Early Toronto Newsreels at the Revue

Come out to the Revue Cinema on Roncesvalles on Wednesday night for a glimpse at some of Toronto’s rarely-seen visual heritage with Early Cinema Screenings, presented by the Domitor Association.

I’ve been attending the 11th Domitor Conference on the study of early cinema this week, and needless to say, I’ve become a giant sponge, taking in all the information from the lectures delivered by worldwide academics, some whose work I’d admired for a long time, and some whose work I will now follow. The title to this year’s conference is Beyond The Screen: Institutions Networks and Public of Early Cinema.

Domitor may sound like an acronym, but it blends itself properly into its namesake: the Lumiere Bros.’ father had originally suggested that name for the pesky flickering machine they invented which continues to captivate us today.

But the conference is more than lectures and a chance for academics to converge and share ideas — one of Domitor’s mandates is to strengthen ties between scholars and archivists, and they’ve opened their doors to the public for a series of screenings, the final one taking place tonight at the Revue, where several newsreels from 1912 to 1916 highlighting Toronto’s transition from amusement to wartime will be shown with live piano accompaniment by renown pianist William O’Meara.

You’ll see several views of the CNE grounds; rugby, with spectators dressed in their Sunday best; boating excursions on Lake Ontario and aquatic scenes at the High Park Sanitarium Mineral Baths, then the largest swimming tank in all of Canada, will be shown, courtesy of Library and Archives Canada. Archivist D.J. Turner will be on hand to discuss his efforts in restoring the films.

The newsreels were all shot by William James, a prominent Toronto photographer who emigrated from Britain in 1906 and whose work was often in the employ of the Toronto Daily Star. His photography collection now resides at the archives of the City of Toronto.

They show an evolving city fraught with growing pains: the construction of the Don Valley Viaduct and the Humber Bridge at Bloor St, the first concrete highway linking Toronto to Hamilton, meant to “give pleasure to 700 000 people,” says an intertitle. (You even catch a glimpse of cyclists and automobilists sharing the road!).

You’ll see the war recruitment effort in full force, with the 109th regiment traveling through the city via streetcar to aid enlistment; Red Cross collection efforts on the steps of Old City Hall (seen in the photo above); prohibitionists parading the Parliament buildings in favor of a Dry Ontario; and finally, the first troops leaving for war.

Early Cinema Screenings will also feature two travelogues, one featuring Vancouver and Victoria street and harbour scenes, and The Land of the Midnight Sun, a 1915 travelogue made by the Canadian Motion Picture Bureau.

Presented on Wednesday, June 16, 7pm, at the Revue Cinema, 400 Roncesvalles. Admission $5.

Leave a Comment