08 December 2009

Gratien Gélinas: 100 ans

Actor and playwright Gratien Gélinas was born 100 years ago today in the small town of St-Tite-de-Champlain, some fifty kilometres north of Trois-Rivières. I suppose to Canadians of a certain generation – by which I mean mine – he's remembered mainly as Mitsou's grandfather. Seems so unfair considering his numerous roles at Stratford, dedicated work as chairman of the Canadian Film Development Corporation, and the popularity, both inside and outside Quebec, of plays like
Tit-Coq, Bousille et les justes and La Passion de Narcisse Mondoux. But then, Gélinas was first and foremost a man of the theatre, meaning, of course, that ten years after his death there's now a significant percent of the population that never had the opportunity to see him on stage.

It's interesting to note that in a career lasting well over half a century, he acted in only six films, including the screen adaptation of Tit-Coq, which he also produced and directed. At the 1953 Canadian Film Awards, it was recognized as Film of the Year... but, this being Canada, it has pretty much disappeared. Of his film roles, only that of Father Martineau in Norman Jewison's Agnes of God is in any way accessible. And I do mean accessible – someone's posted the entire film on YouTube, beginning right here. Longer than a Mitsou video... more rewarding, too.

And I do like Mitsou.

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