First sound film

Ottawa (CP) – The long sought original print of Canada’s first sound movie has been added to the Public Archives national film collection.

The Viking, a romantic adventure about Newfoundland’s annual seal hunt, was the first Canadian made feature film with sound and the world’s first sound movie shot on location.

More than 50,000 feet of original materials of the film, including negatives and soundtrack have become part of the collection that was started in an attempt to preserve old films of significant Canadian interest.

The film, named after the sealing fleet’s lead ship, was produced by Varick Frissell, a volunteer helper at Newfoundland’s Sir Wilfred Grenfell medical mission, in 1930. He wanted to make a movie about the hardy heroism of the Newfoundlanders who struggled to provide a living for their families from the fishing and sealing industry. The film eventually took Frissell’s life.

Frissell got a job with a sealer in 1928 so he could record that way of life on film. The result was a silent movie entitled The Great Arctic Seal Hunt.

Frissell was not satisfied with the silent version and The Viking emerged when he remade the movie with sound with the help of Hollywood director George Melford. Frissell formed the Newfoundland – Labrador Film Company to make the film.

Also on the team were three of the best cameraman of the day, E.A. Penrod, Maurice Kellerman and Alfred Gondolfi.

Shortly after the movie was released, Frissell and Penrod went out with the sealers again to get more shots to include in the movie. An explosion in the powder magazine tore the Viking apart and Frissell, Penrod and 24 others were drowned.

For years it wasn’t even known there was a copy of the film, until one was discovered in an old St. John’s fish cannery. The original was given to the archives by Toni Frissell, the producer’s sister.

It will be available for viewing after its flammable backing is changed to a non-flammable one. The original backing was made of nitrate which is highly explosive.

The Evening Telegram, July 17, 1970

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