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The Case of Charlie Gordon

Year: 1939
Language: English
Format: 16mm Black & White
Runtime: 16 min
Director: Stuart Legg
Producer: Frank Badgley
Writer: Stuart Legg
Cinematographer: John Alexander, Ernest Wilson
Sound: Jack Ryan, George Thurling
Production Company: National Film Board of Canada, Canadian Government Motion Picture Bureau

The Case of Charlie Gordon is often considered a landmark film that began the Grierson era in Canadian documentary. It is one of two films (the other being Youth of Tomorrow) made by Stuart Legg at Grierson’s behest for the Dominion-Provincial Youth Training Plan. It was produced prior to the passing of the National Film Act, which resulted in the creation of the National Film Board and its subsequent absorption of the Canadian Government Motion Picture Bureau.

A dramatized portrait of how an unemployed eighteen-year-old learns a trade and becomes “permanently” employed, the film was produced by the Motion Picture Bureau and released by the NFB. It used non-professional actors and was shot partly on location in the coal town of Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. Though derived from the British GPO filmmakers’ approach and somewhat heavy-handed, it did offer a new approach to social documentary in Canada and aroused considerable controversy upon its release.

By: Peter Morris

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