Why Rock the Boat?
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 112 min
National Film Board of Canada
In Montreal in 1947, Harry Barnes (Stuart Gillard) graduates from McGill University and joins the Montreal Daily Witness, Canada’s dullest, most reactionary and least controversial newspaper. The managing editor, Philip Butcher (Henry Beckman), is a hard-nosed reactionary who tries to please his advertisers and not rock the boat. While on assignment, Harry falls for Julia Martin (Tiiu Leek), a beautiful journalist from a rival newspaper who is trying to organize a union. Tired of covering boring meetings, Harry amuses himself by writing capricious and scathing stories which inexplicably begin appearing on the front page of his newspaper. One day, frustrated and fed up, he wreaks havoc at work, delivering a drunken, passionate pro-union speech.
Considerably less satiric than William Weintraub’s 1961 novel (from which he adapted the screenplay himself), Why Rock the Boat? is a slight, humorous coming-of-age story that offers a careful recreation of forties’ Montreal, a few enjoyable performances and a well-tempered veneer of good-natured fun. Harry is a stereotypical sympathetic innocent and the mockery and anti-conformity are essentially superficial. The film was heavily promoted by the National Film Board prior to its release, opened simultaneously in several cities and was a modest commercial success. It went on to win three Canadian Film Awards for Lead Actor (Stuart Gillard), Supporting Actor (Henry Beckman) and Adapted Screenplay (Weintraub).