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
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
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,
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 6'1Nicholas
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
(imdb.com) 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 www.imdb.com)
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
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
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
Hayden Christensen with George Lucas
(as Walter in La Femme Nikita)
Terry David Mulligan
Brittany Tiplady (on Lance Henriksen's shoulders in the
TV series Millennium)