Laughter, tears highlight Playback’s 2011 Film and TV Hall of Fame

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A who’s who of the Canadian entertainment industry was moved to tears, and to their feet, on Thursday night for the celebration of the 5th annual Playback Canadian Film & TV Hall of Fame in Toronto.

The event, held at the Glenn Gould Studios in presenting partner CBC’s headquarters, saw six industry icons inducted into the Hall of Fame, three awards granted, and the recognition of Playback‘s 2011 Ten to Watch.

Legendary animator and environmental activist Frederic Back was welcomed to the stage with the evening’s first standing ovation, introduced by his longtime collaborator Hubert Tison. As the 87-year-old Back took to the podium, he stated in a soft-spoken voice that 40 years later, films like his iconic The Man Who Planted Trees, are still needed, urging the industry to use its influence to motivate others to do good.

Funnyman Colin Mochrie returned to the Hall of Fame as this year’s MC, calling up famously verbose producer Robert Lantos to the stage as “a man of few words” to introduce the night’s second inductee, Denis Heroux.

Calling Heroux a national treasure, Lantos said “all of us in the industry are beneficiaries of him” and reminded the audience that Heroux was the first Canadian film to garner Oscar nominations with Atlantic City, well before Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter.

Accepting the award on behalf of inductee Pierre Juneau was his longtime colleague at the Board of Broadcast Governors (BBG), Franklin Delaney.

Delaney said that while Juneau could not attend due to concerns about his health, he himself still wanted to attend despite his family’s objections. “He will be 89 next month and has enough plans to carry him through to 100,” said Delaney of the man after whom The Juno Awards are named. “He was really moved by this award and said, ‘why are they giving me an award for something I had to do?’”

An emotional speech from last year’s Hall of Fame inductee Alanis Obomsawin, introducing “our beautiful sister Tantoo Cardinal,” brought people to their feet as Cardinal made her way to the stage, accepting her award with a heartfelt recollection of family and achievement.

Laughs were also aplenty throughout the evening, with perhaps the biggest ones appropriately coming from Just for Laughs president of festivals and TV Andy Nulman, who noted that, at that point in the night, the Hall of Fame was rivaling Hollywood “in that it has gone on longer than the Oscars.”

Bringing inductee and Just for Laughs founder Gilbert Rozon to the stage – “a man better known as Who The Fuck Is This Guy” – Nulman’s intro caused Rozon to joke that he felt more like he was being roasted, rather than feted.

Keeping the comedy going, industry legend Gordon Pinsent introduced fellow Newfoundlander Allan Hawco with the closing comment that “his good looks make me wish I was a call girl.” Hawco responded in kind, saying that previous jokes about having Gordon Pinsent tattoos on his chest were all true.

The National‘s Peter Mansbridge also drew unexpectedly laughs when he arrived at the podium and noted his uncanny resemblance to host Mochrie. “I guess everyone thought that Colin Mochrie just left the stage,” he joked in his all-too-familiar TV anchor’s tone.

Mansbridge presented the inaugural Swarovski Humanitarian Award to George Stroumboulopoulos for his career-long charitable efforts, including his recent role as a UN World Food Programme Ambassador.

Playback‘s 10 to Watch were also honoured at the red carpet event, alongside screenwriter Adam Barken, one of last year’s 10 to Watch, who took home the Panavision Award for continued success in his field.

The night ended on a note of remembrance, with Air Farce alum Dave Broadfoot paying tribute to his friend and inductee Roger Abbott.

“It was in his nature to care deeply with what he was involved in and he was the most unselfish person I ever knew,” said Broadfoot. Accepting the award on behalf of Abbott, who died earlier this spring, were his sister and niece Jackie McNally and Johanne McNalley-Myers.

“Roger really loved his work and never called it work,” said McNally. “He loved the people he worked with, they were his family and he was very grateful and proud of them.”

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