Tag Archives: Ivan Ackery

Whistler’s Connection to Canada’s First Talking Picture

Whistler has long had a connection the film industry in Canada, from the long-running Whistler Film Festival to film productions like the campy Ski School comedy films of the 1990s and countless Hallmark Christmas movies to the world-renowned action sports films by Anthill Films and Sherpas Cinema.

Whistler is also part of our nation’s earlier film history in that Canada’s first talking picture, or “talkie” – a film produced with synchronized sound, as opposed to the silent films that were prevalent prior to the 1930s – was based off a novel written by Alta Lake resident Alex Philip.

Myrtle and Alex Philip stand outside Rainbow Lodge in the 1930s. Philip Collection.

Alex Philip was one of Whistler’s most well known residents during the first part of the 20th century. In 1914, he and his wife Myrtle opened Rainbow lodge, Alta Lake’s first summer getaway, and were essential in bringing tourism to the valley.

Alex was also an author and went on to pen three novels while operating Rainbow Lodge. The first of three novels, The Crimson West, was published in 1925. This novel would be adapted into a film called The Crimson Paradise (or Fighting Playboy in the US) in 1933. Shot in Victoria and the surrounding area of Oak Bay and Cowichan Valley, this was Canada’s first talkie.

The screenplay for The Crimson Paradise was written by Arthur Hoerl, who later wrote the screenplay for Reefer Madness (1936), the now-infamous American propaganda film about the dangers of the consumption of marijuana.

The director of The Crimson Paradise, Robert F. Hill, was one of the directors of Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars, a 15-episode serial film released in 1938. Lucile Browne, who had a leading role in The Crimson Paradise, went on to star opposite John Wayne in two films in 1935: Texas Terror and Rainbow Valley.

The filmmakers hoped that The Crimson Paradise would help to position Victoria as “Hollywood North,” and also hoped to take advantage of new rules limiting the importation of foreign and Hollywood films into the UK. The producers believed that Canada, as part of the British Commonwealth, would not be subjected to the importation rule and could take advantage of a guaranteed audience by being labeled British instead of “foreign.” This turned out to be incorrect, much to the chagrin of the producers.

The Crimson Paradise premiered at the Capitol Theatre in Victoria on Thursday, December 14, 1933. Ivan Ackery, manager of the Capitol Theatre and good friend of Alex Philip, stated, “We only played The Crimson Paradise a week, as I recall, but we did sensational business… It was a real turkey. So lousy it was good. Everyone wanted to see the local people and local scenes.”

Alta Lake’s Alex Philip (left) and Ivan Ackery, manager of the Capitol Theatre in Victoria, remained friends long after the film premiered in 1933. Philip Collection.

The premiere was a major event in Victoria, attracting a few Hollywood stars along with the Premier and Lieutenant Governor of BC. The film played in Victoria for a week before moving to Vancouver for another weeklong engagement. Despite its successful premiere, the film ended up being a major financial disaster and bankrupted one of the financial backers, Kathleen Dunsmuir. The film was estimated to cost between $50,000 and $60,000 (about $1 – 1.2 million when adjusted for inflation).

Alex Philip and Capitol Theatre operator Ivan Ackery remained good friends and would look back fondly on their mutual brush with the film industry. The Whistler Museum collection contains copies of all of Alex’s novels, which we hope to have digitized and available for public viewing in the near future. Sadly, The Crimson Paradise is considered a lost film, meaning that no known copies exist.

From Drinks to Whistler

Wandering around the Village late afternoon in March, you would be hard-pressed not to stumble across patrons enjoying a frosty glass of suds in one of the many frequented Après-ski bars here in Whistler.

Ski-après often includes food, music, dancing, socializing, and having a few drinks after a long day of skiing

A woman holding up an empty beer keg peers into the camera outside a lodge on Whistler or Blackcomb.

A woman holding up an empty beer keg peers into the camera outside a lodge on Whistler or Blackcomb.

The act of Après-ski originated in Telemark, Norway during the 1880s after a rise in the popularity of Telemark Skiing (named after the region).  At this point recognizable ski-après made a modest entry, first informally in skier’s homes, then in newly developed ski clubs—the inevitable second step of the arrival and growing popularity of skiing [Lund, Morton. (2007, March). Skiing Heritage, 19(01), 5-12]

WORLD CUP WEEK '93 - National Team members Luke Sauder, Ralf Socher, Cary Mullen and others pour beer at Tapley's

WORLD CUP WEEK ’93 – National Team members Luke Sauder, Ralf Socher, Cary Mullen and others pour beer at Tapley’s

In 1893, Ski-Après made its way to the Alps with the founding of Ski Club Glarus in Switzerland, one of the first ski clubs in the Alps, and from this point ski-après started to spread through Switzerland, France, Austria, and the rest of Europe. Sometime after the First Winter Olympic games in 1924 in Chamonix, France, the French coined the phrase après-ski.

A man, still in his ski boots, carries two flats of 'Canadian' beer on his shoulders, fittingly a huge grin is spread across his face.

A man, still in his ski boots, carries two flats of ‘Canadian’ beer on his shoulders, fittingly a huge grin is spread across his face.

The arrival of Ski-Après to Whistler may have its roots in the arrival of the Tyrol Ski and Mountain Club, whose members (composed of mostly Austrian and German people) started to frequent Whistler during the late 1950s/early 1960s, eventually buying a 5-acre lot in 1962, and building Tyrol Lodge in 1966.

Long time Whistler Local Trudy Alder worked as the caretaker at the lodge from 1968 to 1970. At the time, she considered entertaining lodge guests with spirited ski-après to be as important a duty as clean linens and stacked firewood.

The two bad boys. Ivan Ackery and Alex Philip drinking beer.

The two bad boys. Ivan Ackery and Alex Philip drinking beer.

Ski-après certainly is an important part of socializing in Whistler with many locals and tourists alike gathering around to enjoy a fine wine, a cold pint, and other spirited drinks. Enjoying a glass of intoxicating beverage is nothing new to the valley, and certainly didn’t arrive in the valley with the arrival of the skiers. Whistlers own origin story involves liquor to some extent with John Millar, a trapper who was living in Alta Lake, meeting Alex Philip at the Horseshoe Bar and Grill (a  restaurant owned by Philip) in 1911 on one of his yearly trips to Vancouver. Millar told Alex of Alta Lake’s beauty and excellent fishing, and though inebriated, he got Alex very excited, for Alex had always wanted to run a fishing lodge. Millar was invited to dinner the following night, with Alex and Myrtle making plans for a trip the following summer. In August 1911 they set out on a trip to visit AltaLake, eventually developing Rainbow Lodge and tourism in the Valley.

Rainbow Lodge became the centre of socializing in the valley in the following years, with fine food, dancing, and of course enjoying a few drinks. Alex Phillip was known to partake in a few glasses of suds with guests while they were staying at the lodge, with some guests later becoming good friends

Brad Wheeler and Ben Schottle of the Whistler Brewing Company (1995)

Brad Wheeler and Ben Schottle of the Whistler Brewing Company (1995)

These days, Rainbow Lodge no longer stands, and Ski-après is no longer confined to Tyrol Lodge and Dusty’s. There’s no shortage of pubs, clubs, and lounges around WhistlerVillage to provide a wide variety of après experiences. Between the Whistler Brewing Company and the Brewhouse, locals and visitors alike can enjoy a number of Whistler beers after a hard day on the slopes. Looks like Whistler, as per usual, has put a new twist on an old tradition!