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Meet Mr. Pearson

The Story


A week after Parliament resumes under the minority government of Lester B. Pearson, the cameras follow him for a busy day. On his agenda: dealing with a threatened filibuster, a longshoremen walkout, and the start of a state visit by Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie. An avid baseball fan, the P.M. also manages to grab some time watching the start of a World Series game. For the CBC television series The Way It Is, host Patrick Watson introduces Mr. Pearson, an up-close, candid film, as a 1969 view of "the way it was." This look back at 1963, he says, gives a "glimpse of a lifestyle that was to be seen so intimately by the film camera only this once."

Medium: Television
Program: The Way It Is
Broadcast Date: Apr. 20, 1969
Host: Patrick Watson
Narrator: Warren Davis
Guests: Lester Pearson, Allan MacEachen, Mitchell Sharp, J.W. Pickersgill, Lionel Chevrier, Réal Caouette, James Coutts, Mary Macdonald, Maryon Pearson, George McIlraith, Tom Kent, Gordon Robertson, Richard O'Hagan
Duration: 56:33

Did You know?


• The premise of the film was to show the life of the P.M. for just one day, and most of the events depicted did occur on Monday, Oct. 7, 1963. The Dodgers-Yankees World Series game, which we see him sitting down to watch during a quiet break, actually took place the day before.

• Contrary to CBC's usual journalistic standards, CBC producer Ross McLean granted the Prime Minister's Office input on the final cut of the film. According to Knowlton Nash's book The Microphone Wars, Pearson himself and others in his office screened the documentary and suggested several cuts. Eventually the CBC said the film would run as edited despite more concerns by the PMO. But when CBC officials in Ottawa and Toronto screened the final cut, they suddenly decided the fuzzy shots, jerky camera work and jump cuts rendered the film technically unacceptable and revoked its air date.

• The affair became a subject of parliamentary debate when news leaked that CBC would not air Mr. Pearson. The Opposition took the opportunity to accuse Pearson's government of interfering with the CBC, prompting Pearson to phone CBC president Alphonse Ouimet "in a personal capacity" and ask that the film be released. Ouimet declined and Mr. Pearson did not air until 1969, when both Pearson and Ouimet no longer held their offices. 
 


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