The shadows have lost a bit of magic
July 22, 2011 9:44 AM   Subscribe

Movie host and film-lover Elwy Yost has passed away.

For years, Elwy Yost acted as a guide to Ontario film lovers. He hosted three programs on TVO (Ontario's public television service): Magic Shadows, Saturday Night at the Movies, and Talking Film.

Magic Shadows was broadcast five nights a week. It ran one movie over the course of four (or five if needed) days. On weeks when the full five days weren't necessary, Elwy ran old serials on Friday nights. Magic Shadows ran a wide variety of movies, but many tended to be old cult, sci-fi, horror or adventure classics.
Magic Shadows opening
A mature-audience opening for Saturday Night at the Movies (showing Seven Beauties and Swept Away)

Saturday Night at the Movies typically featured a double bill of somehow related movies. They could be related by cast and crew, by theme, by country of origin, or by whatever other connection Elwy discovered.

Rather than just introducing the movies, Elwy was noted for adding valuable commentary. He told stories about writers, directors, cinematographers, and lighting directors. He also interviewed everybody possibly connected with the movies he was presenting. His interviews were long, reaching, in-depth discussions, not typical press-junket fawning.

Although he spoke with present day stars, his specialty was getting screen legends to talk.
Greer Garson
Buster Keaton's wife
John Candy
Walter B. Gibson (pulp novelist)
Elwy tours Universal Studios
Elwy, a Dalek and K-9 during a pledge break

TVO's tribute page

Yost's son followed on his father's love of movies, and headed to Hollywood.
posted by sardonyx (20 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Canada's Ebert?
posted by Renoroc at 9:45 AM on July 22, 2011

Many years of great Saturday Night at the Movies memories in my family. He will be missed.
posted by biscotti at 9:48 AM on July 22, 2011

Canada's Ebert?
posted by Renoroc at 9:45 AM on July 22

Not so much. He didn't really offer film criticism in the "this is a great film/this film is absolutely terrible" sort of way. He never offered a see it or skip it recommendation.

His style was more akin to literary criticism. He delved into why movies were shot a certain why, and how actors related to directors. He cared about why the end-product was the way it was, and tried to explain that to the viewer.
posted by sardonyx at 9:50 AM on July 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

It's notable that Saturday Night at the Movies was broadcast opposite CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, and still drew a healthy audience. Godspeed, Elwy.
posted by rocket88 at 10:04 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by cashman at 10:27 AM on July 22, 2011

I was a big Elwy fan back in the day - - there was no more positive TV show host and his enthusiasm for the classic movies still lives with me. I remember reading some wag writing that they baked his TVO paycheques in a pie each week so they could enjoy his delight in finding them inside.

(Plus, I'm still pleasantly haunted by theme song for his serialized movie show Magic Shadows.)
posted by fairmettle at 10:40 AM on July 22, 2011

As a young boy, I have great memories of Elwy enthusiastically introducing what would surely be seminal movies, as well as occasionally interviewing some Classic Hollywood star poolside, displaying deep knowledge of the period and always coming off to me as genuinely thrilled to be doing what he was doing.

Elwy Yost's energy, interest and joy for film were positively infectious; between he and Brian Linehan, Canadians had two of the greatest cineastes I can think of, and we are poorer for their absence.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:42 AM on July 22, 2011

Not so much. He didn't really offer film criticism in the "this is a great film/this film is absolutely terrible" sort of way. He never offered a see it or skip it recommendation.

His enthusiasm for film was unbounded. He said that he had only ever seen two films he hated, although he never revealed which ones those were.

Also, I like very much that the last movie he presented was Speed, and the interview was with the movie's screenwriter, his son, Graham Yost.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:59 AM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

When I was a kid, we had a black-and-white TV that only received CBC, TVO and sometimes CFTO. The old Republic and Universal serials that Elwy used to show on Magic Shadows (along with the Marx Brothers movies he would sometimes show on Saturday Night at the Movies) were some of my first films I was ever exposed to. I cannot overstate the importance of these influences in my life.

You will be missed, Elwy.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:39 AM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

posted by Meatafoecure at 11:57 AM on July 22, 2011

My first memory of Saturday Night at the Movies is from shortly after my family got a TV. A 7" black and white TV that hooked up to a car battery, as we didn't have electricity. The movies were They Shoot Horses, Don't They and Day of the Locust. The movies, and Elwy's loving presentation of why they were interesting to him hooked me pretty much from the start.

What he was showing influenced my plans for saturday nights, and I still refer to movies that I'd likely not have seen without his suggestion. Saturday Night at the Movies versus playoff hockey was a toss-up, though that had as much to do with the neutral zone trap as with Elwy's wonderful enthusiasm.

I'm glad that he got to spend so long doing something that he loved, and glad that he had a chance to share that passion with some of us.

posted by frimble at 12:27 PM on July 22, 2011

He was a lot taller in real life than I expected him to be.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:51 PM on July 22, 2011

He came and spoke to my grade 11 media class in the late 80s. He was awesome.

It was while watching The Grapes of Wrath on one of his programs that I first realized how awesome movies could be. Thanks, Elwy!
posted by dobbs at 1:50 PM on July 22, 2011

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.

posted by stinkycheese at 2:57 PM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of the quiet giants of my youth. Saw dozens of great films I would likely never have seen otherwise. I remember watching many of them with my parents, who had seen quite a few of them in their original releases. Many happy and formative experiences, thanks to Mr Yost.
posted by senor biggles at 4:40 PM on July 22, 2011

Metafilter's own MGK wrote a nice obit at Torontoist.
posted by flipper at 7:47 PM on July 22, 2011

posted by dougzilla at 11:46 PM on July 22, 2011

Yost helped found my wonderful high school. He did me, and many like me, a good turn.

posted by Dreadnought at 8:24 PM on July 23, 2011

He was such a staple of TVO when I was growing up, even more so when we moved into the bush (what Northwest Ontarians call the countryside) and only received three channels. Elwy was always such an enthusiastic presence.

posted by myopicman at 9:03 PM on July 23, 2011

I spent more Saturday nights with Elwy Yost than I care to admit.

His enthusiasm in the intros were infectious. More than that, though, his interviews were so marvellously revealing -- decades after the fact, he'd have Hollywood legends go well beyond the standard schlock of 'he was so marvellous to work for' to 'I never liked the guy and here's a petty reason why', all the while retaining this thorough Canadian posture of politeness and interestedness, genuinely held. He could get anyone to reveal anything, just by being completely nice.

Time to turn the lights down low, and put your feet up, Elwy. All the magic shadows stand to be revealed.

I happened to find out the news of his passing when I was out camping, on a payphone call back home. "Elwy Yost died yesterday. 86." "Well, that brings a tear to my eye." "What? I can't hear you!" *blubber*

This is a first Saturday night without Elwy Yost. I'm sad to say that this is affecting me probably more than i should.

Godspeed, sir.

posted by Capt. Renault at 10:21 PM on July 23, 2011

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