Where Goin' Down the Road was filmed in Toronto

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Where Goin’ Down the Road was filmed in Toronto

Belatedly, revisiting the cold, grey 1969 Toronto in a CanCon classic.

Toronto’s extensive work on the silver screen reveals that, while we have the chameleonic ability to look like anywhere from New York City to Moscow, the disguise doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny. Reel Toronto revels in digging up and displaying the films that attempt to mask, hide, or—in rare cases—proudly display our city.

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It’s inexplicable and we have no excuse—except that it’s just too obvious—but we’ve never profiled Goin’ Down the Road before. Like, it’s only arguably the most important Toronto movie made ever, eh? It’s only a small, Canadian film that earned a four-star review from Roger Ebert and has, in the nearly 50 years since it was made, become part of the Canadian canon.

So, we’re gonna rectify it as best we can. Better late than never!

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As you must know, it’s about Pete and Joey, a couple of good ol’ boys from Cape Breton who come to Toronto hoping to get jobs and make the big time. Notwithstanding this shot from the Gardiner, with Commerce Court dominating the skyline…

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…Presumably they took the 401 to the DVP…

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…because they come into downtown via the Richmond Street exit (where it looks like the signs are still in miles per hour).

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Then there are a few nice shots of the big, intimidating city, including this one over King and Bay.

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The film was shot in a vérité style, and the version we have isn’t exactly remastered in 4K, so a lot of the shots are dark, accentuating the purposeful air of alienation on film.

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Accordingly, it’s not always easy to pick out details, but one of the signature scenes is a montage of the guys…

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…having a good ol’ time on Yonge Street (note Zanzibar here).

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They duck into the dear, departed A&A Records

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….then we go inside…

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…and even upstairs, to the classical section. Indeed, there are probably more LPs visible in this shot than the entire stock of your local mall store today.

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You can’t always pick out the locations, but it always looks cool.

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They also find housing at a boarding house next to the dumpy-looking Pembroke Hotel.

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Today, the hotel is the (slightly less dumpy-looking) Knight’s Inn, at Pembroke near Gerrard. The boarding house, at number 15, seems to have been replaced by this brick home. Boo!

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We see a bit more of the house…

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…and the street near the end.

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They also stay in this Salvation Army hostel, which you can’t see very much here.

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But we assume it’s the one that still exists on Sherbourne.

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Some other shots on Yonge are too dark or otherwise hard to locate specifically, but we’re going past a subway entrance here…

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…and these…

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…shop windows.

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There’s also a lot of great strolling around, where the characters are kind of lost in the cold, grey, busy city.

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…looking into more windows…

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Here we are strolling across Yonge, for example…

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…and here, at the south end of Bay.

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La Scala used to be on Bay, near Charles, so this seems to have been shot there, with a long lens that makes everything look crowded and compressed. (The restaurant is apparently commemorated by this laneway.)

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There are also some stunning shots down in the portlands…

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…like these.

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Here they stake out the Riviera Restaurant…

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…which was here, on Bloor.

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They all then go somewhere with a Dominion the back. We don’t know for sure but there did used to be one right across the street.

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And, speaking of grocery stores, this was filmed at a Loblaw’s…

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…but we’re not sure which one.

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But then there are some actual, bona fide recognizable landmarks, like City Hall…

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…where you can note the lack of Eaton Centre here…

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…which comes with these great shots of the guys sitting on the steps of Old City Hall…

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…looking down Bay Street

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…and this band playing on Queen Street West.

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There are a couple of visits to Allen Gardens…

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…during nicer times…

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…and…

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…in the snow.

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More parkland to be enjoyed…

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….over on the islands.

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Not to mention some fun…

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…if dangerous times out at the Scarborough Bluffs.

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The boys go to work in this Wilson Ginger Ale bottling plant.

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Now, they used to be down on Sherbourne…

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…but these exterior shots don’t seem to be there.

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They go cruising in this fancy neighbourhood…

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..which we can spot as Rosedale (while a young Bruce Cockburn plays on the soundtrack; this home appears to still be there on Highland Avenue.

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They also take a job delivering flyers, also in Rosedale…

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…and then dump them over the side of the Glen Road Bridge (which has since been rebuilt).

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As the boys leave they head (the wrong way, actually, though okay, they could take the Gardiner to the 427 to the 401 and loop around) and we get another skyline shot…

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…as they blow past the Toronto Postal Building, which is now the ACC and, right down there, Maple Leaf Square. Yeah, the view’s a little more crowded these days.

It’d be nice if there were properly restored prints easily findable because Goin’ Down the Road is a) just a good movie b) an important document of Toronto as it was evolving from the ol’ “Toronto the Good.” (You can actually watch the whole thing on YouTube.)

And if you read anything else anywhere about Goin’ Down the Road, you’ll notice the writer is legally obligated—and rightly so—to mention the SCTV take-off, which is just brilliant and one of the best long-form things they ever did, which makes it one of the best things ever anywhere. (For Reel Toronto completists: watch it and you can see Lakeshore Drive, University Avenue by hospital row, Riverdale Park, and, of course, Yonge Street.) Do yourself a favour and do a double feature.

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