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Elwy Yost turned a love of movies that he developed as a child into a career educating and entertaining Canadians as host of popular shows including TVOntario's Saturday Night at the Movies and CBC's Passport to Adventure. Yost died Thursday in West Vancouver of natural causes. ((Canadian Press))

Elwy Yost — the witty host of programs such as TVOntario's iconic Saturday Night at the Movies and the CBC's afternoon movie show Passport to Adventure — has died of natural causes at 86 at his home in West Vancouver.

Yost was a lifelong movie aficionado who put an educational twist to the shows he hosted for TVOntario and CBC over a decades-long television career, most notably with Saturday Night at the Movies from 1974-1999 and  Passport to Adventure from 1965-1967.

He died Thursday, surrounded by his wife of 60 years and sons, the family said in a statement.

Born on July 10, 1925, in the then Toronto suburb of Weston, Ont., Yost grew up during the Depression, the only child of Elwy Honderich Yost, a pickle manufacturer, and Annie Josephine Yost.

"Elwy's love of movies and storytelling began at an early age when his father gave him a dime each week to go to the movies, with the stipulation that Elwy come home and tell them the story," the family statement says.

After graduating with honours from high school in 1943, he was accepted into the University of Toronto's engineering program, but after failing his first-year exams, he joined the Canadian army a year later. He was two weeks from being sent overseas when the war in Europe ended.

Yost returned to U of T, but this time studied sociology and earned a degree.

With university pal Harold Smith, Yost made In Between, one of the first independent movies in Canada. After graduating from university, he worked in construction and at the Canadian National Exhibition, and tried acting.

Yost, wife Lila share love of movies

In 1951, while working in the circulation department at the Toronto Star, he met his future wife, Lila Melby, who had just moved to Toronto from Vancouver. Yost became smitten with Melby after he took her to a musical on their first date, and she later told him she preferred movies like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Before working at TVOntario, Yost worked in industrial relations at Avro Aircraft Ltd. until the Arrow project was cancelled in 1959. He then taught English at Burnhamthorpe Collegiate in Etobicoke, encouraging students to watch movies and write about them.

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Elwy Yost is shown as a panelist on CBC program Flashback, a quiz show that aired 1962 to 1968. (CBC)

Before his quarter-century stint at Saturday Night at the Movies, Yost was a panelist on CBC's Live a Borrowed Life, The Superior Sex and Flashback.

He created and hosted Passport to Adventure, and helped the Metropolitan Educational Television Authority (META) get off the ground.

Earns Order of Canada

In 1974, he was establishing regional councils for OECA (later TVOntario) when general manager Jim Hanley told him OECA somehow had the rights to air three Ingmar Bergman films, and asked Yost if he had any ideas about how to air those films on educational television.

What started as a limited series with the Bergman movies — Three Films in Search of God — became Saturday Night at the Movies. Yost's special features unit also produced Magic Shadows, Rough Cuts, Talking Film and The Moviemakers.

Yost went into semi-retirement in 1989, moving to B.C. with his wife while continuing to host Saturday Night at the Movies until retiring 10 years later, the same year he was awarded the Order of Canada.

Along with his work in the movie field, Yost published four books:

  • Magic Moments from the Movies.
  • Secret of the Lost Empire.
  • Billy and the Bubbleship (also known as Mad Queen of Mordra ).
  • White Shadows.

Yost is also survived by sons Christopher and Graham, daughter-in-law Connie, and grandchildren Clementine and Jack.

Graham Yost is a film and television screenwriter living in California. His movie works include Speed, Broken Arrow and Hard Rain, and he has written for the TV series Herman's Head, Band of Brothers and Boomtown. He's also the creator and executive producer on the series Justified,  which premiered on FX in March 2010.

Funeral plans for Elwy Yost weren't immediately known.