Sunday Afternoon at the Film Society (Vancouver, 1940)

This home movie records a Sunday afternoon film screening at the Stanley Theatre on Granville Street in Vancouver on April 14, 1940.  The occasion was the ninth screening of the fourth season of the National Film Society of Canada, Vancouver Branch.  The footage was shot by Oscar C. Burritt and Milt Holden, two members of the society.

The Vancouver Branch of the NFSC, founded in 1936, provided Vancouverites with a precious window into non-mainstream cinema — classic silent movies, foreign films, and documentary and experimental works.  Shortly after the 1940 screening shown here, the society ceased operations for the duration of the Second World War.  In 1946, under the leadership of Dorothy Burritt (nee Fowler), Moira Armour, Vernon Van Sickle, and painter Jack Shadbolt, the screenings resumed and attracted a new generation of film lovers.  One of these was the 18-year-old Stanley Fox, whose fascination with film inspired him to make his own amateur films, and led him to a successful career in film and television.

In later years, the Vancouver Branch of the NFSC became The Vancouver Film Society, which operated until the mid-1970s.

Here’s a guide to the contents of this unusual film document:

0:07 – Brief shots of the program booklet for the screening.

0:20 – Exterior views of the Stanley Theatre and Granville Street as people arrive for the afternoon screening.

1:41 – The camera moves inside the theatre auditorium, and we see glimpses from two 1939 documentaries:

  • Finland Speaks, which depicts that country before and during the Russian invasion.
  • The Londoners, on the work of the London County Council, founded in 1886. This film was directed by John Taylor and produced by John Grierson for the Realist Film Unit and the London Commercial Gas Association.  By the time of this screening, documentary theorist Grierson had founded and was leading the National Film Board of Canada in its important wartime information work.

3:10 – Intermission.  Audience members move out into the lobby or out onto Granville Street for a chat and a smoke.

4:12 – Oscar C. Burritt, who shot most of this film, shows up in front of the camera — a balding genial individual who mugs for our benefit outside the theatre.

4:41 – Back in the theatre for the feature presentation:

  • Vi Tva (1939), a romantic drama from Sweden.

4:54 – The rather surprising title flashed on the screen briefly is Swedish for “The End”.

4:58 – The audience leaves the theatre and exits onto Granville Street in the late afternoon light, climbing into their cars or walking away.

This film is part of PR-1780, the Oscar and Dorothy Burritt fonds.  For more information about the Burritts, see my blog post Chinese opera scenes (Vancouver, 1944)


Dorothy Burritt and Moira Armour light up during intermission at the Stanley Theatre, April 14, 1940. (Digital frame grab from BC Archives V1989:05/002.02 item #2)

Film Society mavens Dorothy Fowler and Moira Armour light up in the Stanley Theatre lobby during intermission, April 14, 1940. Dorothy later married Oscar Burritt, an amateur filmmaker who later worked professionally for Vancouver Motion Pictures and CBC Television. (Digital frame grab from BC Archives V1989:05/002.02 item #2)

1 thought on “Sunday Afternoon at the Film Society (Vancouver, 1940)

  1. Pingback: The Pier D Fire (Vancouver, 1938) | Seriously Moving Images

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