Lights! Action! Vancouver!

It turns out there are lots of performers, past and present, born in Metropolitan Vancouver, who have made their mark on TV and in the movies. (One of B.C.’s most famous names is Pamela Anderson, but she was born in Ladysmith, on Vancouver Island, so she doesn’t qualify for this list. Mind you, her entry into showbiz has a Vancouver connection: she was at a BC Lions football game, dressed in a Labatt's Beer T-shirt. Her image popped up on the stadium's wide screen. The fans cheered the beautiful girl, and she was brought down to the 50-yard line and introduced to the appreciative crowd. As a result, she was signed to a commercial contract with Labatt's and became the company's ‘Blue Zone’ girl. The campaign was popular, and other commercials and advertising assignments followed.)

One of the most well-known locally-born movie people, Raymond Burr—TV’s Perry Mason and Robert Ironside—was in a lot of movies over more than 40 years (including a turn as the villain in Hitchcock’s Rear Window), but made his biggest impact on television. Born in New Westminster May 21, 1917, Burr died in California September 12, 1993.

She was born February 28, 1961 in Vancouver. Her dad was Edmonton-born comic Tommy Chong. Rae Dawn Chong likely made her biggest impact in 1981's Quest for Fire . . . but she has more than 60 other movies on her resumé.

Vancouver-born (April 19, 1981) Hayden Christensen was Anakin Skywalker in the last two Star Wars movies. He turns into the evil Darth Vader.

Margaret Yvonne “Peggy” Middleton was born in Vancouver September 1, 1922 and worked for Orpheum manager Ivan Ackery as an usherette. Then in the early ’40s she got into movies as Yvonne DeCarlo. Look for her, for example, as a handmaiden in a tiny role in Hope and Crosby’s 1942 romp, Road to Morocco. She became a star in 1945 in Salome, Where She Danced. She was busy in movies in the 1950s, but by 1964 made the switch to TV where she played horror-queen Lily Munster in The Munsters. Yvonne died January 10, 2007. (There’s a long article on her in this site’s Archives pages.)

Largely forgotten now, Katherine DeMille was a prominent star of the ’30s. Born June 29, 1911 in Vancouver as Katherine Lester, she was orphaned at age 9 and adopted by Cecil B. DeMille. Married to Anthony Quinn from 1936 to 1963, they lost a three-year-old son to drowning in a swimming pool at the home of W. C. Fields. DeMille died April 27, 1995.

Everyone knows now that the late Vancouver-born James Doohan (March 3, 1920) was “Scotty” on the original TV Star Trek series and a couple of the ensuing movies ... but did you know that his real middle name, Montgomery, was the first name of his Star Trek character Montgomery Scott? Doohan died July 20, 2005. His ashes were fired into space, but when the rocket fell back to earth no one found them for days.

Don Francks was born in Vancouver February 28, 1932. He’s worked off and on in movies and TV for nearly 40 years, and was a regular on the TV series La Femme Nikita. And he still keeps that famous diary.

His wonderfully funny/sombre performance as Old Lodge Skins in the 1970 classic Little Big Man earned him an Oscar nomination. Chief Dan George (born June 24, 1899 in North Vancouver) kept working up to age 80. Old-timers will recall his long and distinguished career in CBC-TV drama here, and his stunning “Lament for Confederation” at Empire Stadium on July 4, 1967 when he moved a huge crowd to silence with a poignant remembrance of what the land had been and what the Indian people had lost. George died in Vancouver September 23, 1981.

Next is a man whose face may not be familiar, but whose hand is! Christopher Hart, born in Nanaimo in 1961, played “Thing” in the Addams Family movies . . . the hand that runs around all by itself doing stuff. Hart is a professional magician in real life.

Actress June Havoc has an interesting history. Her real name is June Hovick, and she was born to an itinerant family of entertainers who just happened to be in Vancouver on November 8, 1913 when she was born. June’s sister Louise Rose Hovick (born in 1914 in Seattle) is better known as stripper Gypsy Rose Lee. (In the musical Gypsy!, based on Rose’s life, the character named “Baby June” is based on June Hovick.) June Havoc was fairly prominent in the movies in the 1940s and into the 1950s. Either 94 or 92, she lives in Connecticut..

One of BC’s most well-known movie people was John Ireland, born in Vancouver January 30, 1914. Ireland got an Oscar nomination for his role as reporter Jack Burden in the 1949 film classic All the King’s Men. He made an impression in Spartacus, too, but Ireland had acted in well over 100 movies before he died of leukemia March 21, 1992.

Pacey Witter in the TV series Dawson’s Creek, Joshua Jackson was born in Vancouver June 11, 1978. He’s busy in movies now.

Allan King made a sensation in 1969 with his documentary A Married Couple, following the real-life battling couple Bill and Antoinette Edwards. He got into TV directing in the States in the early ’90s, is still making documentaries. King was born in Vancouver February 6, 1930.

He was Krycek on The X-Files. The 6'1”Nicholas Lea was born June 22, 1962 in New Westminster.

Everybody knows about Terry David Mulligan . . . but did you know his character in the movie Hard Core Logo is named . . . Mulligan? Like Nicholas Lea and Raymond Burr, TDM was born in New Westminster. Date: June 30, 1942.

She was born May 22, 1942 in Vancouver and was first seen professionally in 1961. Barbara Parkins started out as a guest performer on TV series like Leave It To Beaver and Perry Mason, went into movies and was fairly busy for 30 years. She had two appearances on Perry Mason . . . 22 years apart! (1962, 1984) Parkins played the Duchess of Windsor in a TV movie called To Catch a King.

Another Vancouver-born (March 31, 1929) performer who appeared in a Perry Mason episode is Vancouver-born Lee Patterson. His movie-making career spanned the years from the mid-’50s to the mid-’90s. The Internet Movie Database ( says: "Manly actor Lee Patterson will always be remembered by American audiences as the hunky detective alongside equally hunky detectives Van Williams and Troy Donahue in Surfside Six from the 1960s.

Fans of Beverly Hills 91210 went gaga for Brandon Walsh, a.k.a. Jason Priestley. Priestley was born in Vancouver August 28, 1969.

In terms of sheer familiarity, it’s likely that John Qualen is the most recognized British Columbia-born movie performer of them all! And if his name doesn’t ring a bell, don’t despair: Qualen was one of those performers who was in literally scores of movies (139 are listed at without being known by name by the vast majority of movie goers. Remember the scene in Casablanca where a meek little mustachioed fellow approaches freedom fighter Victor Laszlo, apparently to try to sell him a watch . . . and the watch opens to reveal the symbol of Laszlo’s French resistance group? The little guy is John Qualen . . . whose father was a Norwegian-born Lutheran minister (named Kvalen) in Vancouver in 1899 when John was born. Among Qualen’s more memorable roles: Muley in The Grapes of Wrath and the father of the Dionne Quintuplets in a couple of movies made about them.

Jewel Staite has been busy for quite a while in film and TV. She was born in White Rock June 2, 1982, got into TV in a 1991 drama called Posing, has done TV’s Odyssey and The X-Files and movies like Gold Diggers and Carpool.

She was born Dorothy Ruth Hoogstraten February 28, 1960 in Vancouver, came to a tragic end. As Dorothy Stratten she got into movies at 19, started with a modest little role ("Girl who orders pizza") in a modest little movie titled Skatetown, U.S.A. She also got into posing for Playboy magazine in ’79 and was chosen Playmate of the Year in 1980. That was the same year she was murdered by her husband, Paul Snider. The killing inspired two movies: Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten Story (1981) and Star 80 (1983).

Yep, her name really is Brittany Tiplady. She’s the little girl who played Catherine and Frank Black’s daughter on the Vancouver-made TV series Millennium. Brittany was born January 21, 1991 in Richmond.

Deborah Kara Unger, born in Vancouver May 12, 1963, was the first Canadian accepted into the Australian National Institute of Dramatic Art. Unger made her feature film debut in Prisoners of the Sun in 1990, followed by roles in Whispers in the Dark, Till There was You (1990), and Highlander III: The Sorcerer. She was in the award-winning TV mini-series Bangkok Hilton with Nicole Kidman and Denholm Elliott.

A closing note: this list was confined to movie folk actually born in Metropolitan Vancouver. That’s why you didn’t see names like Alexis Smith (Penticton), Meg Tilly (Texada Island), Michael J. Fox (Edmonton), Kim Cattrall (Liverpool, England) or Tommy Chong (also Edmonton).

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Rae Dawn Chong
(publicity shot)

Hayden Christensen with George Lucas

Katherine DeMille

Don Francks
(as “Walter” in La Femme Nikita)

























Terry David Mulligan
[Photo: citytv]


Jason Priestley










Dorothy Stratten

Brittany Tiplady (on Lance Henriksen's shoulders in the TV series Millennium)