The Days of Whiskey Gap

The Days of Whiskey Gap

| 28 min

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Rousing tales of the North-West Mounted Police are brought to life through photos and artists' sketches. In 1873, the North-West Mounted Police were established to maintain law and order in the North-West Territories. They undertook a trek from Fort Dufferin, south of Winnipeg, to Fort Whoop-up, near present-day Lethbridge, Alberta. The force raised the flag and proclaimed the Queen's law, ensuring that the Canadian West would not become a lawless American-style frontier.

The troubled early history of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is the subject of The Days of Whiskey Gap, a rollicking documentary on the days of the Wild West in Canada. This is by no means a romanticized look at the Mounties but a critical look at the settling of the Canadian West.

Albert Ohayon
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After City of Gold I tried hard to find another Canadian gold mine archive of photographic or drawn graphic material that would make a film. I looked at the archive of the Mounted Police and the Calgary archives. They had a few photographs that I copied. Then I found a book called Whoop Up Country by Paul Sharp, published in 1955, that revitalized my interest. I found another book that mentioned Henri Julien, the young French-Canadian newspaper illustrator that had accompanied the Mounted Police going west to record their trek in detail. I decided that there was enough pictorial material to begin work.

In a trip to Alberta I talked to old timers--very old timers such as Ellis Henri. I had gone to school very close to Whiskey Gap with several of his twelve children. Whiskey Gap was an historic valley through the Milk River Ridge where much of the early history had occurred.

I worked with Tom Daly, John Spotton and Roman Kroitor to make a television film in the style of the Candid Eye Series. I interviewed many people in the Canadian West and Montana, USA. While it was fascinating history, it was also disappointing because some people had wonderful stories but they had lost their verbal skills or memories… A very few were GOOD storytellers. They were not affected by the presence of the camera, our film crew or myself. There were very old people who had lived before the end of the nineteenth century. Pure gold! I wanted authentic people only, not fictional people. They existed!

There was careful editorial selection by my colleagues, a narration by Stanley Jackson and a musical score by Soapy Douglas.

The film won a prize for television at Cannes. Some American critics thought that it was anti-American. I still don't think that fifty years later.

Colin Low
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The Days of Whiskey Gap, Colin Low, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

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  • direction
    Colin Low
  • camera
    John Spotton
  • editing
    John Spotton
  • animation camera
    Jim Wilson
    Roy Nolan
  • commentary
    Stanley Jackson
  • music
    Donald Douglas
  • sound editing
    Kathleen Shannon
  • sound recording
    Marcel Carrière
    George Croll
  • producer
    Roman Kroitor
    Wolf Koenig
  • executive producer
    Tom Daly

  • sixam

    Imagine living beyond 100 and witnessing so much social, political, economic and technological change. That's amazing.

    sixam, 30 Dec 2010

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