Saturday, January 15, 2011

Gordon Pinsent Gets A Much Deserved Salute

Sometimes it seems Canadian TV is jam packed with simulcasts of American shows.
And then along comes something as important as Great Canadian Bios's new profile of Gordon Pinsent titled Still Rowdy After All These Years.
It's virtually a must-see hour biography of the great Canadian actor who proved a home grown career can be the most fulfilling of all.
In past times such a profile would have wound up on CBC (and indeed CBC's Life And Times saluted Pinsent a decade ago).
But with CBC out of the culture game here's Bravo!'s chance to step up to the plate.
Writer-director Barbara Doran has assembled a dazzling array of clips as well as reminiscences from co-workers including producer Perry Rosemond, producer Larry Dane (The Rowdyman), Andy Jones, and Pinsent's two grown children from his first marriage.
It begins on the set of the currently running Pillars Of Earth which was filming in Vienna and shows Pinsent in august company and at 80 at the peak of his game.
His childhood years are beautifully covered --growing up in Grand Falls, Newfoundland, he'd take the train to Gander airport to watch all the Hollywood stars passing through en route to Europe. And he swears Bob Hope talked right to him when he was eight.
But watching all those Hollywood movies at the cinema convinced him he had to get into the business and after a stint in the Canadian army he started acting in Winnipeg where he married and had two children-- he left them when the boy was five and the girl was three. Reconciled decades later, both evoke bittersweet memories of that parting.
The clips are plentiful: from the pivotal movie The Rowdyman (1971), of course and the later John And The Missus (1984) but also his CBC star series: Quentin Durgens, M.P. (1966) and A Gift To Last (1979) --I first interviewed him on the set of that one.
I've interviewed him since in the CBC atrium and in a pool hall on Carlton St. with daughter Leah --I think it was for the miniseries Win Again which wasn't mentioned here --the time problem I'm guessing. Pinsent can also get peeved when provoked --as witness his hasty exit from Wind At My back when he deemed the scripts inferior.
And his defeat in Hollywood is well covered by a clip from Blackula (1972) --Pinsent got typecast down there and couldn't use his other talents as writer and director.
His long marriage to Charmion King is well documented and their daughter Leah pointedly fills in some blanks. She says they separated at least four times because of his philandering. Char as we all called her was quite an actress in her own right --try to catch her 1998 turn as Mary Pickford on the Canadian history series Witness To Yesterday.
But there's his towering performance in Away From Her which reminded us what a gifted actor he can be given the right part.
Pinsent fully cooperated here and his own comments are sometimes piquant and sometimes very funny. And here he is still with us and still contributing to an amazing body of work.
I've always envisaged a sequel miniseries to Quentin Durgens with Leah as his daughter who has inherited his seat and needs help from her father during a particularly bruising political scandal. I still think it would work.
Still Rowdy After All These Years emerges as a model of the TV biography. Having such an important subject makes all the difference.
MY RATING: ****.

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