Klieg lights filled the sky above Yonge and Bloor on the evening of June 19, 1958, as the stars of Now That April’s Here, a new film shot in Toronto with an entirely Canadian cast and crew, arrived at the Towne Cinema in a convoy of luxury convertibles. Dressed in black ties and lush gowns for the film’s world premiere, the actors and actresses made their way past a crowd gathered on the sidewalk to be greeted by television cameramen, photographers, and radio interviewers. Nearby, a military band played. The only thing missing at the invitation-only event was a red carpet, but it was a good imitation of a glittering Hollywood gala.
In the theatre lobby, scriptwriter Norman Klenman and director William Davidson—the film’s producers—floated from conversation to conversation, accepting congratulations from guests ranging from Mayor Nathan Phillips, various city councillors, and provincial cabinet minister Thomas R. Connell, to Glenn Gould, Lorne Greene, and Wayne and Shuster. “Hah!” Klenman laughed when someone asked whether he was excited. Holding out his hand, he added, “Look at it, steady as a rock.”
Optimism ran high that, if successful, Now That April’s Here would be—as Davidson put it to a reporter—”the forerunner of a totally Canadian feature film industry, independent of the government agencies, the National Film Board and the CBC.” The plaudits for the ambitious, much-hyped film, however, didn’t last much beyond opening night. High expectations went unfulfilled for critics and audience alike. Now That April’s Here flopped, leading outspoken arts critic Nathan Cohen, looking back on it a half decade later, to damn the movie as setting “the Canadian film industry back, I estimate conservatively, a decade.”