Elwy Yost, R.I.P.

He’ll only be recognized here, I suspect, by Canadian movie lovers, but his impact can’t be dismissed: for 25 years, from 1974-1999, he hosted TV Ontario’s “Saturday Night at the Movies,” a showcase for so many classic, brilliant films of all genres and eras and persuasions (during the ’80s, especially, I practically had my VCR set on automatic record every Saturday night at 8:00).

Jay Stone in the National Post writes:

He was no critic: He seemed to relish everything, and his interviews with filmmakers and movie stars were breathless — not to say gushing — encounters. Elwy could hardly wait for the subject to finish the answer before he was saying how marvellous or interesting it was. It was that pure joy that made Elwy such a reassuring and refreshing TV presence.

True enough, “he was no critic,” but his show certainly provided a critical function of sorts; it was a repertory cinema in your living room, basically (sans commercials; TVO is publicly funded). Also, he did interview movie critics, including Kael. (There are clips from that interview in this documentary on the auteur theory.) I e-mailed a program director at TVO several years ago, not long after Kael died, asking if they might consider replaying the entire interview, but I never heard back. It’d be great if it came to light at some point.

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