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Ladies and Gentlemen…Mr. Leonard Cohen, a tribute to a Canadian legend

Today we’re featuring a classic NFB documentary in the online Screening Room, Ladies and Gentlemen…Mr. Leonard Cohen. We’ve timed the launch of this film to coincide with CBC Radio 2’s spotlight on Leonard Cohen, which continues through the end of May.

Ladies and Gentlemen…Mr. Leonard Cohen offers a unique glimpse into the early years of the artist, both onstage and off. The film started out as a documentary on four Canadian poets on a barnstorming tour of a half dozen universities in 1964 (the working title was Four Poets). Don Owen shot the tour, which included Leonard Cohen, Earle Birney, Irving Layton and Phyllis Gottlieb. But when the time came to edit, the material simply wasn’t strong enough to make a complete film. So Owen walked away from the project.

In came Donald Brittain (Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry, Bethune), who was charged with the task of making a film exclusively on Cohen using the available footage. Brittain rose to the challenge, shot some extra material of Cohen watching and commenting on the original footage, and crafted the now-classic film. It premiered on the CBC on February 16, 1966 and later won the 1966 Etrog (precursor to the Genie Awards) for Best TV Information program and the 1966 First Prize for Literature at the American Film Awards in New York.

You just never know…


CBC Radio 2 is the broadcast presenter of the Canadian leg of the 2009 World Tour and offers programming details, a sneak peek at the “Live in London” DVD and a chance to download Cohen’s latest concert CD.

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