Biography

Pioneer

Westgate, Murray

(1918- )

Murray Westgate played the Prime Minister of Canada in the film Two Solitudes. In Arthur Haley's TV drama, Course For Collision, he was the President of the United States of America. But to millions of Canadian TV viewers he was the friendly Esso dealer who from 1952 to '68 was part of Hockey Night in Canada. In fact, he was so closely identified with Imperial Esso that directors and producers sometimes passed him by in casting acting roles.

Murray was born in Regina. At the beginning of the Second World War he joined the Canadian navy and was posted to Halifax where he was trained as a wireless operator. On his discharge in 1945, he learned of a repertory company being organized on the west coast and left the Prairies to become a member of Vancouver's first professional theatre company Everyman Theatre which had been formed in 1946 by Sydney Risk. A touring company resulted and Murray and a group of young actors toured the West. He then joined the CBC in Vancouver and was cast in radio dramas for which the CBC Vancouver studios were famous.

In 1949, Murray headed for Toronto, and his voice was soon heard in many CBC network radio productions out of the Toronto studios, among them the long-running Sunday series which began as Stage 44, directed by Andrew Allan, and the Ford Television Theatre, produced by Allan Savage Friday nights on the CBC's Dominion Network.

Murray was also in demand for work in sales promotion films used in public displays. One of his clients was the Imperial Oil Company. When TV arrived and Esso sponsored telecasts of Hockey Night in Canada, Murray was the choice for the role of the Imperial Esso Dealer. After his 17-year contract concluded, Murray continued to be a sought-after character actor for TV productions on both sides of the border.

His TV credits (among others) included W.O. Mitchell's Jake and the Kid (1961) in which he played Jake, House of Pride (1975-76) written by George Robertson, who was also from Regina, and Seeing Things (1981). Made-for TV movies included Tom Sawyer, She Cried Murder, Tho Courage of Kavik, The Wolf Dog and Age-Old Friends. A few of his big-screen credits were Vengeance Is Mine, The New Order, Scannners II, Seeing Things and Blue City Slammers - the last earning him a nomination for a Genie in 1988 for best supporting actor. He also won an ACTRA Award for best supporting actor in Tyler.

Murray was also an excellent caricaturist, and likenesses of many of his show biz contemporaries appeared over his signature in trade magazines.

In 1980, Murray was invited by the province of Saskatchewan to participate in Celebrate Saskatchewan which marked the 75th anniversary of the founding of the province.

Written by Jerry Fairbridge - November, 2002

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