eastman School of Music, Rochester) 1966, M MUS (Regina) 1985, hon DHumL (Mount Saint Vincent) 2004.

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Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake)

Emily Pauline Johnson (a.k.a. Tekahionwake, “double wampum”) poet, writer, artist, performer (born 10 March 1861 on the Six Nations Reserve, Canada West; died 7 March 1913 in VancouverBC). Pauline Johnson was one of North America’s most notable entertainers of the late 19th century. A mixed-race woman of Mohawk and European descent, she was a gifted writer and poised orator. She toured extensively, captivating audiences with her flare for the dramatic arts. Johnson made important contributions to Indigenous and Canadian oral and written culture. She is listed as a Person of National Historic Significance and her childhood home is a National Historic Site and museum. A monument in Vancouver’s Stanley Park commemorates her work and legacy. In 2016, she was one of 12 Canadian women in consideration to appear on a banknote. (See Women on Canadian Banknotes.)

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Shania Twain

Shania Twain (born Eilleen Regina Edwards), aka Eilleen Twain, OC, singer, songwriter, guitarist, (born 28 August 1965 in Windsor, ON).

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Cowboy Junkies

The Cowboy Junkies are an alternative country and folk-rock band based in Toronto. Their breakthrough album, The Trinity Session (1988), established their signature sound, a melancholic mix of folk and blues marked by stripped-down instrumentation and lead singer Margo Timmins’s hushed yet haunting vocals. One of the most popular Canadian bands of the late 1980s and 1990s, the Cowboy Junkies have had two platinum and three gold albums in Canada and have sold more than 5 million albums worldwide. They have been inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

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CBC Radio Orchestra

CBC Radio Orchestra (CBC Vancouver Chamber Orchestra 1938-80; CBC Vancouver Orchestra 1980-2000). Longest-lived regularly performing Canadian radio orchestra, and last remaining radio orchestra in North America.