Reel Toronto: The Hurricane
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Reel Toronto: The Hurricane

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.
The Hurricane, to steal an obvious line, coulda been a contender—an Oscar contender.

It was an uplifting story, with career efforts from the likes of Denzel Washington and Norman Jewison, and it was a true story. Well, that was the rub. They combined little bits of history here and there, skipped over a few things there and ended up with this little disclaimer…
The truth is, The Hurricane isn’t much less accurate than A Beautiful Mind (which DID win at the Oscars) and most other Hollywood “true” stories.
In his review, Roger Ebert wrote, “Those who seek the truth about a man from the film of his life might as well seek it from his loving grandmother. Most biopics, like most grandmothers, see the good in a man and demonize his enemies. They pass silently over his imprudent romances. In dramatizing his victories, they simplify them. And they provide the best roles to the most interesting characters. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t pay to see them.”
But the damage was done. So, there’s plenty of reason to assume the backlash had everything to do with that, and nothing to do with Jewison filming in his native Toronto, standing in both for New Jersey, and for itself.
After a prologue, we cut to this shot, and little slices of joyous 1970s Toronto…
…including Harbourfront…
…a vintage Toronto Public Library truck…
…and a drive down Lakeshore, past the old Molson Brewery (where things have changed a bit)…
…and the CNE.
The deal, if you don’t know, is that, to quote Bob Dylan, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter coulda been the champion of the world, but he got framed and/or mistakenly arrested for murders he didn’t commit, ultimately spending twenty-two years in prison. He was released, partly thanks to the efforts of some intrepid Torontonians (they were kinda weird hippie types) and a young boy named Lesra Martin whom they’d taken in.
Lesra found Carter’s biography at the Harbourfront book sale seen up above, but we also get a fast shot of this bookstore, the former Booksworth, on Bay Street.
Why, here is the young hero mailing his first letter to Carter. It drove us crazy trying to figure this one out, the main clue being the streetcar reflected in the window, but it’s on Gerrard Street. The sandwich shop there looks a bit worse for wear these days.
When the hippies get closer to freeing Carter, their car mysteriously goes out of control here…
…at the Dupont/Dundas underpass.
These early hospital scenes were shot at St. Joseph’s Health Centre.
After winning a big match, Carter gets feted at Branksome Hall.
Most of the court scenes were shot on sets down on Fraser Avenue, but this lobby shot is our fave, Old City Hall.
They also shot on a few residential streets, such as Riverside Drive and Kingswood Road, and the boxing scenes were simply shot in a studio space. So, The Hurricane might not be the truest Toronto movie ever made, but it’s still one of the better ones.