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506 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 Cumming in a no-nonsense prose that is not without its own charms. Readers perusing these gems of late-Victorian political cartooning might begin to realize, and not without a little astonishment, that their image of John A. Macdonald derives in part from Bengough's frequently reprinted caricatures of the prime minister during the building of the National Railway, the so-called Pacific Scandal (which involved pay-offs and alleged pay-offs to friends and relatives), and the fallout from the Northwest Rebellion. Readers might also conclude that everyone- subject and cartoonist alike- got away with a lot more one hundred years ago. It would seem that the cost of apparent honesty is a less colourful public life (pace President Clinton). It is also worth observing that these cartoons are not especially, or obviously, funny. In contrast to the blunt buffoonery that typifies the editorial cartoons of our dailies, those of Grip functioned as lightly serious political commentary, contained much more coded text, references, and allusions, and assumed a good deal more about the public's intelligence. Cumming convinces us that, with the possible exception of the Week, Grip was Canada's most lively and influential journal of soc:ial and political opinion. If he does so in a style that is at times too journalistic, not to say plodding at length, he can be forgiven, because he is meticulous in the recreation of the social-political ethos of a century ago. And anyway, this is one of those books that should be sampled periodically rather than rigorously read through. Finally, besides being richly informative and thoroughly enjoyable, Cumming's Sketches from a Young Country reminds us again (with Bakhtin) of the value of satire, caricature, and parody, of just how deeply involved in the political-cultural discourses of their times comic texts are and must be, and of the rare opporhmities for vicarious experience they afford today's readers willing to allow tl1ose earlier times their prejudices and biases, their bigotries and battles. (GERALD LYNCH) Eileen Whitfield. Pickford: Tlze Woman Who Made Hollywood Macfarlane, Walter and Ross, and the University Press of Kentucky. xiv, 442. us$25.00 Betty Lee. Mllrie Dressler: The Unlikeliest Star University Press of Kentucky. x, 318. us$25.00 The Canadian contribution to the American cinema has been considerable, but perhaps few Canadians know, for instance, that of the first four women who received Best Actress awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, three were Canadians: Mary Pickford in the second year (1928-29), followed by Norma Shearer and Marie Dressler. In the past year, HUMANlT[ES 507 coincidentally, important biographies of two of these, Pickford and Dressler, have appeared. To review these two books together, as logic and the coincidence of their publication would seem to demand, is to produce a study in contrasts rather than similarities. The two actresses were a generation apart: Dressler was born in Cobourg in 1868, and Pickford in Toronto in 1892 (these dates are now, after long dispute, definitive). Both made famous, it is true, names that were not their own: Dressler was christened Leila Koerber, and Pickford, Gladys Smith. Pickford was tiny, which enabled her to play girlish roles even in her thirties; Dressler was tall and statuesque- as she herself said, 'too homely for a prima donna and too big for a soubrette.' Both came to film from the stage, where both were associated with the reigning impresario of his day, David Belasco; but Dressler came to film inhermid-forties, an established actress who directed much of her first film herself, even though the director was Mack Sennett (another Canadian), and dominated the performances of Mabel Normand and Charlie Chaplin, albeit at the start of their careers. Pickford, who made her first film at seventeen, at first regarded the new medium as vastly inferior to the theatre, and was drawn to it only because it paid better; Dressler seems to have regarded her entry into film as a means of reaching a wider audience, and that first film, which was also the first feature-length comedy, Tillie's Pul1ctured Romance (1914), was adapted from a very successful...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 506-509
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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