First Look: Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town


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CBC Television is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the publication of Stephen Leacock's comedic classic Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town with a brand-new adaptation. With an all-star cast, this adaptation deftly weaves aspects of Leacock's own life into the fictional world his characters inhabit.

This latest adaptation of Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, which was penned by Malcolm MacRury, was 16 years in the making. "Unfortunately it didn't go anywhere [at first]," recalls producer Seaton McLean. "But it remained something we were very keen on doing and felt it was a very important piece of material that hadn't been done."

Two of the 12 sketches found in Leacock's book are the foundation for this adaptation: The Hostelry of Mr. Smith and The Marine Excursions of the Knights of Pythias. "The story of the sinking of the Mariposa Belle is probably the most famous story of Leacock's and I would almost argue the most famous in Canadian literature," MacRury says. "Pairing it with the campaign to keep the bar helps illustrate the small town rivalries and hypocrisies and brings to life so many of the compelling characters in his pages."

However, several of Leacock's beloved characters from other stories make appearances in the film -- after all, they do live in Mariposa, the small town of only 3,011 in which Sunshine Sketches is set. Also making an unexpected appearance is Leacock's real-life family. The Leacocks were well off in England, but struggled to make ends meet after coming to Canada and settling in Orillia, Ontario. This was a risk that MacRury feels paid off. "As a work of imagination and memory with a light brush of magical realism, we were able to take some liberties and not be too faithful to a period adaptation," he says. "I think it also gives the movie some heart."

However, MacRury is just glad that he's able to celebrate Leacock's contributions to Canadian humour with this project. "I feel that Leacock is the originator of Canadian comedy and that it started with Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town," he says. "It's something I wanted to bring back to Canadians today."

The star-studded cast includes Jill Hennessy, Peter Keleghan, Colin Mochrie, Caroline Rhea, Patrick McKenna, Leah Pinsent, Sean Cullen, Ron James and Gordon Leacock.

Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town airs on CBC Television on Sunday, February 12, at 8 p.m. For more information, check out the film's official website.