Gordon Sparling (1900-1994)

Gordon Sparling learned his craft at the Ontario Government Motion Picture Bureau from 1924 to 1927 and in the United States. He returned to Canada in 1931 to set up the film production company Associated Screen News (ASN), whose laboratories were located in Montreal. ASN then launched “Canadian Cameo”, a series of short films with a documentary flavour shot in 35mm for commercial release. The series was so successful that in 1935 ASN had to build new shooting and sound studios. In addition to producing the series, Sparling often took on the role of director. His best films blend documentary, mise en scène and experimentation and took up a wide variety of topics. His masterpiece remains Rhapsody in Two Languages (1934), a poetic and original vision of bilingual Montreal. The films House in Order/La maison en ordre (1936) and Ballet of the Mermaids (1938) also stand out.

During the war, Sparling made films in England and then returned to the ASN at the end of the war. He remained active in the company until its studio closed in 1957. He took advantage of the NFB’s arrival in Montreal and worked there until 1966. With the rare French-Canadian filmmakers of talent working at the NFB, which was located in Ottawa during the 1930 to 1952 period, it is no exaggeration to say that Sparling was truly the most imaginative filmmaker working in Quebec at the time. His films don’t have the charming amateurism of French-speaking artisanal production, which obviously did not have the same resources at its disposal. The “Canadian Cameo” films were the most important made during the 1930s and include a few of the rare classics of the period, thanks to Sparling’s talent. This pioneer made nearly 200 films throughout his impressive career.