Over the last few weeks I’ve been sharing a selection of my favourite stats and feats from my new book Canadian Geographic Biggest and Best of Canada: 1000 Facts & Figures (in stores now!). If you enjoy trivia, particularly Canadian trivia, or have a particular fascination with Canadian facts and accomplishments, you’ll surely enjoy my book. In the hopes of further capturing your interest, I’ve been sharing a top-10 selection of items from each category that particularly stood out for me. This week: pop culture.
1. When is a kiss not just a kiss? When the year is 1895, and the smooch in question is the first in the very early days of moving pictures. May Irwin, of Whitby, Ontario, a Canadian actress and the most well-loved comedienne of her time, puckered up in the short film The Kiss. Many considered the peck a scandal.
2. A Canadian first in Hollywood history: Florence Lawrence, born in Hamilton, Ontario, on January 2, 1886, is believed to be the first movie star known publically by her real name. (Studios didn’t use actors’ real names for fear they’d demand more money). As part of a publicity stunt for the movie The Broken Oath in 1909, her true identity was revealed. Lawrence, who appeared in almost 300 films starting in 1906, is also considered the world’s first movie star.
3. It’s quite possibly one of the most recognizable signs in the world — indeed, some call it the most famous sign on the planet. But did you know that the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, California, was built by Canadian Mack Sennett in 1923? Sennett, born in Richmond, Quebec, on January 17, 1880, became a film actor, director and producer, co-founding the Keystone production company and “discovering” a number of early Hollywood stars, including Charlie Chaplin.
4. Early Hollywood actress Mary Pickford, and her husband at the time, Douglas Fairbanks, were the first stars to cast their hands and feet in cement in front of the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, on April 30, 1927. Known as “America’s sweetheart,” Pickford was born in Toronto on April 8, 1892.
5. Talk about Hollywood North! James Cameron, born in Kapuskasing, Ontario, is the writer and director of the two highest-grossing movies of all time, Avatar (2009) and Titanic (1997). The two films have combined to gross nearly $500 million dollars, with Avatar besting Titanic at $2,782.3 million to $2,186.8 million, as of early 2013.
6. While the rumours of his being the inspiration for Dr. Evil of Austin Powers fame have been denied, there’s no question television producer Lorne Michaels is a mad genius, after a fashion. Born in Toronto on November 17, 1944, Michaels’ most noteworthy accomplishment is as the creator and executive producer of Saturday Night Live, the longest-running and highest-rated late-night television show ever.
7. Quick: name the best-selling Canadian author of all time. Did you know it was Canada’s “King of Kid-Lit” Robert Munsch? Munsch, who lives in Guelph, Ontario, has penned more than 40 books, with total sales of more than 30 million copies.
8. If you know a teenager or young adult these days, you’re likely very familiar with Justin Bieber. Bieber, born in Stratford, Ontario, on March 1, 1994, became the first musician with five Number One albums on the Billboard 200 chart before turning 19 years old. He achieved the feat in early 2013 with his Believe Acoustic album. His previous Number One albums included Believe (2012), Under the Mistletoe (2011), Never Say Never: The Remixes (2011) and My World 2.0 (2010).
9. You could say the greatest naked woman of all time is a Canadian. If you count the cover of Playboy as the measure, that is. Actress Pamela Anderson, born on July 1, 1967, in Ladysmith, British Columbia, has appeared on the magazine’s cover 13 times, more than anyone else.
10. Its mission statement is simple: “Make people happy.” The annual Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal is the world’s largest, with audiences of nearly two million people each July. The Montreal festival has grown into a major comedy business operation, with festivals in Toronto, Chicago and Sydney, Australia; television shows (Gags, seen in 135 countries); live tours and talent management.