________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 3 . . . . October 6, 2000

cover Joey Smallwood: Between Scoundrels And Saints.

Barbara Doran (Director). Morag Productions in association with CBC (Producers).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 1999.
44 min., 52 sec., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9199 220.

Subject Headings:
Smallwood, Joseph Roberts, 1900-1991.
Prime ministers-Newfoundland-Biography.
Newfoundland-Politics and government-20th century.
Canada-Politics and government-20th century.

Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.

Review by Joanne Peters.

*** /4

In 1949, the last living "Father of Confederation," Joey Smallwood, led Newfoundland into Confederation. Fifty years later, this documentary video opens in a St. John's pub, with Newfoundlanders of several generations hotly debating whether or not "the little fellow from Gambo" did the right thing for his fellow islanders. Marked by a poverty-stricken childhood, Smallwood dropped out of school in Grade 8. Like many Newfoundlanders, he left home to seek his fortune. He returned a socialist. What he lacked in formal education, he made up for in ambition and charm, and, after a variety of strange and dubious business ventures, he found success as a journalist and labour organizer. Politics was a natural segue and a vocation which simultaneously fed and fueled his desperate desire to be liked. Smallwood believed it was his destiny to lead Newfoundland out of poverty and into the industrialized world of the twentieth century. Confederation became the means to do so. Smallwood fought massive opposition from "the merchant princes" who had vested interests in keeping the place a colony and, often, the natural inclinations of fellow islanders. Still, a variety of Canadian social welfare incentives managed to net a 51% majority and Smallwood's place in history. Through interviews with friends, family, and a variety of political observers, this video presents Joey Smallwood as a man of great strengths and equally great weaknesses. He may have been "a little fellow," but he certainly lived large, and, for many Canadians, he was Newfoundland. For those us who live in the rest of Canada, Joey Smallwood: Between Scoundrels and Saints provides insights into both the problems and advantages pre-Confederation Newfoundland experienced. Newfoundland's joining Confederation is often given brief treatment in Canadian history texts - this video provides another look at the event, and, as such, is recommended as resource material for Canadian history courses.


Joanne Peters is the teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364