Lovable Movie Fan Introduced Generations to Classic Film
by BK Munn

Legendary long-time TVOntario personality Elwy Yost died July 21 in Vancouver, BC. The cause of death has been attributed to “natural causes” by The Globe and Mail. Best known as the original host of Saturday Night At The Movies from 1974 to 1999, Yost pioneered a chatty, historically-oriented version of film criticism that coincided with first-wave 1970s baby-boomer nostalgia and the growth of cinema scholarship.
Born in Weston, Ont, the heir of a pickling plant mini-empire, Yost translated a love of theatre, film and education into a broadcasting career that spanned four decades. After kicking around the CBC for several years, Yost landed the hosting gig on that network’s Passport to Adventure, a program that serialized classic films and ran from 1965 to 1967. After moving from the national public broadcaster to the fledgling provincial TVO, Yost launched two new movie-related projects in 1974. The first, Magic Shadows, was a continuation of the old Passport show, presenting serialized classic films in half-hour afternoon timeslots. The second, Saturday Night at The Movies, was a weekly double-feature accompanied by informative interviews with local film experts and Hollywood stars, creatives, technicians, and film historians (the show continues, in slightly-mutated form, to this day). Yost’s genial, easy-going, and flattering interview style and fannish-yet-knowledgeable introductions were the highlight of both programs.
Aside from his tv career, Yost was the author of several books for children and a book of film history. He was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1999.
From a comics perspective, Yost’s career and influence is interesting in two ways. Through his hosting duties, Yost reflected the burgeoning pop culture fan subculture that was part and parcel of comics fandom in the 1960s and 70s, when fanzines and conventions were equally likely to focus on old Flash Gordon serials, silent movies, Hopalong Cassidy memorabilia, or comic books. Yost’s shows, especially Magic Shadows, which introduced new generations to things like the 1944 Republic Captain America serial, were part of a fan-continuum along with Captain George’s Whiz-Bang, and the first comic-cons. Yost’ easily-parodied, gushing personality, the precursor to TCM’s Robert Osborne, was the inspiration in part for several SCTV-style characters (think Martin Short’s Brock Linehan meets Jimminy Glick meets John Candy‘s Johnny LaRue), and, perhaps most famously, was one of the inspirations for Seth’s George Sprott character in the graphic novel of the same name (visually, George is Elwy minus the glasses).
Yost is survived by his wife Lila and sons, Christopher Yost and the screenwriter Graham Yost (Speed, Band of Brothers/The Pacific).

1 Comment

  1. One of my favourite shows when i was a kid, loved his opening animation.

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