O'FARRELL email@example.com_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2007-10-15 published
Friend, mentor, film producer and director. Born December 7, 1929, in Ottawa. Died September 27 in Hull, Quebec, of natural causes, aged 77.
By Elaine O'FARRELL, Page L6
Growing up in Ottawa's tough Irish neighbourhood, Bill O'FARRELL probably never dreamed he would one day bring home Canada's first Oscar for a feature film.
Bill was the son of an Ottawa accountant and he grew up to be a driving force behind the Canadian film industry.
Bill joined Crawley Films in the 1940s. He got his start as a gofer, sweeping the floor, driving the truck, hauling cans of film. But he quickly worked his way up through the industry.
Over the years, he worked as a cinematographer, writer, director and producer of films, eventually becoming vice-president of Crawley Films, launched in 1939 by Budge CRAWLEY. Bill led a passionate life as a producer and director of Canadian films.
In the early years, he travelled across Canada to film Canadian Football League games and golf tournaments. Bill was instrumental in the success of many groundbreaking Canadian films. They include the award-winning The Loon's Necklace, The Rowdyman, The Luck of Ginger Coffey and Janis, a biopic about the tragic life of singer Janis Joplin.
Over the years, Bill worked with the who's who of Canadian stage and screen, from Christopher Plummer to Geneviève Bujold, Rich Little, Fred Davis and Lorne Greene.
He played an important part in helping to bring home Canada's first Academy Award for a feature film for The Man Who Skied Down Everest. One of his proudest moments was bringing home the gold-plated statuette to show family and Friends.
In its 50th year, Crawley Films went bankrupt. With the sheriff banging at the door, Bill helped to preserve the cans of film that were Crawley's legacy. The films were donated to the National Archives of Canada.
Like his Irish father before him, Bill was a wonderful storyteller who would entertain family and Friends at the kitchen table with colourful tales about the past.
He loved to tell the story about how he won my mother's hand.
One night, he was challenged to a late-night poker game by her French-Canadian grandmother, Granny GOYETTE. After he won a few games, she said he was a good man. She agreed that my mother should accept his hand in marriage.
In his youth, he'd go to the pool hall or play a few games of poker to win enough money to take my mom out on a date.
Although film was his first love, Bill loved a glass of wine and settling down with a good mystery. He enjoyed golf, evening swims and Frank Sinatra. He loved to play with Skipper, his Irish fox terrier.
But his greatest joy was his family - his dear wife, Velma, his three kids, Bill, Leslie and Elaine, and his six grandchildren.
Elaine O'FARRELL is Bill O'FARRELL's daughter.
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