He Was From Grand Falls

Gordon Pinsent has died. We weren’t friends, I realize, and maybe you weren’t friends with him either, but he felt like family. He would have been that uncle who snuck candy to us when we were little and let us stay up late when he was in charge and wasn’t bothered by our complaining about eating vegetables especially the brussels sprouts and he’d make us laugh, oh we’d laugh until we couldn’t breathe and he’d tell us stories, his voice soft and gentle, soothing, helping us to drift off to sleep while holding tight to his sleeve so he wouldn’t go. Like most people we hold in high regard, we planned on Gordon living forever or at least until after we were gone. But alas.

Gordon Pinsent made me laugh, made me cry, made me see that being human is really all we can aspire to, complete with our flaws and our shiny moments, and if we get it right, our empathy is always at the forefront. His peers say he was everyone’s friend, and everyone liked him, but he had some favourites, one of them being Wally Cox, the voice of Underdog for those of us old enough to remember and a voice Gordon could imitate to perfection. If I had to pick a favourite movie, it would be too difficult, but I adored him in The Grand Seduction, or maybe I loved him more in Gone From Her, but then I really liked The Shipping News, or …

To say he was multi-talented doesn’t quite cover it. His artwork is unique and compelling, his poetry thought-provoking and honest. He was a dance instructor, for crying out loud, before he knew the steps. Creativity in all forms opened its arms to him and he waltzed right in. If you have the chance and the inclination, the documentary The River of my Dreams: A Portrait of Gordon Pinsent is on GEM. The film was released in 2017 and was screened at Ottawa’s National Arts Center in recognition of Canada’s 150th birthday. The documentary was created by Brigitte Berman, a German-born award-winning filmmaker who has called Canada home since the 1950s. Her film Time Is All You’ve Got won her an Oscar for best documentary film. I’ve watched The River of my Dreams a few times, pulled in by Gordon’s art, by his poetry, and for his philosophy that he could be whatever he imagined he could be if he just tried hard enough. Let’s not forget he was the voice of Babar, The Elephant and he played the president of the United States in the 1970 film Colossus: The Forbin Project and did a comedic reading from Justin Bieber’s biography on This Hour Has Twenty-Two Minutes that went viral. I loved the fact that the story of his life includes moving “to” Canada from the Dominion of Newfoundland in 1948, Newfoundland not yet part of Confederation. While Newfoundland was still becoming what she would become, Gordon was just getting started, imagining something more than what Grand Falls, Newfoundland could lend him, yet always carrying a great pride of where he came from and eventually coming home to work.

Gordon said of his work that you had to feel what you were portraying, as if it had happened to you, for those pulling up their chairs to watch and recognize what it meant to be all the things he showed us. Gordon’s family and friends have created a website with Gordon’s work, providing images of his art and his writings and will continue to add to it – www.therealgordonpinsent.com. He published his memoir entitled Next in 2012, published by Penguin Random House Canada. In it, he tells us he believed he was an actor from his Saturdays as child sitting in the movie theatre, having walked close enough behind some adult to pass for their child and thus free admission. The movies were his “magic elixir”, making him “stronger in every way”. “Inside, I might have been a nobody,” Gordon wrote. “Outside, I was everybody. If ever they came together, I’d be somebody,” and .. he most certainly was.

After much deliberation and consideration, I have narrowed it down and do declare my favourite character of Gordon Pinsent was Simon in The Grand Seduction. Yes, that’s it. I’ve written it in ink, so there’s no changing my mind. But wait…