The Canadian Government Motion Picture Bureau was created in September 1918 by an order in council as the Exhibits and Publicity Bureau and was renamed the Canadian Government Motion Picture Bureau on April 1, 1923 . The body was under the administration of the federal Department of Trade and Commerce.
The CGMPB was the first national film production unit in the world and was intended to promote trade and industry. Its first success was the bi-weekly series, Living Canada, which began production in 1919 and was distributed throughout the British Empire and in numerous foreign countries including the United States.
Its purpose, according to the Minister of Trade and Commerce, was "advertising abroad Canada's scenic attractions, agricultural resources and industrial development" and much of its production was devoted to producing travelogues and industrial films. It also produced early Canadian documentaries such as Lest We Forget (1935), a compilation film (using newsreel footage with staged sequences) recounting Canada's role in the First World War, written, directed and edited by Frank Badgley, the director of the Bureau from 1927 to 1941, and The Royal Visit (1939), co-written and edited by Badgley, which documented the 1939 royal tour of Canada by King George VI and his consort, Queen Elizabeth.
The Bureau's heyday was in the period from 1920 to 1931 when it had the largest and best equipped film studio in Canada and distributed its films throughout Canada and the British Empire as well as France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Argentina, Chile, Japan, China and the United States. At its peak in 1927, the Bureau had more than one thousand prints circulating in the United States alone. The Bureau continued to produce silent films until 1934. As a result, several government departments began producing their own promotional films rather than relying on the CGMPB.
In 1938, responding to a report by Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Vincent Massey recommending an in-depth study of the governments production of promotional films and concerns about American domination of screentime in Canadian theatres, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King commissioned British documentary film maker John Grierson to review the situation and make recommendations which became the basis of the National Film Act (1939) and the creation of the National Film Commission (later the National Film Board of Canada) which went on to absorb the CGMPB in 1941.
- McInnes, Graham (2004). One Man's Documentary: A Memoir of the Early Years of the National Film Board. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press. p. 214. ISBN 0 88755 679 5.
- Morris, Peter (1978). Embattled Shadows: A History of Canadian Cinema 1895-1939. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press. p. 273. ISBN 0 7735 0323 4.
- Morris, Peter (1978). Embattled Shadows: A History of Canadian Cinema 1895-1939. Monteal: McGill-Queen's University Press. pp. 133–137, 165–174. ISBN 0 7735 0323 4.
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