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Evelyn Spice Cherry (partial data)

Evelyn Spice Cherry
Image: © National Film Board of Canada

Also known as: Evelyn Cherry, Evelyn Spice
Countries: Canada / United Kingdom
Born: 1906
Died: 1990

Films directed by Evelyn Spice Cherry

Quotes by Evelyn Spice Cherry

"It really was a miracle that [John] Grierson came along. Of course we were given the opportunity also because of the pressures of the war. And no one, I think, minded how they were given it. We were allowed to get into a team which was trying to interpret Canada to itself from one end to the other, and the outside world to Canada, and Canada to the outside world, and this was an opportunity that had never existed before and we were so excited to have the opportunity we didn't care how hard we worked or what we worked at. We all worked as a team and I do think this was one of our greatest strengths. We all felt that we were doing something and that we were very lucky to be able to do it."
-- Evelyn Spice Cherry (source)

"It was propaganda. The whole business was propaganda. A very strong philosophy was expressed in action. It was expressed in a strong feeling for the people of Canada. We [people working at the National Film Board of Canada] saw in film a means to help achieve national unity, pride, independence, a strong sense of Canada as an autonomous unit in a swiftly changing international scene. We were made to feel, with [John] Grierson at the helm, that the work we were doing, each and every one of us, was valuable and indeed precious in helping to strengthen unity across the land and achieve for Canada a true independent identity in a changing world."
-- Evelyn Spice Cherry (source)

"[At the National Film Board of Canada during World War II] there was tremendous time pressure and you know, we were working often eighteen hours a day and we were working on weekends, because our equipment was pretty much second hand and would break down and you had to be very patient, and of course we were doing the best we could and as quickly as we could and working very hard to do what was necessary at that time. But I think we were aware also—certainly many of us were—that we were building something, which we hoped would continue after the war, and that this was valuable to the people of Canada, that this was something special for Canada, and that we were laying the groundwork for it."
-- Evelyn Spice Cherry (source)

"We didn't sit in committees or consultations and decide what the films would be. The film ideas came in and then we sat and talked about how we could do it. We'd say, 'those people out there ... have sent in ideas. Now how can we get this done in order to send a film back to them?'"
-- Evelyn Spice Cherry (source)

Quotes about Evelyn Spice Cherry

"By 1939 Evelyn Spice had married Lawrence Cherry, a fellow-Canadian who was also working in films in Britain, though in a different group. [...] So the Cherrys came back to Canada, where it was Evelyn's intention to do a little free-lance work, no more. But between 1939 and 1942, when they came to Ottawa to join the Film Board, Evelyn was just as busy as she has always been. She and Lawrence pooled their talents in making pictures for independent firms, operating from a Saskatchewan farm. It was there that Evelyn Spice developed her knowledge of agricultural and rural life, and today she is the recognized expert at NFB. The youngest Cherry, John, was born during those days too, and Evelyn thought she would probably continue to free-lance, and not undertake a full-time job. She was thoroughly conscious of her responsibilities as a mother, and even after the Cherrys had come East, at Grierson's request, she was dubious about joining the Film Board staff. Eventually her energetic mind found the right solution. Along with other parents the Cherrys founded a nursery school in Ottawa, at which John was happy and busy; happier, his parents feel, than at home as an only child. [...] Evelyn is one of the few Film Boarders who stick to a strict schedule, and this is because of her determination that John will not suffer because his mother works. Much of the business of movie-making is done at odd hours, on into the night if necessary. But Evelyn arrives at 9:30, goes home for lunch with the family, and leaves at 5:30, coming back later in the evenings sometimes, but never missing precious Saturday afternoons at home if she can help it."
-- Elspeth Chisholm (source)

"Aside from [John] Grierson, the known victims of the chill and purge [at the National Film Board during the Cold War] included filmakers Evelyn Spice Cherry and Lawrence Cherry and activist Stan Rands, who was attempting to unionize NFB employees."
-- Zoë Druick (source)

"It was global war of course, and Canada was fighting hard, but at the same time there was an equal theme, and that was part of what Evelyn Cherry was doing. She was establishing the images of the different parts of Canada—the images of Saskatchewan and the cooperatives and the village halls where you shot all that Kodachrome of the farmers speaking about tractors and things. That was a very important thing for [John] Grierson. He believed that the kind of things the Cherrys were doing were of fundamental importance. We got a totally new set of images of ourselves."
-- Margaret Ann Elton (source)

"The Cold War had swept into Canada and the NFB was seen as a leftist hotbed. Because of her political leanings, [Evelyn] Spice was forced to leave her job at the NFB. In 1958, at the request of the socialist premier of the province, Spice and [Lawrence] Cherry returned to Saskatchewan where they set up a provincial documentary film unit, establishing their own independent film company, Cherry Films, in 1961."
-- Barbara Evans (source)

"Upon completion of her Bachelor of Journalism degree in 1929 [...] employment opportunities for women were few, and [Evelyn Spice] was relegated to the role of social reporter at the Regina Leader-Post [...]. But it was in Regina that one of the most fortuitous incidents of her life occurred when she met English journalist and later-to-be filmmaker, Marion Grierson, the younger sister of John Grierson. Following her encouragement, Spice travelled to London in 1931, where she soon found work at the Empire Marketing Board with the group of documentary filmmakers surrounding John Grierson."
-- Barbara Evans (source)

"Creative partnerships established in the 1930s, for example that between [Evelyn] Spice and Marion Grierson, laid the foundations for sisterly comradeship. [...] Letters between Spice and Grierson reveal a shared obligation to one another as friends and as women: they helped one another find placement on film projects while committing never to do one another out of a film."
-- Jo Fox (source)

"In March 1937, the GPO Film Unit [General Post Office Film Unit, London, England] employed 31 members of staff directly and 20 contracted staff: ten were women. In general, women were recruited to recognised 'female' roles, notably shorthand typing, cleaning and negative cutting. [...] Almost all senior positions at the Unit (directors, managers and sound technicians) earning over £5 per week were filled by men. Evelyn Spice, a director, earning £8 10s., was the exception."
-- Jo Fox (source)

"Publicity surrounding Evelyn Spice (now Cherry) positioned her as a working mother who placed family above career: the headline for an article in Farmers' Magazine read 'The Story of Evelyn Cherry: Mother Made Movies', with the strap 'Her love of farming took her to the top but she gave it up for her family.' These accounts rendered the 'exceptional' woman socially acceptable and the female documentarist a tolerable anomaly."
-- Jo Fox (source)

"Of course the first good film made in Canada was Nanook of the North. That was made by Flaherty. But the second good film I saw in the thirties was made by a woman, Evelyn Spice, who married Cherry, Evelyn Cherry. [...] There was this memory of Evelyn, whom we thought very wonderful over in England, and I started pirating women into the [National] Film Board [of Canada]. [...] I was getting people from the newspaper world. And I was getting women who otherwise would have been librarians because I found out what they paid librarians and jacked up the money, so I could get a selection of people who not only had a degree but also a library training which was terribly valuable because of the complexity of filmmaking."
-- John Grierson (source)

"[Lawrence Cherry and Evelyn Spice Cherry] were co-heads of the [National Film Board of Canada] agricultural film unit, and they produced and directed wartime films stressing the need for greater productivity and thrift in the use of food. They had a small child at the time, and were very conscious of the need for organized day care to release women for work in the war effort."
-- Barbara Halpern Martineau (source)

"Unfortunately for Lawrence Cherry, [John] Grierson had known and had employed his wife in her spinster days, and had formed a high opinion of her capabilities. [...] 'Evelyn Spice is a great fellow,' Grierson was fond of telling us. Yet when she turned up at the NFB in the '40s it was in the company of a [...] husband who, in Grierson's eyes, had committed the grave fault of supposing himself to be a filmmaker, and then had compounded it by marrying Evelyn Spice, without informing him in advance. [...] Evelyn he was quite prepared to take on the basis of her past performance, but Lawrence did not impress him. On the other hand Grierson couldn't deny the professional competence of the team and it was a competence he could ill spare, faced with the mounting strain of wartime film demands. [...] The salary for a director-camaraman [...] was $4500. This meant the Cherrys would be entitled to $9000 between them. [...] Finally Grierson let his offer be known. The Cherrys could come on NFB strength in charge of the film program at a total salary of $9000: provided it was $6000 for Evelyn and $3000 for Lawrence."
-- Graham McInnes (source)

"Evelyn Cherry is also married and has two children. She has been making documentary films for over fifteen years, and is rated one of the topknotchers in her line. Born in Saskatchewan she began her career on the Regina Leader Post. From there she went to England where she met John Grierson, who later became Canadian Film Commissioner and head of the National Film Board. Instead of staying in England just for a holiday as she had intended, she remained five years working for Grierson. Then she came to Canada where she has been turning out innumerable pictures including the famous 'Knife and Fork' series for children."
-- Betsy Mosbaugh (source)

"As Head of the Agricultural Unit [at the National Film Board of Canada], [Evelyn] Spice Cherry produced films for the war effort and the co-operative farm movement, and brought prairie life to national and international consciousness. The Cherrys [Evelyn and Lawrence] were also key figures in the development of the Yorkton Film Council in 1947 and the distribution circuits that brought films to rural areas."
-- Christine Ramsay (source)

"In 1931, [Evelyn Spice Cherry] went to London, England, to make an amateur film and wound up crossing paths with John Grierson. The future Commissioner of the [National Film Board of Canada] was impressed with her first film, and offered her a job at the General Post Office (GPO) Film Unit—the London-based government film production organization that he headed. The GPO Film Unit was the epicentre of British documentary filmmaking, and counted among its ranks the greatest documentarians of the day. It was here that Cherry would serve her apprenticeship in the art of documentary. While in London, she married Lawrence Cherry, who was also originally from Saskatchewan, and the couple returned to Canada before the outbreak of the Second World War. In 1941, she re-connected with Grierson, who was now at the NFB. He hired the Cherrys as a director-cinematographer team. Evelyn wrote, directed, edited and produced films, while Lawrence took care of the photography duties."
-- Marc St-Pierre (source)

"I was meeting Peter Pearson [at a retrospective of National Film Board documentaries], and I noticed him talking to a very nice-looking older woman. She was talking animatedly, and then I noticed that she was crying. Later I asked him why the woman was crying. He told me that her name was Evelyn Cherry and that she had worked at the [National] Film Board in the early days. He said that she was talking about a witch hunt, a purge that had taken place there."
-- Rick Salutin (source)

Quote about Evelyn Spice Cherry [in French]

"En 1931, [Evelyn Spice Cherry] part à Londres tourner un film en amateur. Sa route croisera celle de John Grierson. Le futur commissaire de [l'Office national du film du Canada] est impressionné par son premier film. Il lui propose alors une place au General Post Office (GPO) Film Unit, un organisme gouvernemental de production de films, qu'il dirige à Londres. Haut lieu de l'école documentaire britannique, le GPO Film Unit compte dans ses rangs les plus grands documentaristes des années 1930. C'est là qu'Evelyn Spice Cherry fera son apprentissage du cinéma documentaire. Elle épouse à Londres Lawrence Cherry, également originaire de la Saskatchewan, et rentre au Canada juste avant la guerre. En 1941, elle retrouve Grierson à l'ONF. Il embauche le couple comme tandem cinéaste-caméraman. Evelyn scénarise, réalise, monte et produit les films, tandis que Lawrence s'occupe de la caméra."
-- Marc St-Pierre (source)

For QUOTES about a specific film by Evelyn Spice Cherry, please see:   Spring on the Farm    Weather Forecast    Prairie Winter    Calendar of the Year    A Job in a Million    By Their Own Strength    Farm Electrification   

Notes about Evelyn Spice Cherry


Bibliography for Evelyn Spice Cherry

Section 1: Publications about Evelyn Spice Cherry

Articles from Newspapers, Magazines, or News Websites

Web Sites

Archival Collections

These archival institutions have holdings related to Evelyn Spice Cherry or her films:

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