Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Performing Arts History & Criticism

One Man’s Documentary

A Memoir of the Early Years of the National Film Board

by (author) Graham McInnes

edited by Gene Walz

University of Manitoba Press
Initial publish date
Nov 2004
History & Criticism, Entertainment & Performing Arts
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Nov 2004
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2004
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


Graham McInnes was one of many talented young people recruited by the charismatic John Grierson to build the National Film Board of Canada during the heady days of WWII. McInnes’s memoir of these “days of high excitement” is an insider’s look at the NFB from 1939 to 1945, a vivid “origin” story of Canada’s emerging world-class film studio that provides the NFB with the kind of full-bodied vitality usually associated with the great Hollywood studios in their golden years.An art critic and CBC radio commentator when he joined the NFB in 1939 as a scriptwriter, McInnes worked on many film classics with filmmakers such as Tom Daly, Norman McLaren, Gudrun Parker, and Budge Crawley. McInnes portrays these legends as well as many other players in that dynamic world, such as Lorne Green, Morley Callaghan, and Mavis Gallant, in this stylish, witty, and affectionate recreation of the early day-to-day frenzy.One Man’s Documentary is a lively account of one of the most exciting periods in Canadian filmmaking. With style and verve, McInnes paints vivid portraits of Grierson and the others who helped make the NFB an international institution. Film historian Gene Walz’s introduction gives a full picture of the early history of the NFB as well as an account of McInnes’s fascinating life.

About the authors

Graham McInnes was arts columnist for Saturday Night magazine and a commentator on CBC radio before joining the NFB in 1939. After leaving the NFB in 1945, he joined the foreign service and eventually became Canada's first ambassador to UNESCO. He was the author of two novels and three volumes of memoirs. Graham McInnes died in 1970.

Graham McInnes' profile page

Gene Walz has catalogued exotic birds on every continent save Antarctica, but still has a special place in his heart for the common house sparrow.
An avid birder since 1972, Gene collaborated on two books for Nature Manitoba. Birds of Manitoba won the Manitoba Book Awards for Best Illustrated Book and the Seton Award.
Professor of Film Studies at the University of Manitoba since 1974, Gene Walz retired in 2012, and lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.



Gene Walz's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“Perhaps the most intimate account we have of Grierson … a precious fragment of history, rescued at last.”

National Post

“Because of his relative obscurity, as well as the thirty-five-year delay of publication, not to mention the sixty years that have elapsed since the recounted events took place, this memoir has the feel of a time capsule. Innocent of the debates that have ensued in subsequent years about the place of the Film Board in Canadian film history, McInnes writes with an enthusiasm infused by his memories of youth, new technology, and the sense of purpose provided by the war that is often quite engaging. At times his frank assessments of many aspects of the NFB are downright surprising. Take, for example, this admission of ambivalence about Grierson’s watchword, non-theatrical documentary film: ‘Though Grierson was himself a born teacher and evangelist, and though it was an article of faith with him that film, documentary film, was the great teaching and information medium of the future, he could never get us really excited over non-t[heatrical]’ (48, italics in original). Admissions such as these, along with often racy stories about NFB employees and their circle, give a vivid and not entirely positive picture of working at the Board, which seems all the more compelling as a result.”

Canadian Historical Review, 87.2 (2006) 349-351

Other titles by Gene Walz