By Cayle Chernin
[Cayle Chernin, Selina in Goin' Down the Road]
Credits and Cast | Goin' Down the Road DVD
Doug McGrath & Cayle Chernin during filming of GDTR
Recently, Doug McGrath and I were reminiscing about working on the film, Goin' Down The Road, in 1969 -- a magic place in time when a rocky road resulted in an exciting cinematic creation that stands to this day as one of the high points in Canadian film making.
A few years ago the Toronto International Film Festival paid tribute to the low budget --shot-in-16, bumped up to 35 mm -- grainy, modest masterpiece with a new improved 35 mm print.
Don Shebib commented to me at the time of the screening that the original Goin' Down The Road had never looked this good.
L to R: Nicole Morin, Jayne Eastwood and Cayle Chernin,
Film festival, release of new GDTR print.
1999. Photographer: Korby Banner
For the Film Festival Festivities it was Don Shebib and the 'girls' who showed up -- Jayne Eastwood, Nicole Morin and myself.
Doug was still living in Los Angeles and Paul
Bradley, rumour had it, was in Vancouver.
Sadly, this past year-end (2003) brought news of Paul's passing in Victoria, much as was expected,
from the combination of hard living and failing health.
Doug has returned to Toronto and in the first phone call we had, he said: "You heard about Paul..." and we shared a moment of silence.
Then the stories about Paul started. And soon we were laughing so hard, we were crying. Paul had that effect on people.
I remember very well when he first came up those stairs at Eli Rill's Studio on Yonge Street above the Le Strip Burlesque Club, a hop and skip from the Bohemian Embassy and 719 Yonge Street near Bloor where I had studied with Eli since I was 15. At this location in the late 60's and early 70's Eli ran a one-man operation training a wide variety of Canadian actors who went on with the some of the cast of Goin' Down the Road to celebrity and valuable work.
John Candy, playwright Michael Hollingworth, actor Art Hindle, producer director Hrant Alianak to name but a few. Almost everybody passed through Eli's classes which he often held four nights a week. Nights that ran into the wee hours of the morning when Eli regaled hungry actors with stories of New York and the Actors Studio, sharing with us where he had been and what he knew -- which was substantial. He lived the work, he was our way into 'the life.'
The classes were fabulous theatre -- improvisations that grew and developed in front of our eyes, accompanied by sense memory and emotional memory exercises and always Eli cautioning us about our 'sense of truth'. He nurtured in us the Actors Studio dedication to re-creating life with truth and emotional clarity. Risking to be human and personal. Making choices.
The year before Goin' Down The Road was shot I acted as assistant director to Eli on a theatre piece called Soul and Molly B in which Jayne, Doug, Paul, Ted Sugar (also in Goin' Down The Road) starred -- a play with music. In fact, as I recall, Doug came in at the last moment saving the day when Stan Ross, may he rest in Peace, was released from the show. Stan was one who shared Paul's love of life and of the bottle.
Doug stepped into the role, learned it quickly and was ready for The Opening.
Paul insisted on telling a joke on stage after intermission with the punch line 'Do it Dirl' that he thought was hilarious, and I thought was extremely unfunny. He did it for one show -- perhaps just to upset me -- and it fell so flat he dropped it. More often then not, his fuck ups would bring me to tears, my main directing tool in those days. Hopefully I've expanded my arsenal. Paul certainly did, in the course of the run. He was on time and reasonably sober on stage.
However, when he was very drunk he was quite abusive and unreachable. Don certainly had some difficult moments on the set of Goin' Down the Road when Paul's alcohol levels were on high. Watch the Wedding Scene and Weep. Paul lived it out mercilessly.
L to R, Cayle, Jayne Eastwood and Nicole Morin.
Taken at Grossman's Tavern for Mclean's magazine.
Photographer John Reeves.
When Don Shebib called Eli to ask him to recommend actors for Goin' Down the Road, Eli sent us all over -- Doug, Paul, Jane, Teddy Sugar, Ron (a friend of Paul's from the corner), me and a few others. Pierre - Peter Langly…
We were all such pals at the time. I shared an attic in Rosedale with Jayne and her wonderful childhood friend Elva. Paul and Doug were thick as thieves. Doug was very serious and thoughtful, dedicated to the art of acting, and maybe he needed to lighten up a little. Paul brought lunacy and such intimacy into his human interactions. At one point shortly before Goin' Down The Road, Paul was living in Eli's Acting Studio and he had rigged up a kind of Rube Goldberg device so he could turn off the light from his bed. It was ingenious and actually worked. He made laziness an inspiration.
Don said he wouldn't hire me for Selina, Jane's pal, because I had an American accent and these were very Canadian girls - East Enders. I think my American accent came from the six years my family lived in Stevenville, Newfoundland right beside Earnest Harmon Airforce Base where I grew up with a lot of Americans whose families were in the Military.
I asked for another chance, which Don granted me. I went to Charles Jordan, a popular voice coach for singing and speech at the time, and father of singer-composer Mark Jordan, with my 'sides' (although I don't remember calling them that then). It was two scenes, one on Center Island and in the car on the first double date with 'Betts' and 'Joey'.
I re-auditioned and Don gave me a break. He let me do the part. So we were all together and Goin' Down The Road gave us the opportunity to create the lives of the Canadian unwashed, fucked up, fucked over, lovable losers, irrepressible 'deer in the headlights of civilization' kind of folks. And so poignant - Richard Leiterman's take on poor Betts' face when the slide downhill was escalating, Don's beautiful sensitive editing.
Jayne had played Charlotte Corday in Marat Sade prior and was I recall wonderful. Jayne had deep feeling and you could feel her pain. And you couldn't resist laughing when she laughed. I loved laughing with Jayne and that's basically what we did as Betty and Selina.
Eli had encouraged us to find ourselves and to stretch and find characters. You can't judge your character; you must play the character with all the honesty and insight you can muster. He was adamant that indicating, exclaiming, technically executed manipulations of the audience's emotions were not our goal. Rather we were trying for a true exploration of a human being in an imaginary Set of Circumstances with a disciplined, responsive, open instrument with which we could 'play' the drama of life in the ritual of Theatre, and in the immediacy, longevity and survival of Film - with spontaneity!
We must create credible life with an authenticity that belied the phoney traditional staginess that Canadian actors were often identified by at that time. Now when almost everyone is capable of being real on camera, it seems amazing that some of the first reviews thought Goin' Down the Road was a documentary, like some kind of pre-reality TV show that followed these God forsaken Canadian fools we know and love because they are lovable.
Paul was certainly lovable. The hardcore is probably that he was a 'grifter' and acting was a good 'grift'. He did well with it for a long time and lived the high life. The first time Paul went up on stage, I remember what Eli said to the whole class: "This is a natural actor."
At one location shoot for Goin' Down The Road we met at the Carleton Hotel where Paul had a room. The place looked to be under destruction. We were all pretty broke and Don had sold his little sports car to keep the film going. And of course Bennet Fode stepped in and took it to conclusion with a grand opening at The New Yorker Cinema.
L to R: Doug McGrath, Don Shebib, Jayne Eastwood,
Eli Rill, Cayle Chernin, Paul Bradley.
Toronto Life, 1970. GDTR Release Party
Don wasn't sure how it would be received. If people would love it or hate it. It turned out to be an absolutely great night! A grand night for Canadian cinema. The kind of night we should see far more often.
Goin' Down the Road made history because it was and is history. The MacKenzie Brothers and other grand Canucks made it across the border, but these poor souls? They made it to Toronto and were sent packing in defeat. Which begs the question: What happened to Pete and Joey? What happened to abandoned Betts and her unborn child? And of course I want to know what happened to Salina.
Perhaps Goin' Down the Road has more history to make, more story to tell and Paul is still a major ingredient inspiring a new chapter in the journey of ourselves.
& William Fruet
Doug McGrath: Pete McGraw
Paul Bradley: Joey Male
Jayne Eastwood: Betty
Cayle Chernin: Selina
Nicole Morin: Nicole
Pierre La Roche: Plant worker
Ted Sugar: Plant worker
Don Steinhouse: Plant worker
Denise Bishop: Grocery clerk
BACK TO TOP
Paul Bradley, Joey Male in Goin' Down the Road, on Vancouver Island: Happy if not a little weak
shortly before he passed away.
CAO Discussion Board Moderator, 'Arthur Dent', on Paul Bradley:
This picture of Paul was taken about a year before he died on Vancouver
His friends should know that it was a particularly good day for him and
that he was happy, feeling a little weak but otherwise he was in his usual
rare form. He had also stopped drinking. In the middle of telling us a
story that had us hysterical with laughter, he nodded off to sleep - awoke
several minutes later and immediately picked up his story where he left off
He was a gentle and gifted story teller and whenever I
think of him it always makes me smile.
BACK TO TOP
About Cayle Chernin
Cayle Chernin commenced her career as Cayle Chernin, part of the cast of the
acclaimed Canadian film Goin' Down The Road and has worked since steadily as an actor, writer,
producer/director, and teacher.
Cayle created and performed a one - woman show based on Erica Jong's "Fear of Flying"
at the Toronto Fringe Festival, did Equity Showcase's production of "Mephisto" and
has enjoyed a variety of roles from the mother of Elvis' love child on the Super Dave Show; a
nosy New Yorker to Kathy Lee's 'Spinning Out of Control' diva; and Rose, Anita Doron's out of
touch but not out of reach heroine in "Not A Fish Story", an acclaimed short film
that played in The Toronto International Film Festival.
She has produced and written a number of award-winning independent videos: Children's Broadcast
Award winner, The Party's Over, In the Shadows, a Syrian Tragedy was broadcast on Israel TV and
screened internationally. I Am Home, premiered at The Cape Town Film Festival, South Africa and
played on Vision TV and WTN
BACK TO TOP