Gordon Edward Pinsent (1930-)

Year Born: 
1930

Pioneer

Pinsent, Gordon Edward (1930- )

Gordon Pinsent has been a director; a movie, stage, TV and radio actor; a writer and creator, and once produced a long-playing record.

He was born at Grand Falls, Newfoundland, given the nickname Porky, and left home at 17. He served with the Royal Canadian Regiment from 1948-51 and was discharged in Winnipeg. He'd long wanted to be in show business but, without experience or immediate opportunity to support himself, did things like meter reading, painting portraits and teaching dancing.

At the Winnipeg Repertory Theatre he stayed behind after a performance, was noticed by the owner, and offered a reading. He was offered a part with four lines but successfully held out and got the lead. Despite a habit of giggling, he landed other parts.

Gordon acted in Winnipeg from 1954 to 1960, mainly in theatre but also on CBC Radio and Television. He married in Winnipeg and had two children, but the marriage didn't last. His son from that marriage, Barry Kennedy, became an actor/author.

In 1960 Gordon moved to Toronto where, to support himself, he again painted portraits and gradually earned more substantial acting parts, and in 1962 married a fellow actor, Charmion King. His first feature film role was in Lydia, filmed in Greece in the mid-60s.

In 1968 he moved his family, now including a daughter, Leah, to Hollywood. This was where he wrote the screenplay The Rowdyman. It was produced in Canada in 1971 with Gordon playing the lead. Afterwards he turned it into a musical and a book. He also later wrote the stage play, screenplay and novel John and the Missus, and again played the title role for which he received a Best Actor Award. He wrote other plays, short stories, and in 1992 an autobiography By the Way.

By 1974 he had returned to Toronto permanently.

Some of his longest running TV roles include the incorrigible liar Hap Shaughnessey on The Red Green Show and Robert Fraser, ghost father of the hero, Constable Benton Fraser, in the made-for-TV movie and then CTV/CBS series Due South. He was Duff McArdle, a team owner, in the CTV series Power Play, Walter Franklin in Made in Canada, and Ken Taylor in the Global Television/CBS film Escape From Iran.  Among his many big-screen credits was Newfoundland newspaperman Billy Pretty in The Shipping News.

He created and appeared in the CBC-TV series A Gift to Last, which ran from 1976 to 1979 and for which he received an ACTRA Award in 1979. Newfoundland featured in much of his work, including the CBC-TV movie Win, Again, in which his daughter Leah appeared.

Gordon was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1980 and a Companion in 1998, was awarded three Genies,  the Gemini Earle Grey Award in 1997 for lifetime achievement, the Dora Mavor Moore award for best performance for Anne of Green Gables (1991), the John Drainie Award for overall contribution to broadcasting (1990), a Gemini in 1989 for Best Performance  by an Actor in a Supporting Role for an appearance on Street Legal, and an Etrog and a Nellie Award for The Rowdyman (1979). Several universities gave him honorary degrees.

Written by Jerry Fairbridge - November, 2002

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