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Canadian Film Encyclopedia

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Kenneth J. Bishop

Perhaps the most notable entrepreneur of the Canadian film scene in the thirties, Kenneth Bishop was the driving force behind two companies – Commonwealth Productions and Central Films – that produced fourteen of the twenty-two quota quickies made between 1933 and 1937. The films were produced at breakneck pace (twelve of the fourteen were made in the two years between 1935 and 1937), simply to take advantage of the British quota law. They were thoroughly generic and made under the supervision of Columbia Pictures. Bishop made frequent trips to Hollywood to ensure that the studio was happy with the product, and to oversee processing and editing, which were not done in Canada.

Bishop’s objective to produce genre pictures in the Hollywood mold succeeded perhaps too well. As a British critic commented in regard to Vengeance (1937), one of Central Films’ gangster thrillers: “The film comes from Canada and for quota purposes counts as British, but in content, treatment, and acting it is indistinguishable from the everyday American second-feature melodrama.” The quota law was re-written in 1938 to exclude Canadian films from exemption.

Bishop himself remains something of an enigma. Though he claimed to have been a producer since 1918, it’s more widely reported that he was a promoter on the fringes of the industry, following a career as an actor in the early days of Hollywood.

By: Tom McSorley