Local cinema: Westmount’s
dubious film history

Don’t count on these movies ever becoming classics

By Wayne Larsen

The recent announcement of the Academy Award nominations has ignited that annual buzz whereby people will be debating and second-guessing the choices all the way up to the big night in late February. But while everyone’s attention is now focused on Hollywood, few people recall that Westmount has played a significant role in motion-picture history, having turned out many films of its own over the years. Now, with the wind howling and snow piling up on the sidewalks, what better time to sit back and relax with a few old movies to pass the time. And what better movies to revisit than some of those hidden gems among our locally produced oeuvre that might — or might not — deserve a second viewing:

Abbott & Costello Meet Duplessis
In this black-and-white comedy, John Abbott and Frank Costello travel to Quebec City, where they are forced to work as Union Nationale thugs—intimidating voters and stuffing ballot boxes on Election Day.

Muhc Ado About Nothing
An ostensibly innocent typo leads to untold complications in this Shakespearian farce about corruption and traffic jams, all set amid the bureaucratic confusion of a recently constructed superhospital.

East of Edgehill
Sibling rivalry explodes all over the screen in this cautionary tale of two Westmount brothers whose competition escalates after one of them discovers their long-lost mother working for the City of Montreal.

Debbie Does Dorchester (Adults only)
A promiscuous lower Westmount woman embarks on a sexual odyssey to spread love door-to-door along her street — but she’s forced to stop at Atwater, where it suddenly turns into Boul. René-Lévesque.

This quirky Capra-esque comedy follows the misadventures of a gentle Westmount newspaper adman who is lured out of retirement and ends up setting sales records with the help of a six-foot, invisible rabbit.

The 4300 Blows
Truffaut’s nouvelle-vague masterpiece revolves around tenants of a luxury apartment building whose lives are turned upside down by the arrival of a loveable young orphan who steals their valuables—and their hearts.

Lewis and Clarke
In this rustic adventure, residents of two Westmount streets agree to team up and take on a dangerous challenge to explore and map the far side of the Summit slope, accidentally discovering Boul. Côte-des-Neiges in the process.

West Island Story
The Fairview shopping centre is turned into a turf-war battleground as rival teenage gangs sing and dance their way through a series of rumbles and romances in an ongoing struggle to gain control of the food court.

The French-Only Connection
Gene Hackman chews the scenery as a tough OQLF language cop obsessed with taking down a ring of Anglo vandals who have been adding STOP to local Arrêt signs — in letters twice as large as the French.

The Lawnbowler Man
In this Stephen King horror tale, an explosion in the electrical substation beneath a bowling green turns a feeble senior into a monstrous mutant — an unstoppable lawn-bowling champion hell-bent on bowling down the entire city.

Dial P for Peanuts
Alfred Hitchcock directed this tense thriller in which Westmount Public Security officers relentlessly pursue the mysterious stranger they believe is responsible for feeding squirrels in parks and public squares throughout the neighbourhood.

Sleepless on Sainte-Catherine
Exactly three years after the completion of a new arena, residents still haunted by construction noise gather for a midnight rendezvous at one of the underground rinks to share and discuss various insomnia remedies.

Chariots of Fur
This buddy film tells the story of two dogs who love running together, but their friendship is tested once their owners end up on opposite sides of the fence when it comes to deciding where to put the new dog run.

If It’s Wednesday, This Must Be Westmount
After an inept deliveryman accidentally leaves their front door open, a local couple ends up having to entertain an eclectic assortment of colourful and opinionated guests one night each week for over 33 years.

Of Mice and Menschen
A Westmount rabbi and his wife pray for divine intervention after hiring two Gentile drifters to work as handymen around the synagogue — a street-wise, foul-mouthed, world-weary cynic, and an idiot.

Image: via StockPholio.com

Wayne Larsen

Wayne Larsen is a newspaper editor and columnist whose work has appeared in several print and online publications. His freelance career included work as a news and feature writer for The Gazette and an advance copy editor at Reader’s Digest Canada. From 2000 to 2010 he was editor-in-chief of the Westmount Examiner.

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  1. Henry Olders

    Hey, Wayne! Very funny! Now what about an article on real movies with a Westmount connection (or has that been done already?)

    • Patricia Dumais

      Perhaps our readers can come up with examples of:
      – movies with scenes shot in Westmount
      – actors, directors and producers who live(d) in Westmount

      I’ll start with:
      – Norma Shearer, screen legend of the thirties, who grew up here before moving to New York and Los Angeles

      And, of course, there’s the acting Camacho family that we featured in an article:

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