Canadian Film Pioneer GORDON SPARLING;

SPARLING, GORDON (Toronto, Ont. 13 August. 1900-1994)

Pioneer Director, scriptwriter and producer of some two hundred films in forty years, the creator of the Canadian Cameo* series, and a man of enormous talent and committment to Canadian film, who during the thirties was virtually the only creative filmmaker in the commercial film industry.

He joined the Ontario Motion Picture Bureau in 1924, after graduating from the University of Toronto, where he was involved with amateur theatre at Hart House Theatre. He worked as assistant director on Carry On Sergeant!* in 1927-28 and spent almost a year with the Canadian Government Motion Picture Bureau in Ottawa. Frustrated with the inertia at the Bureau, he accepted an offer to move to New York to work at Paramount's Astoria Studios. Two years later, in 1931, he returned to Canada to make an industrial sponsored film for Associated Screen News.

The head of the ASN, B.E. Norrish, asked him to undertake the organization of a production department and Sparling accepted on condition the he be allowed to produce a series of theatrical shorts.

By 1935 the new unit, operating as Associated Screen Studios, was succesful enough, despite the Depression, to permit ASN to build Canada's first modern, fully equipped sound studio.

The Canadian Cameo series was introduced in 1932 and was produced and (with one exception) written and directed by Sparling until 1954. During the thirties he also made dramatized documentaries (The Breadwinner, House In Order) in the manner of his earlier Spare Time. During the Second World War, he spent three years in London in charge of the headquarters section of the Canadian Army Film and Photo Unit, supervising production of propaganda and training films and 106 issues of the Canadian Army newsreel.

He returned to ASN in 1946 and remained until 1957 when the production department closed. After working freelance for about a year, he joined the NFB in 1958 and was assigned to the production of Royal River, a film about the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
He retired in 1966, but remained active, researching and writing the history of Canadian film.

DIR (notably): When Kappa Kappa Gamma Visited Ontario (24); Spare Time (27); Forward Canada! (31), Miracle at Beauharnois (31); The Breadwinner (32); Canadian Cameo series (1932-55); House in Order/La maison en ordre (36); Wings Over the Atlantic (37); Song the Map Sings (37); The Bright Path (39); Peoples of Canada (40); Those Other Days (41); There Too Go I (42); The Antwerp Story (46); The Mapleville Story (46); Fraser's River (58); The Water Dwellers (63); Landfall Asia (64).

REF: Gordon Sparling, "Speaking of Movies," Trinity University Review, 37, No. 1 (Oct 1924) (reprinted in Feldman/Nelson, Canadian Film Reader, 3-4; Canadian Film News, 5, No. 2 (May 1954), 11; Gordon Sparling, "The Short Way to Canadian Entertainment," in Paquet, How to Make or Not to Make a Canadian Film; Motion, 2 (Jan/Feb 1973), 28-32 (interview, revised by Sparling and reprinted in Feldman/Nelson, Canadian Film Reader, 22-28); That's Showbusiness, 3, No. 24 (Nov. 1974), 7; Morris, Embattled Shadows, 155-56, 228-31; Filmworld, 1, No 9 (Sept 1978), 28; Michie Mitchell, Gordon Sparling - Canadian Film Pioneer: A Retrospective (Ottawa: National Film, Television and Sound Archives, n.d.).

(Used with permission by the author; Peter Morris; "The Film Companion - A Comprehensive Guide To More Than 650 Canadian Films & Filmmakers.
ISBN 0-7725-1505-0)

Back to Pioneer list... ......................................................Next entry...