Film champion Gerald Pratley dies

Gerald Pratley, longtime champion of the Canadian film industry, has died at age 87.
Cinema critic, scholar and Canadian film booster Gerald Pratley was honoured with a special trophy at the Genie Awards in 2002. (Aaron Harris/Canadian Press)

Gerald Pratley, longtime champion of the Canadian film industry, has died at age 87, according to his family.

Pratley died in hospital in Belleville, Ont. on Monday. His daughter, Denise Lane, confirmed news of his death to CBC.

Born and raised in England in September 1923, Pratley moved to Canada in 1946. He started working for the CBC in Toronto as a scriptwriter and, in 1948, became the broadcaster's first film reviewer.

Over the next few decades, he offered his detailed knowledge of the movie industry to CBC audiences as a commentator on various shows, including Pratley at the Movies, The Movie Scene and Music From the Films.

He was a key booster of the Canadian's burgeoning industry and was active with a host of groups, including the Toronto Film Society and the Toronto and District Film Council.

His expertise was not limited to Canadian film: as founder and director of the revered Ontario Film Institute — established in 1968 — he was responsible for cataloguing and exhibiting world cinema. The Toronto International Film Festival assumed management of the institute in 1990.

From 1970 to 1975, Pratley served as director of the Stratford International Film Festival.

In 1984, he was named a member of the Order of Canada and, in 2003, was invested at the officer level.

He also received a special prize at the 2002 Genie Awards, with organizers of the annual movie world honour presenting him with a special trophy recognizing his lifelong dedication to the promotion of  Canadian cinema.

Pratley's role as a film historian led to work on the advisory boards for the film departments at Ryerson University and Humber College. Other accolades include honorary degrees from Toronto's York University, the University of Waterloo and Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

A published author and magazine writer, Pratley's books include Torn Sprockets: The Uncertain Projection of the Canadian Film and A Century of Canadian Cinema: Gerald Pratley's feature film guide, which charted productions dating back to the silent film era.