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Royal Journey

(Voyage royal)

Year: 1951
Language: English
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 54 min
Director: David Bairstow, Gudrun Parker, Roger Blais
Producer: Tom Daly
Writer: Leslie McFarlane
Cinematographer: Grant McLean, Osmond Borradaile
Editor: Victor Jobin, Betty Brunke, Ronald Dick
Sound: Joseph Champagne, Kenneth Heeley-Ray
Music: Louis Applebaum
Narration: Elwood Glover
Production Company: National Film Board of Canada
Royal Journey, a documentary account of the five-week Canadian tour by young Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh to Canada and the United States in the fall of 1951, demonstrates the National Film Board at its most technically skilful – but also its most institutionally ponderous and pompous. We follow the royal train as it crosses the Prairies and the Rockies, stopping in several small towns along the way. The royal couple boards HMCS Crusader in Vancouver and watches Native dancers in Victoria’s Thunderbird Park, then are welcomed to the United States by President Harry S. Truman.

A cross-section of Canadiana greets the royals during the remainder of their journey: a ballet performance in Winnipeg; the pageantry of Montreal and Quebec City; the huge air force base at Trenton, Ontario; the National War Memorial in Ottawa; the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton; a steel mill in Sydney, Nova Scotia; the Newfoundland outport of Portugal Cove.

The film is memorable less for its scenes of joy-filled Canadian life than for having been the first major film to use the new single emulsion Eastmancolor stock (this stock was chosen due to the historical significance of the event) – and for its successful theatrical run. It was seen by millions of Canadians (breaking box-office records for any Canadian film up to that time) and was released theatrically in Britain, the United States and many other countries. It won a Canadian Film Award for Feature Length Documentary and a BAFTA Award for Best Documentary.