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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Nobody Waved Goodbye

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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.



  1. I love this film, it reminds me of my family and of Toronto of old. John Spotten, the NFB legend, shot this which is why it looks so great still.

  2. the Acadia Room at the Queen and Yonge Simpsons store

    …Arcadian Court?


    Must check this out one of these days! And ask my parents.

  3. You are correct — I had Arcadian Court in my head, but Acadia Room came out of the fingers. I’m trying to recall the name of restaurant in the Windsor Simpsons — it might have been called the Arcadian Room…or maybe it was also “Court”. It was on the 2nd floor and overlooked the mall — sometimes we got to sit next to the glass.

    Someobody might be able to confirm that it is the location — my other guess, which the more I think about it might be correct — is the lunch scene took place at teh tea room at the King Edward.

    Kind of the same place though.

  4. I haven’t had a chance to see this film in its entirety but I love its semi-unscripted dialogue. In a way, it’s kind of a Canadian representation of ‘realist’ film trends going on in other countries at the time.

    Little known fact: the director followed up with a ‘twenty years later’ sequel called “Unfinished Business.” Reviews I’ve about it have not been that favourable, but it does feature a young Ann-Marie MacDonald!

  5. So, I just emailed this to a friend and the confirmation window said it sent the article “Shortening the Annette Bike Lane”. Is this an error with the confirmation, or did it send the wrong article?

  6. blarg: I just tested it and there was no problem. If you did it off of the front page of the blog that might have caused a hiccup. But it you try and email it from the permalink page it should be fine.

  7. I think a face to go with the accent you are speakign of would be Christiane Amanpour of CNN. She works it beautifully too.

  8. Interesting example. Amanpour fled Iran with her family when the Shah fell in 1979 and moved to London — so her’s is very much a colonial British accent, so has parallels with Toronto. Your example also brings to mind how many Maltese people speak english, at least a certain social class of Maltese, where the accent seems to bypass Malta and head straight for Eton, but is somewhat altered.

    scott> mPix (or similar) had Buster Keaton Rides Again on a few weeks ago, and I found the cinematography wonderful — and indeed it is Spotton again. He is likely responsible for a big part of the way I think of Canada.

  9. Directed by Don Owen who now lives in the Performing Arts Lodge on the Esplanade. He is wheelchair-bound and almost always sporting a fez.

    Peter’s mother is played by the great Charmion King, Gordon Pinsent’s late wife.

    I’m leaning more toward the King Eddy. Though, that crow’s nest atop The Bay is one of my favorite places in the entire city.

  10. Watching this film awhile back made me understand the stories my father told of why he disliked growing up in Toronto during that era.

    It was the Arcadian (Court or Room) in Windsor…going there when I was a kid was treated as special lunch occasion at Devonshire Mall, as opposed to eating at the cafeteria on the top floor at Sears, in the days before the food court arrived. It looked classy, with dark blue seats and carpeting. So odd to see it filled with outdoor furniture on one trip back.

  11. Don’t forget the incomparable John Vernon as the shady parking lot operator!

  12. This film is truly a classic. A prime example of cinema verite techniques. A serious attempt at examining social issues in post-WWII Canada. And, most interestingly, a capturing of a quaint Toronto that no longer exists. This film should be available in DVD. It was available in video for a few years nearly a decade ago, but, I haven’t been able to find a copy. Although I’ve only seen this film twice, and most recently, many, many years ago, it has persistently kept with me.

  13. “…even the QEW before it became the bland Superhighway it is today.”

    Was there really a time when the QEW was an exciting and vibrant highway?

  14. “He’s a likeable but naive teen version of a 1960s and 70s Jack Nicholson working class intellectual character.”

    Looking at him from the perspective of a 2008-era 20 yr old, he seems like a sociopathic klepto douchebag.

  15. Mark> It was built as a bucolic motoring parkway, in a sort of 1930s-1950s sense. Over the years it turned into a freeway. One or two issues ago we profiled the Lion in the Park near the Humber that used to be in the middle. I hope I didn’t imply exciting and vibrant. But gentle and wide open, certainly.

    Denis> I suppose all the anti-hero’s could be described as such.

  16. The NFB website shows it as being available on DVD.

  17. I saw the sequel, “Unfinished Business” on CBC in 1987 or so. It attempts to capture a more updated, multi-cultural, 1980s Toronto. It comes complete with New Wavers, broken families, anti-nuke activists, and early denizens of the burgeoning Queen West music scene (Parachute Club and Alta Moda)

    I also seem to remember a scene with a bitchy Sherry Keane, at the time a member of The Sharks. But maybe that was a different movie.

    It doesn’t have the same impact as the original film but it left a lasting impression on me. I was a youngster on the Prairies and it presented a pretty hip (for the time) portrayal of an almost mythical Toronto.

  18. oooh, I have Rogers Digital Cable, but don’t have moviepix… Does anyone know if you can watch this at the nfb mediatheque on John?

  19. Hey Jacoby

    Thanks for the link.

    We’ll be putting hundreds more films up in the coming months and hopefully more yet in the coming years.

    Also, it’s the 70th anniversary of the NFB next year.