Fonds 1993.001 - Gordon Sparling fonds

Identity area

Reference code

CA ON00349 1993.001


Gordon Sparling fonds


  • 1919 - 1992 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

2.83 m of textual records

ca. 3,948 photographs
· ca. 1, 702 photographic prints
· ca. 2, 246 negatives

21 Audio Recordings
· 21 ¼ in. magnetic tapes, 5” and 7” reels

2 Cinefilms
· 2 16mm cinefilm reels

19 graphic materials
· 1 map
· 3 posters
· 13 lobby cards
· 2 overhead transparencies

1 artifact

Context area

Name of creator

(1900 - 1994)

Biographical history

Gordon Sparling was a pioneering director, producer, screenwriter and editor who made about 200 films over 40 years. Sparling was virtually the only creative filmmaker to work in the commercial Canadian film industry during the 1930s, and his Canadian Cameos series of short films were the first major Canadian productions to use sound.
Gordon Sparling was born in Toronto in 1900. Between 1919 and 1923, he attended Trinity College at the University of Toronto, where he became heavily involved with amateur theatre. He joined the Ontario Motion Picture Bureau in 1924, and later spent a year with the Canadian Government Motion Picture Bureau in Ottawa. He left Canada in 1929 to work at Paramount’s Astoria Studios in New York, and remained there for two years. Upon his return, Sparling was asked to create a production department for the Associated Screen News (ASN) in Montreal, which he did on the condition that he could also produce a series of theatrical shorts. His request was granted, and Sparling launched the Canadian Cameo series of short films. Most of these ran about 10 minutes each and addressed a variety of themes, including music, First Peoples, sports, drama and history. Sparling produced 85 Canadian Cameos between 1932 and 1954.
By 1935, Sparling’s new production unit (operating as Associated Screen Studios) was successful enough to permit ASN to build Canada’s first fully-equipped sound studio and it was here that he experimented with a variety of processes. Sparling spent three years in London during WWII as the head of the Canadian Army Film and Photo Unit, where he supervised the production of propaganda and training films. After the war, he returned to ASN and remained there until the production department closed in 1957. He worked as a freelancer for a year, and then joined the National Film Board (NFB) in 1958. Sparling retired from the NFB in 1966.
Following his retirement, Sparling spent his time researching and writing the history of Canadian film. In 1974, he was interviewed for the NFB film Dreamland: A History of Early Canadian Movies 1895-1939, and shortly before his death filmmaker Michael Ostroff completed a short documentary about Sparling’s work, Speaking of Movies. Gordon Sparling died in Toronto in February, 1994.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Fonds illustrates several facets of Gordon Sparling’s long and productive life. The bulk of the material was collected and organized by Sparling as he sought to research and document the development of the Canadian film industry (ca. 1915 – 1992). This material includes press clippings, book excerpts, photographs, negatives, audio reels, cinefilm reels, interview notes and correspondence with prominent figures such as F.R. ‘Budge’ Crawley, Roy Tash, Gratien Gelinas and Dick Bird. Sparling’s professional activities with the Ontario Motion Picture Bureau, Canadian Government Motion Picture Bureau, Paramount Studios, Associated Screen News and National Film Board are well represented here through press clippings, promotional materials, notes, scripts, and other production documents [ca 1924 – 1966]. His service with the Canadian Army Film and Photo Unit is reflected through correspondence, photographs, negatives, newsletters and press clippings (ca. 1943 – 1989), as is his involvement with such organizations as the Canadian Film Institute, Cinematheque Canadienne, Cinematheque Quebecoise, Society of Filmmakers and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (ca 1950 – 1992).
Sparling’s family life is documented through correspondence, photographs, negatives, and audio reels (ca. 1950 – 1992), and his student activities at Trinity College (1919 – 1923) are illustrated through notes, correspondence, photographs, press clippings and prompt books.
The materials were originally arranged in files by Sparling, and this order has been largely maintained.

This fonds includes textual material relating to the following productions:

The Great Shadow (Film, 1920)
Oh Oh Jean! (Film, 1922)
The Man From Glengarry (Film, 1922)
The Proof of Innocence (Film, 1922)
The Bells (Film, 1926)
The Viking (Film, 1928)
His Destiny (Film, 1928)
Wilderness Patrol (Film, 1928)
Carry On, Sergeant! (Film, 1928)
The Silent Enemy (Film, 1930)
The Smiling Lieutenant (Film, 1931)
King’s Plate (Film, 1935)
From Nine to Nine (Film, 1935)
The Great Barrier (1937)
Crystal Ballet (Film, 1937)
Peoples of Canada (Film, 1940)
Northwest Mounted Police (Film, 1940)
49 th Parallel (Film, 1941)
Hudson’s Bay (Film, 1941)
There Too Go I (Film, 1942)
Undercover (Film, 1943)
K225 (Film, 1943)
The Antwerp Story (Film, 1946)
Sins of the Father (Film, 194?)
Bush Pilot (Film, 1947)
Calgary Stampede (Film, 1948)
All About Emily (Film, 1949)
Forbidden Journey (Film, 1949)
Les Lumieres de ma Ville (Film, 1950)
The Immortal Scoundrel/Etienne Brule, Gibier de Potence (Film, 1952)
The Man With A Thousand Hands (Film, 1953)
Coeur de Maman (Film, 1953)
The Little Canadian (Film, 1955)
McLain of Hudson’s Bay (Television?, 1957)
Dreamland: A History of Early Canadian Movies 1895-1939 (Film, 1974)
Fencer’s Art (Film, 1982)
Decline of the American Empire (Film, 1986)
Those Roos Boys and Friends (Film, 1988)
The fonds also includes audiovisual material relating to the following productions:

The Man From Glengarry (Film, 1922)
Carry On, Sergeant! (Film, 1928)
Peoples of Canada (Film, 1940)

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


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Preservation concern may limit access, consult archivist.

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Media Commons does not own copyright of collection materials. Consult rights holder for reproduction(s).

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

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Dates of creation revision deletion

Data copied from Drupal by Adam Cavanaugh 2022/05/02


  • English
  • French
  • German



Canadian Film Encyclopedia

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