Honorary degree citation - Wally Gentleman*
By: John W. Locke, June 1990
Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you the internationally-recognized filmmaker and special effects artist, Wally Gentleman. For almost fifty years, Mr. Gentleman has been making truly outstanding contributions to the art of filmmaking, both in Canada and around the world.
First with Technicolor and then with the J. Arthur Rank Organisation at Pinewood Studios and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, he quickly rose from Effects Camera Assistant to Special Effects Cameraman to Special Effects Director. During this period he was involved with the development of the revolutionary Independent Frame Rear Projection production system as well as the full range of special effects techniques. His contributions were in the area of research and development and in the incorporation of improved effects into the films as they were being made. We have all seen his work. This was a very important period in the history of film in Great Britain, and Wally Gentleman was a key member of the teams responsible for the special effects in literally dozens of films made between 1943 and 1957 in Great Britain.
Moving to the National Film Board of Canada as Director of Special Effects in 1957, he began the process of bringing this area of N.F.B. filmmaking up to world standards. It is clear that key N.F.B. films such as "Universe" would not have achieved their success without his contribution. Production using the 16-mm format has been central to the National Film Board of Canada, and it was Wally Gentleman who brought special effects previously only used in 35-mm feature films to 16-mm at the N.F.B. In a recently published book about Canadian film technology, he is praised for bringing "a rare combination of artistic and technical skills to Canada".
Following his years with the N.F.B., he first served as Director of Effects on "2001 - A Space Odyssey" and then worked on projects for EXPO 67 and in Europe. In 1977, he was appointed as a Director at Film Effects of Hollywood and was associated with a series of films and television projects.
"One from the Heart" was Francis Ford Coppola's 1982 film intended to demonstrate how electronics and video could revolutionize the making of films. Of all the effects specialists in the western world, it was Wally Gentleman who was chosen to be the Director of Special Effects on this innovative film. For this film based on new technology, Coppola, clearly one of the visionary new generation of directors, selected a special effects artist from the old generation. This to me exemplifies the respect with which Mr. Gentleman is viewed by his colleagues. He is a master of the magic of cinema.
Mr. Chancellor, it is a privilege to present to you, on behalf of the Senate and by the authority of the Board of Governors, Wally Gentleman, so that you may confer on him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.