Alex Barris (1922-2004)

Year Born: 
1922
Year Died: 
2004

Pioneer

Barris, Alex (1922-2004)

Alex was born in New York, N.Y. on September 16th 1922.  He served in the U.S. Army as a medic in World War II, and was awarded a Bronze Star.  After the war he worked at the New York Times, and freelanced for the Montreal Gazette, and also the Globe and Mail, which brought him to Canada in 1948 as a reporter. Within a few years he was writing movie and music reviews, and a showbiz column, The Barris Beat, and was soon to be heard on radio, first at CKFH and later with the CBC.

He finally made it to CBC Television in 1956, and a television version of The Barris Beat (the print version of which was by then appearing in the Toronto Telegram) launched in July of that year, directed by Norman Jewison. He was also one of the original panelists on the CBC’s Front Page Challenge.  When CFTO-TV Toronto first went on the air in 1961, one of their early shows was an entertainment magazine series with Alex as host. He later returned to the CBC with his own late-night talk show, Barris and Company, and was much in demand as a writer of music and variety television series and specials, as well as a guest host and panelist. 

In 1969 Alex took his skills to Hollywood, where he worked variously as producer and/or writer of many sitcoms and variety series, in the course of which he maintained his involvement with Canada through his role as writer of many television series and specials co-produced by CTV and Winters-Rosen, including the Barbara McNair Show, Sonny and Cher, Kenny Rodgers’ Rollin’ On The River, Bobby Darin, and The Fifth Dimension. 

He returned to Canada in 1976, and in subsequent years wrote hundreds of scripts for television, including The Palace Presents, King of Kensington and The Stan Kann Show, and specials for Juliette, the Irish Rovers and Gordon Pinsent. In the early 1980s he was in front of the camera again, this time as host of the CBC retrospective series Rear View Mirror.

Alex Barris was also the author of several books about television, and about his other love, music, sometimes co-authoring with his son Ted.  His last published work was a biography of Oscar Peterson. He received the Order of Canada in 1999, for his contribution to Canadian entertainment, and in no small part for his tireless promotion of Canadian performers and writers, both in print and on-air. Previously, in 1994, he had been awarded the Margaret Collier Lifetime Achievement Award for Television Writing, by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television.

Alex suffered a stroke early in 2003, while working on yet another book, and died on January 16th 2004.

 

Written by Pip Wedge - April, 2004

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