Canada's Carry On Sergeant!

Canada’s first war movie was supposed to energize the domestic film industry. Instead, it turned into an epic flop.

Text by Kevin Plummer

Posted January 18, 2022

Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada

On November 10, 1928, the marquee of the Regent Theatre on Toronto’s Adelaide Street West was brightly lit, announcing the world premiere of Carry On Sergeant! Hyped as “Canada’s first mammoth motion picture production,” the war epic had been a year in the making.

Fourteen days later, the film ended its Toronto run. By Christmas it was playing nowhere. The costly and much hyped film was not going to lead the Canadian film industry to glory after all. Instead, Carry On Sergeant! not only proved to be a spectacular flop, its failure also impeded a big-budget Canadian film industry from developing for many decades.

In the February-March 2022 issue of Canada’s History, Kevin Plummer describes how this tremendously anticipated treasure fell short of expectations.

In the 1930s, a negative of Carry On Sergeant! that had been slated for destruction was saved. It was eventually deposited with the Canadian Film Archive in 1951, where it sat forgotten for decades. More than fifty years after its initial release, a new print of Carry On Sergeant!, restored with the assistance of the film’s assistant director, Gordon Sparling, was aired on CBC Television to finally earn a national audience. Today, film buffs can view the movie on Library and Archives Canada’s YouTube channel.

Read the feature article “Reel Failure” in the February-March 2022 issue of Canada’s History.

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