On Thursday, my backyard was turned into an impromptu TV studio. It was all for a good cause, however, as I was asked to help pay homage to the late, great Elwy Yost.

Yost and his over-sized noggin never wore out their welcome on TV screens throughout Ontario back in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. Well before TCM became every film buff’s favourite channel, TVO’s Saturday Night at the Movies, hosted by Yost, was the place to watch classic films uncut and properly introduced by a knowledable and enthusiastic host.

Yost also flew to Los Angeles each year and banked interviews with Golden Age Hollywood masters such as Frank Capra, John Huston and Jimmy Stewart and also writers such as Robert Towne and Ray Bradbury. The former Burnhamthorpe Collegiate school teacher did hundreds of these Hollywood one-on-ones and left behind a treasure trove of first-hand anecdotes from elite storytellers. These legends were taken in by his genuine love of the movies but also because he wasn’t intimidated by them. Yost would utter the occasional “gosh” or “golly” but he was never a fawning entertainment reporter. He looked, in fact, more like a seasoned Hollywood producer.

Now Karen Shopsowitz — daughter of another Toronto icon, Sam “Shopsy” Shopsowitz — is directing “Magic Shadows: Elwy Yost a Passion for Cinema.” The documentary, written by Barry Stevens, was originally scheduled to air this fall when TVOntario celebrated its 50th anniversary, but COVID delays have push things back until probably early in the new year.

Yost passed away at 86 in 2011. His son Graham (left, at a TCA session a few years ago) is a very successful TV showrunner in the States, responsible for such critically acclaimed dramas as The Americans and Justified. Early in his career he wrote the movie “Speed,” which made his pops proud as punch.

Graham Yost was at the University of Toronto around the same time I was and while we had but one class together we had friends in common. Among them were future CP24 business anchor B.J. Del Conte and some other lads who played in a band called The Crispy Critters. Yost would occasionally sit in on drums. The band did the music for a short film I made while at U of T, “Varsity Blues.”


I think it may have been through those connections that Graham’s famous dad, Elwy, came to take part in a sketch me and my comedy team partner Pat Bullock did on our early ’80s, zero-budget community cable series Etobichannel. We found out Elwy was an Etobicoke resident and somehow talked him into making the trek to MacLean Hunter Cable near Toronto’s Pearson airport for a studio taping. We didn’t send a limo or even pick him up in my dad’s car — he drove there himself.

It takes a village to turn me into a TV talking head. Photo: Sandra Puglielli

And that’s the story I told the camera crew — which included Amazing Race Canada shooter Blair Locke — Thursday in my Brampton back yard. Many others will be singing Yost’s praises for the project, including fellow critics John Doyle, Peter Howell and Rob Salem.

Shooter Locke gets a CU of the Elmo in action

I’ll write more as the doc draws near, but suffice to say it was quite a kick that day back in 1984 meeting Elwy Yost. He was a kind and generous man and every bit as professional and good-natured as he appeared every week for 25 years on Saturday Night at the Movies.


  1. A few years back a clip from one of Elwy’s interviews was included on an Oscar broadcast. I knew it was him from his patented “Gosh!” reaction to the interviewees response. I’m sure he would have been overjoyed to have been part of the Academy Awards.
    Do you remember him hosting a 4-day-a-week show at 6 pm weekdays where he showed old movies in sections? It’s where I first saw King Kong. Pre-dated Magic Shadows but same idea.

    • Bill Brioux Reply

      I do (barely) remember that pre-Magic Shadows series. TVO donated the Elwy interviews to the Academy, a smart move as he spoke to so many cinematographers and others, not just the stars.

  2. Benton Carson Reply

    I grew up in Western NY, and every Saturday night, reception permitting, I’d faithfully tune into Elwy’s SNATM. For someone passionate about the cinema, this show was Nirvana. Great, unedited films (where else are you going to see Seven Beauties broadcast for free over the airwaves?) and insightful, educational interviews conducted by a gentleman who clearly shared my passion for film. I earned a bachelor’s in film production, but SNATM was like a post-graduate experience par excellence. It was a treasure trove of well-thought out interviews with stars, but also with the craftspeople who worked behind the scenes. There was – and never has been – anything like it. I still get a thrill when I hear that introductory theme music play in my mind, and I can almost hear Elwy’s welcoming voice greeting me to another evening of cinema magic. Thank you Elwy and TVO!

  3. Hi Bill,
    I literally just stumbled on your site. I’ve heard you several times on Humble and Fred, so it’s times like this that I start to see 6-degrees of everything that I like. Weird.
    Anyway, my dad joined the Children’s Broadcasting department in the early 60s, a team lead by a man who would later be my godfather. The team had kid’s TV greats like Bob Homme (Friendly Giant), Fred Rogers (MisterRogers) and Ernie Combes (Mr Dress-up). Also on that team was Elwy Yost, who hosted “Passport to Adventure” (which you might know). Later when my dad John left to go teach broadcasting at Ryerson, he and Elwy collaborated on the Magic Shadows show for TVO. The two grew up with serials, my dad in Chicago and Elwy in Canada. So they thought that this show could bring back the same kind of fun and excitement over the week — and it ended up making Elwy a big star (again, as we all know). Dad wrote and edited on the show for 5 years. He brought home the big VTR machines to edit the movies like Dick Tracy — it was kind of fun looking over his shoulder while he timed out each segment. A long-standing joke in our house was all of Elwy’s enthusiasms “gosh, golly” etc. It was all done in fun, he was well loved in our house. I think he and dad stayed in touch a bit. I remember chatting with him on our driveway; don’t know about what exactly. Around that time he published a novel and dedicated it to me, “My Friend Sarah”. That was kind of fun. They’re all gone now. Dad died in Jan 2021 of covid; he was 91.
    I’m so grateful to all these documentaries, especially the last one about Ernie because they fill in so many gaps I didn’t know about my dad and is work. I hope sometime someone will do one on Homme, just to close the gap.
    In the meantime, hope all is well.
    Thanks, Sarah

    • Bill Brioux Reply

      I literally just stumbled on your comments Sarah,apologise for not getting back to you sooner. A full documentary on Homme would be amazing, especially since the CBC archives have preserved pretty much every show in the entire run of the series. Sounds as if you and your dad had a front row seat to some wonderful children’s TV pioneers. Lucky you!

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