Biography

Pioneer

Campbell, Norman

(1924-2004)

Norman Campbell was born in Los Angeles, California in 1924 The family later moved to Vancouver, where Norman went to high school and then to the University of British Columbia, where his majors were math and physics, but where he also developed a talent for acting, first on stage and then in radio. His science skills earned him a job as a meteorologist in Fort Nelson B.C. and later on Sable Island, Nova Scotia.  In his spare time he wrote songs, and a chance meeting with CBC radio producer Mavor Moore in 1946 opened the doors to what would be a long and productive career with CBC Radio and then Television. Moore soon had Norman writing songs for Juliette’s radio series, including the theme tune, “Summer Romance, and meteorology was no longer on the Campbell agenda.

By 1948 Norman was on CBC staff as a junior radio producer in Vancouver.  He joined CBC Television in Toronto in 1952, and on September 8th of that year he produced the first CBC Television program out of Toronto, a 15-minute magazine format which featured weatherman Percy Saltzman, and puppet Uncle Chichimus previewing the evening’s program line-up. In that same week he met Don Harron, at that time working to establish himself as a comedian; together they were later to write a musical, Anne of Green Gables, in collaboration with Mavor Moore and Norman’s wife Elaine, which was first performed on CBC Television in 1956.  The first Charlottetown Festival stage production of Anne took place in 1965, and the show has since become a Canadian legend..

As a producer/director, Norman had several television firsts to his credit, including Canada’s first televised ballet, Maria Chapdelaine, in 1952, and Mavor Moore’s first television musical, Sunshine Town, in 1954. In 1956 he produced Swan Lake, his first full-length television ballet, and during his career he produced a total of 28 ballets for television, winning Emmys for Cinderella in 1968 and Sleeping Beauty in 1972. He was also noted for his many successful productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operas, and for music specials showcasing the works of Robert Farnon and Percy Faith, and the music of the Toronto Symphony and the National Arts Centre Orchestras.

As a specialist in comedy, musicals and performing arts productions, Norman was in demand in the U.S., where in the 1970s he directed episodes of All In The Family and the Mary Tyler Moore Show, as well as specials with Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Olivia Newton John and Diana Ross.

Norman Campbell was made a member of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1975, and was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1978.

He suffered a stroke early in 2004, and passed away on April 12th of that year.

Written by Pip Wedge - April, 2004

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