Chasing "Chasing Rainbows"
Just to show that if you want something badly enough, it will eventually find you.
It's so good to be able to talk about something pleasant for a change. An amazing thing happened to me a couple of days ago. I stumbled across the complete 14-episode series "Chasing Rainbows" while searching for something else on YouTube. You can download it here.
I had seen that series in 1988 when it came out on CBC-TV and loved it so much that I never stopped wishing I could see it again. It was so ... Canadian! And so local to me.
For instance, the prolific screenwriter, playwright Douglas Bowie lives in my home town Kingston:
Then there's Julie Stewart, who, in Rainbows, plays opposite Paul Gross and Michael Riley, and who went to high school with my daughter. Even then, both girls were stars in their own right appearing together in highly popular, crowd-drawing musicals presented at LCVI under the amazing direction of the beloved Mr. Clark, and with piano accompaniment by a brilliant young student named Matthew Larkin, whom the girls seemed to really like - in an almost motherly, respectful kind of way.
(My daughter continued acting in musicals, such as West Side Story at the Grand Theatre, Kingston, and in plays put on at university, but she was (is) a scientist at heart and chose to get an Honours degree in biology rather than pursue an acting career. I am very proud of her for many reasons.)
About a decade ago, after a fruitless online search for a DVD of Chasing Rainbows, I emailed both Bowie and Stewart to ask if they knew how I could buy a copy of the series, but they didn't know. I wrote to the CBC, went all the way to the top, and they didn't know. I wrote to all of the various commercial entities involved in the production, and they didn't know.
I thought it insane to just let this beautiful creation disappear into the mist, but eventually I had to quit machinating over it and move on to other things. But you should know this: Chasing Rainbows was deeply relevant to the insanity of war, the prohibition years,the monarchy, to class structure in Canadian society, to feminism, to general Canadian morals, values and attitudes, including antisemitism and racism in general ... I could go on.
And I shall:
When Chasing Rainbows hit the TV screen, my gentleman friend at the time, Arthur Zimmerman*, a physiologist, musicologist and radio buff (now living in Toronto), had created an oral history of radio at CFRC, Queen's University, and was then in the process of writing his now-published book about the history of radio in Canada.
He pointed out to me that the character Rex Steffensen, played by Lewis Gordon (who left this earth in 2006), was a take-off on Reginald Fessenden, a Canadian known among radio buffs as an unsung hero, since after all of his amazing and successful research on wireless telephony (which in Chasing Rainbows takes place in rented rooms in a brothel), Marconi was eventually awarded the contract to develop it further.
The scene in Chasing Rainbows, where Steffensen makes contact on Christmas Eve with a ship at sea, with all of the beautiful brothel denizens standing around him singing, is absolutely unforgettable.
To top it all off, Chasing Rainbows was the first television series in the world shot using Sony's High Definition Video System (HDVS).
Some may find the dialogue somewhat tame, even hackneyed, in comparison to the assaults on the nervous system that can come from exposure to too much American stuff. So don't watch it if you're looking for something racier. You can go ahead and die not knowing what a gorgeous thing you missed.
If you're not keen on Paul Gross, just try to set that aside for the sake of the story. He does have some pretty decent moments in Chasing Rainbows.
I've burned it onto a DVD. No way I'm ever not going to be able to access it again! "I amour it!" (quoting Booth Savage in his Chasing Rainbows role as the ever-cheerful "Chicago" Benny Rose who saw prohibition as a money-making godsend after realizing that being paid to smuggle Chinese people into the US was a disastrous mistake!)
* The First Wireless Time Signals to Ships at Sea (PDF) By Arthur Zimmerman, Ph.D.
Image: Canada's History - Prohibition/Beer Wars
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