Canadian Wartime Propaganda

Second World War Wartime Photo

Harry Mayerovitch & John Grierson,  National Film Board

John Grierson

John Grierson (right), National Film Board (NFB) Commissioner, and Harry Mayerovitch, director of the Wartime Information Board's (WIB) Graphic Arts Division, examine posters in 1944. Grierson, who also for a time headed the WIB, believed in the capacity of documentary film, a phrase he coined, to bridge the information gap between governments and those they led. At the WIB, he also pioneered the use of public opinion polling for government purposes.

The NFB fell upon hard times at war's end when Igor Gouzenko, a cipher clerk at the Soviet embassy, defected to Canada and implicated one of Grierson's past secretaries as a spy. Films and posters produced during and immediately after the war in support of Canada's Soviet ally, sometimes by employees with avowed Communist sympathies, now raised fears that the NFB was an organ of Soviet propaganda in the fast-emerging Cold War. The NFB survived the ensuing investigation, barely, but several of its employees did not. Grierson had resigned for unrelated reasons before the crisis broke.

© National Film Board

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