Canadians in Hollywood


Motion pictures (films), have been a part of Canada since the beginning of the rapid growth of
Valentino_in_The_Four_Horsemen_of_the_Apocalypse.jpg
Scene from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), the highest-grossing silent film.

technology during the 1900s to the 1920s. More and more Canadians started to watch films as one of their main entertainment activities. In fact, by the end of the 1920s, there were more than 900 movie houses (a movie theater back then) across Canada. Spending Saturday afternoons at the movie houses were every kids' wish, and Hollywood movies were arguably the most popular entertainment for the adults.










Facts and Details


Even though the popularity of Hollywood films were at the highest during this time, Canadian films were not as popular. Canadian films were often very unsuccessful because they had to compete with Hollywood's superior business tactics. Statistics state that over 97% of films screened in Canada were foreign films. Early Hollywood can be categorized into 2 time periods. The Silent Film era (1900s -1920s) and the Sound Film era, also known as talkies (1925~). The 'Canadian Pioneers in Early Hollywood' were active during both of the time periods.

The Silent Film Era


Silent films were motion pictures with no synchronized recorded sounds or spoken dialogues. The movie played a little faster than real-life speed because of the lack of development in technology at the time. Stars of Hollywood's silent screen were idolized by the Canadian public because they provided excitement ordinary people lacked in their daily lives. Due to the film's inability to portray sound, actors acted using a unique acting technique. They strongly emphasized body languages and facial expressions so that the audience could better understand what the actor was feeling. It seemed as if the actors were unnecessarily overreacting at everything.

Actors / Actresses


mary-pickford.jpg Mary Pickford (1892-1979)

Mary Pickford, born Gladys Louise Smith, was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. She began working at the age of five after her father's alcohol related death. She soon worked 15 hours a day at various theaters in Toronto. At the age of eight, her family moved to New York where she began to work in Broadway.

Soon she met D.W Griffith at the 'Biograph Company' and began a career in film, quickly becoming one of Hollywood's top-paid stars and producers. Her fame became so huge that, she was surrounded by thousands of mobs wherever she went. She was known as 'America's Sweetheart', 'Little Mary' ,and 'the girl with the curls'. Her acting style was unique for a silent film actress in a way that she magnified her human and comic sense through her acting.


When she retired, she returned to Canada to promote her later works and encourage the Canadian film industry. She developed alcoholism which led to her death cause by cerebral hemorrhage. Her contribution to Hollywood was greatly appreciated that the American Film Institute named her the '24th Greatest Female Stars of All Time'.

Notable Works- Secrets (1933), Tess of the Storm Country (1914), The Poor Little Rich Girl (1917)

Quote(s)- "If you have made mistakes, even serious ones, there is always another chance for you. What we call failure is not the falling down but the staying down."





Florence_Lawrence.jpgFlorence Lawrence (1886-1938)

Florence Lawrence, born Florence Annie Bridgewood, was born in Hamilton, Ontario as the daughter of vaudeville actress and a father who died when she was 12 years old. In 1898 he family moved to Buffalo, New York where she developed athletic skills like horseback riding and ice-skating.

She began her career as an actress when she was attracted by the growth of the motion picture industry. In 1906, at twenty years of age, she made a role in he first motion picture. The next year, she appeared in 38 movies for the 'Vitagraph film company', where she made fame and success. She worked as a decent actor with recognition from the public until November 1912, when she decided retire.

Soon she developed symptoms of depression when her mother died in 1912, and chronic pain from a rare bone marrow disease. Also the stock market crash and the Great Depression added pain to her. Her pain ended when died by committing suicide on 27 December 1938 by eating insecticide.

She remained forgotten until 1991, when actor Ruby McDowall of the National Film Preservation Board, paid for a memorial marker that read, 'The Biograph Girl/The First Movie Star.'

Notable Works- The Automobile Thieves (1906), The Broken Bath (1907), The Planters Wife (1909)

The Sound Film Era (Talkies)


Sound Films were motion pictures with synchronized sounds as opposed to silent films. It was developed In the early 1925s when the sound recording technology was developing. Sound films were played at normal speed and the actors acted differently from the sound film actors. Due to the films ability to portray sound, actors focused on acting emotionally and emphasizing the intonations in their lines.

Actors / Actresses


Plunder_of_the_Sun6-Glenn_Ford.jpgGlenn Ford (1916-2006)

Glenn Ford, born Gwyllyn Samuel Newton Ford, was born in Quebec City, Quebec. He was a great-nephew of Canada's first prime minister John A. MacDonald. After moving to the United Stated at the age of 8, he graduated Santa Monica and started to work in small theater groups. As he developed his acting skills and pursued his career in the world of films, he was recognized by Columbia Pictures in 1939.

After serving in the military during World War II, he earned fame when he starred in the Film Gilda in 1946. He was praised by the public for his "stamina and poise in a thankless role" ,"despite the movie's poor direction". His careers flourished in the 1950s and 1960s as he starred in more and more films. He retired some point during his senior age.

He died in his Beverly Hills home on August 30, 2006 at the age of 90 due to s series of strokes he was suffering from for the past 3 years. Despite his versatility, Ford was best known for playing ordinary men in unusual circumstances.

Notable Works- Flight Lieutenant (1942), Gilda (1946), 3:10 to Yuma (1957)

Quote(s)- "An actor should be ready to play any role within reason. For example, I think the most ridiculous thing for me to do would be to try and play Shakespeare."


Marie_Dressler_portrait_crop.jpgMarie Dressler (1868-1934)

Marie Dressler, born Leila Marie Koerber, was born in Cobourg, Ontario. As a young child, Marie Dressler had the ability to make people laugh and started her acting career when she was 14. In 1892, she made her debut on Broadway. She was hoping to make a career of singing light opera but her talent persuaded her to pursue a career in vaudeville, which was was a theatrical genre of variety entertainment.

When sound films were invented, she moved to Santa Barbara in 1929. Even though 'talkies' were totally different from her previous methods of acting, it presented no problems for her. Her rumbling voices could handle both sympathetic and comic scenes especially in the 1929 sound film, 'The Vagabond Lover'.


Dressler was able to go on to act in comic films because of her physical characteristic which was able to emphasize her acting. She quickly became the number one box-office attraction for Hollywood, and stayed on top until her death at the age of 65. In addition to her comic sense and her natural elegance, she demonstrated her talents by taking on serious roles. She won the Academy Awards for Best Actress in 1931 for her role in Min and Bill 1930.

Notable Works- The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (1929), The Divine Lady (1929), Going Hollywood (1933)

Quote(s)- "I contend that every woman has the right to feel beautiful, no matter how scrambled her features, or how different her features."

Significance of Canadians in Hollywood


Some Canadians made their names in Hollywood. Since the beginning of the 1900s, young men and women, mostly boys and girls, were drawn from Canada to Hollywood due to its great influence. Many migrated to the American industry in search of fame and success in Hollywood. Surprisingly, a few of them became very successful that they were able to symbolize their Canadian identity in the culture and movie industry in Hollywood. They are known as the 'Canadian Pioneers in Early Hollywood'. Hollywood's early cultural impact on Canada was the major starting point of in which the two nations began to share their cultures.