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Former Saturday Night at the Movies host Elwy Yost dies

Elwy Yost, former host of TVOntario's Saturday Night at the Movies, is seen in an undated file photo.

TVOntario

In his youth, Elwy Yost made a film with a friend from university and acted in a summer stock theatre. As a young man with a family to support, he took a steady job teaching high school in suburban Toronto.

He became a household name when he combined these two loves - cinema and instruction - as the long-time host of Saturday Night at the Movies on TVOntario.

Mr. Yost died of natural causes at his home in West Vancouver Thursday. He was 86.

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During his 25-year run on the iconic show, he earned a reputation as a genial, avuncular figure who conducted high-quality interviews with everyone from movie stars to directors to cameramen and film experts.

"What you saw on TV is exactly what Elwy was like," recalled TVO colleague Bruce Pittman, who produced and directed the early seasons of his show. "He was like the uncle you would want in your living room watching movies with you."

Born in Weston, Ont., now a part of Toronto, July 10, 1925, Mr. Yost was the only child of a pickle manufacturer. His love of film started early, his family said, when his father would give him a dime every week to see a film and then have him recount the plot.

He studied engineering at the University of Toronto for a year, before he was drafted into the army. The Second World War ended before he saw action, and he returned to U of T to study sociology.

Mr. Yost worked a series of jobs in his youth, including in construction, at the Canadian National Exhibition and in the circulation department of the Toronto Star, where he met his future wife, Lila Melby, in 1951. He spent several years at Avro, before the cancellation of the Arrow supersonic airplane, then became a teacher at Burnhamthorpe Collegiate in Etobicoke.

His son, screenwriter Graham Yost, recalled how his father got into stage acting by chance when, while travelling to New York, he happened to light the cigarette of actor Jack Blacklock. Through these theatre connections, he heard that CBC was looking for game show panelists, auditioned and got the gig.

His time on Live a Borrowed Life, the Superior Sex and Flashback led to a hosting job at Passport to Adventure, a show that serialized classic movies. In 1974, while working for TVO, he was asked to find a way to present three Ingmar Bergman films in an educational format. This series ultimately morphed into a full-time job as Saturday Night at the Movies.

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On the show Mr. Yost would introduce a film then, after screening it, would air an in-depth interview or a documentary he had made about it. He would often take a crew to Los Angeles and interview people in their homes.

"Elwy was saying, this is an art form and it can be educational," Mr. Pittman said. "Elwy had such a great knowledge, he knew [interview subjects']movies inside-out and backwards, and he knew the parts of their movies they'd want to talk about."

His love for cinema was evident at home as well.

"He always loved us talking about books and movies," recalled Graham Yost. "He always thought that movies should serve a higher purpose."

Mr. Yost moved to his wife's home province of British Columbia in 1989, but continued hosting his show. He retired a decade later.

While his health had been failing in recent years, Mr. Yost still enjoyed going to see new releases.

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"My brother took him to see Borat and he said 'that might have been the funniest movie I've seen,'" Graham Yost said.

In addition to Lila and Graham, Mr. Yost is survived by son Christopher Yost, two grandchildren and a daughter-in-law.

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About the Author
Washington correspondent

Adrian Morrow covers U.S. politics from Washington, D.C. Previously he was The Globe's Ontario politics reporter. He's covered news, crime and sports for The Globe since 2010. He won the National Newspaper Award for politics reporting in 2016. More

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