1947, Montreal by Night

I happened across this short film by Arthur Burrows and Jean Palardy filmed in 1947. I am sharing it for anyone who loves Montreal, and social history. Filmed by the National Film Board, two years after the end of WWII it shows a sparkling view that could only have been created for mass audiences. It isn’t quite fiction, but it is far from documentary in approach. It would have served well as a travel film, encouraging visitors to enjoy the excitement of this cosmopolitan centre. Click here to see the film.

The National Film Board describes Montreal by Night this way:

This short film showcases the city of Montreal on a summer’s night. What was once a small Indian village is presented as a pot-pourri of contrasting sights and sounds. It is North America’s second largest port and, after Paris, the world’s largest French-speaking city. With its warehouses, offices, homes, clubs and amusement parks, the city serves as a bright backdrop for a happy couple out on the town.


The happy couple is French speaking Collette, and her English speaking boyfriend, Jacques, from Dauphin, Manitoba. I had to watch the film twice to fully enjoy the glimpses of flashing street signs on Ste. Catherine, the cars, fashions and the stiffly staged dialogue sequences. The film may well have been made with the sole purpose of promoting the city of Montreal, and in this sense it perhaps captures the post-war attitude of the day. Shiny and bright, with a bold, blockbuster sounding music track, we see a variety of carefully managed scenes to show the contrasts of life in the city. We see the vibrant night life of St. Catherine Street, the cleaners sweeping up the stock exchange floor, and the smiling residents of a working class neighbourhood where everyone has clean shoes, nice clothes and a friendly demeanor.

Montreal By Night also features Montreal Mayor Camillien Houde who had been elected four times prior to being succeeded by Jean Drapeau. The film depicts the mayor as quite a celebrity arriving in movie star style to the applause of his adoring public.

If this is your kind of film, I would encourage you to also watch the NFB film shot in Winnipeg about Paul Tomkowicz that I posted in Streetcars and Trolley Buses.

By the way, if you should happen to know the name of the glamourous night club with the dancers, please do let us know.

About Sandi Krawchenko Altner

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