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The Fur Industry in Canada

Accession number: 



Production Years: 
1919 to 1920
Release Year: 


Film Properties: 

Louis Pelletier, "Useful Cinema, Film Genres, and Screen Networks: The Story of Canadian Films Limited (1919-1920)," The Moving Image 11, no. 3 (2011): 71-72.
"The delays encountered by Canadian Films in the production of its films proved even more critical in the case of the film it produced for the renowned furrier Holt, Renfrew and Co. Entitled The Fur Industry of Canada, this production was yet another advertisement masquerading as an educational/industrial film: according to the extant synopsis, it opened with an extended documentary sequence showing the breeding of silver foxes and the manufacture of cloaks and coats, and closed with images of models wearing the latest Holt Renfrew creations. When the film was finally completed in mid-January 1920, some four months after production began in the fall of 1919, timing was in the opinion of its sponsor less than optimal for a fur-marketing campaign. Canadian Films and Holt Renfrew consequently agreed to push the film’s release to the late summer of 1920. This forced Canadian Films to do some retakes on the film’s final sequence in order to bring it up to date with the latest fashion trends for the 1920-1921 season, and to charge Holt Renfrew extra for the new footage.
Holt Renfrew arranged for the revised version of The Fur Industry of Canada to be shown in a vessel of the Canadian Steamship Line. To that purpose, Canadian Films sent the film’s original negative to New York so that a 28mm safety film print could be produced by Pathéscope of America. The negative, however, went missing for over a month at customs on its way back from New York (or so claimed Tennant), which thwarted Canadian Films’ efforts to have the film released in theaters. Relations between the film’s producer and sponsor steadily deteriorated as the former systematically failed to make good on its promises: by October of 1920, Holt Renfrew was sending a steady flow of threatening letters to Canadian Films. Indeed, The Fur Industry of Canada may have been publicly exhibited only once, before retakes of the final sequence had been inserted, at the 'Fur Industry and Wild Life' conference held at Montreal’s Windsor hotel on February 19, 1920. The film’s description published on that occasion in the Montreal Gazette reveals some curious editorial choices, as the reporter first remarks with a hint of relief that 'what happened before [the foxes’] pelts were removed was mercifully omitted,' but then goes on to explain that much footage painstakingly depicts the grisly fleshing and tanning process to which the raw skins were submitted. Interestingly, the Gazette reporter also observed that, 'The pictures were calculated to show especially the male-part of the gathering the infinite pains that had to be taken before an expensive fur robe was turned out, and explain to them why such luxuries made severe demands upon the bank account.' Beyond its implicit celebration of the movie’s educational potential, the Gazette’s piece thus signaled a certain degree of awareness of the fact that different groups – in this particular case, men and women – would likely read the film differently."

"Pictured Making of Fur Garment," The Gazette (20 February 1920): 6.