If you have Rogers digital cable I urge you to check out MPIX On Demand, channel 309 in Toronto, and watch “Nobody Waved Goodbye.” It’s a 1964 NFB documentary-like fictional drama about an 18 year old boy from Etobicoke who goes bad. He rejects his WASPy family, their “middle class values” and their wonderfully ultra-modern suburban home and heads downtown to make it on his own. He washes dishes, parks cars (serially short changing his clients), has a probation officer and a hippy-dippy (but stay-in-school) girlfriend that he serenades with Yorkville style banjo-folk songs. He’s a complete baby-boomer anti-hero, laying into his sister’s dentist boyfriend for being boring but still talking coffee-house existential philosophy (nearly as insufferable as the banjo love songs) with his friends and meets his Mom (indeed, a lady who lunches) for a civilized lunch of chicken pot pie at (what I think is) the
Acadia Room Arcadian Court at the Queen and Yonge Simpsons store (now The Bay — but it could also be the tea room at the King Edward Hotel). He’s a likeable but naive teen version of a 1960s and 70s Jack Nicholson working class intellectual character.
What is most remarkable about this film is it contains so much vintage Toronto, in location but also in sensibility. In some ways it’s the Toronto I grew up with down in Windsor. Though born ten years after this film came out, lots of NFB, CBC and TVO stock representation of this city has a similarly starkly modern look to it (think of those great cigarette – infested, establishment – beatnik CBC shows like This Hour Has Seven Days). Super crisp black and white cinematography (fuzzy subway image capture above notwithstanding), like those early Bloor-Danforth line archival photos we post here from time to time, when the tiles were new and taken care of, and people wore hats and suits. When delinquent Peter (in the film) goes to ask his estranged Dad (a car salesman) for money while captive in the barber’s chair, his father berates him for meeting him underdressed, even though Peter is wearing a button down oxford shirt tucked into jeans and would be fine in most offices today (and not just on casual Fridays). It explained, a bit, why you see so many people dressed up in those old photos: they were shamed into it by their stern Toronto fathers (not an altogether bad idea). I wonder what kind of social upheaval occured a few years laters when Toronto kids started wearing Rush t-shirts.
That dressed-up, proper “Toronto the Good” Toronto does not exist anymore, at large, where everybody had that mid-Atlantic CBC accent. Does anybody know anyone who talks like that these days? I hear it on rare occasions, but even folks I’ve met who I heard speaking with it in old archival clips seem to have lost it now — perhaps it’s similar to the phenomenon and spread of Estuary English in the UK.
Look at that Etobicoke dining room! I’d be interested in hearing from people who know something about this film — I suspect much of the crew still live in Toronto. Or from those who watch it: what does it say to them about Toronto? And finally, from those who lived in Toronto during this period: was the city really like this, or is this a sort of camped-up or thinly-sliced version of Toronto?
Even without thinking about the above questions, it’s a lot of fun to watch and see so much of Toronto 45 years ago including the old Gloucester Subway cars, Rosedale Station with its original tiles, various streetscapes and even the QEW before it became the bland Superhighway it is today. And though it’s easy to poke fun at the period characters, the two leads were really well done and acted, as was the entire film. It does feel like a documentary, and one of those gems that remind us to appreciate institutions like the NFB.
Above, a freeze frame of the terrible suffering and ennui of the baby boomer in full pout.
Photos from the NFB.