Veteran Canadian actor James B. Douglas passes at Stratford
A little bit of Stephen Leacock passed away last Tuesday when veteran Canadian actor James B. Douglas lost a valiant six-month battle with cancer and died in Stratford on Dec. 29. He was in his 81st year.
A veteran of stage, screen and television, James Douglas' most recent project was a self-created work calledSunshine and Shadows: An Evening With Stephen Leacock.The one-man show was a painstakingly vivid and emotional portrayal of the bard of Orillia. The show played in Canada, the U.S. and even boasted a sold-out performance in Leacock's birthplace, Swanmore, Hampshire, U.K.
"Jimmy was passionate and unwavering in his determination to portray Leacock in all his complexity," said Leacock Museum curator Fred Addis. "He read everything Leacock wrote and everything written about Leacock. His was above and away, by far, the best impersonation of Leacock that I've ever heard or seen, on tape or live. Our deepest sympathies go out to his wife Myfanwy and to his entire family."
Like Leacock himself, Douglas emigrated to Canada at the age of six and was also an alumnus of Upper Canada College. He received his master of arts at Amherst College and then attended the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. After appearing in theWest Endand touring in England, he returned to Canada starring in many film roles for the National Film Board includingThe Drylanders.He also had several guest appearances on the TV seriesBlack HarbourandRoad To Avonlea.
Douglas' stage appearances at Stratford Shakespeare Festival, the Globe Theatre in San Diego and Toronto's Crest Theatre catapulted him into film including the role of Col. Merril in the motion pictureM*A*S*H.His most recent film role was in Paul Gross'Men With Brooms.
A fiercely proud Canadian and passionate man of the theatre, he decided to remain in this country, where, over the years, he made a considerable mark in theatre, film and television and was one of the three founding members of the Tarragon Theatre. His theatrical heart was deeply rooted in musicals and his proudest productions were premieres of a musical adaptation of Gordon Pinsent's A Gift To LastandWar Brides: The Musical.
He was also artistic director of the Gryphon Theatre in Barrie where he nurtured new Canadian talent in every aspect of theatre.
A celebration of his life will be held in Erin, Ont., at All Saints Church on Jan. 24 at 3 p.m. Interment will take place in the spring at Mount Hermon Cemetery, Quebec City.
Donations may be made in James' name to the Actors' Fund of Canada: 1000 Yonge St., Suite 200, Toronto, ON M4W 2K2. (or online: www.actors-fund.ca).