The Great Barrier Movie Poster
The Great Barrier
Heres a fine find: a 1937 movie called The
Great Barrier, a fictionalized treatment of the building of
the CPR through the Rockies. And weve met someone who was
in the movie, made 68 years ago!
Site visitor Gordon Rebelato read the reference
on this site to The Great Barrier and called to tell me he
had a copy of the film. It starred Richard Arlen, Lilli
Palmer and Antoinette Cellier . . . but the cast member
we were most interested in was Ernie Rebelato, Gordons
father. Mind you, he was just an extra, 15 years old at the time,
and working for the CPR. But he was earning a very nice 75 cents
an hour on the side for his work on the film.
Would I be interested in having a copy of the film
and meeting his dad, Gordon asked.
I was at his place before he hung up the phone.
With me was rail buff Jim McGraw, who assists me
in the production of this web site, and who wouldnt have missed
this meeting for the world. While Gordons mom Myrtle poured
us nice cool fruit drinks and served up pieces of cake, we learned
from Erniewhos 83 these daysthat the movie was
made in and around Revelstoke (except for the interior scenes where
CPR executives argued about the railways progress, scenes
that were filmed in New York), that he appeared in the mob scenes
(the workers pay was sometimes late in arriving, and living
conditions werent ideal, and so sometimes they got angry),
and that Lilli Palmer was the friendliest of the movies stars.
You can see a write-up on the film at www.imdb.com/title/tt0028951.
The film is dated, of course, and it plays fast
and loose with some of the facts (were told, for example,
that the first train going through is headed for Vancouver, when
in fact the first went to Port Moody. And even though Chinese workers
were plentiful on the real line, they seem very few and far betweenand
unheardin the movie), but its great fun and always interesting.
The actors playing William Van Horne, Sir John A. Macdonald, Major
Rogers and the like look enough like their real-life counterparts,
and the quest for what came to be known as Rogers Pass is handled
dramatically. The construction camp in the moviepresumably
situated in what is now Albertais called Moodyville! Its
named for the movies camp boss, a fellow named Moody, who
has no connection with our Col. Richard Moody of the Royal Engineers,
or the unrelated lumberman Sewell Moody, who ran a thriving mill
on the north shore of Burrard Inlet. (The little settlement that
formed around that latter real-life mill was named, of course, Moodyville.)
The movies fast and loud and exciting, and
it was fun to see the actor playing William Van Horne, the president
of the CPR, putting a furious fist to the jaw of a complaining worker.
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