Wednesday, May 4, 2022

“Saturday Night at the Movies” Connected Canadian Viewers to Classic Cinema

In a special post written in memory of my friend Paddy, I discuss the TV show that nurtured her love of movies.

by Rich Watson 

For those of us who knew her, the death of film blogger Patricia Nolan-Hall has been heartbreaking beyond measure. Paddy’s friends have put together a Caftan Woman Blogathon, named for the blog she ran for fourteen years, in which we’ll discuss the films, TV shows and stars she loved. I’m interrupting our regularly scheduled programming to bring you this piece because it’s my blog and I can. 


In the days before hundreds of cable channels and online streaming services, Americans grew up watching old movies on regular television. 

Some were events. I’m old enough to recall when watching The Wizard of Oz or The Ten Commandments on the boob tube, in color, was a Big Deal. You made time to watch, often with family or friends.

For black and white films with less hoopla, there was a Late Show. You’d flip through the TV Guide to discover what was on and you stayed up to watch. Sometimes there was a creature feature hosted by Svengoolie or Vampira or somebody like that, in creepy makeup. Most times it was a regular picture from Old Hollywood, starring people you’d never heard of, talking faster than normal, dressed well, on elaborate sets.

Canadians had much the same experience. Then in 1974 came a TV show which raised the bar for what viewers not only saw, but learned. 

For one young woman, it was exactly what she wanted.

Paddy and her daddy

Patricia Nolan-Hall grew up with three sisters: Paula, Maureen and Tracy. Their father loved movies.

“Our family settled in Toronto in 1974 and because of our father, Billy, classic films (then known as ‘old movies’) were part of our DNA,” says Paula Nolan, Paddy’s sister. “He enjoyed all genres, with Spencer Tracy being his favorite actor. He also liked classic TV like The Honeymooners, Get Smart and Perry Mason.”

Billy Nolan’s daughters acquired his passion for movies. It didn’t matter that they were black and white and made before they were born.

“He would sometimes wake his four daughters—well, maybe not the baby—if a John Ford or other worthy films were on the CBLT (local Toronto CBC) late show,” says Paula. “Our Southern Ontario location included access to Buffalo broadcasts [on] WKBW (ABC) and WNED (PBS). They also had great late shows.”

Elwy Yost and the birth of SNM

Also in 1974, the network TVOntario, back when they were called the Ontario Educational Communications Authority, had acquired the broadcast rights to three Ingmar Bergman movies. They wanted to air them in an educational context. They asked one of their managers for advice, a man named Elwy Yost.

Yost, a former actor, quiz show panelist and host for the CBC, packaged the Bergman films into one show with introductions, interviews and other discussions.

Yost had an affinity for movies. As a kid in Weston, Ontario, he had a sled named Rosebud, like in Citizen Kane, a movie he loved. After seeing a movie, he would recount what he saw to his family, exaggerating in places. In the sixties, he hosted Passport to Adventure, a CBC series spotlighting movie serials.

The Bergman movie airings led to the creation of a weekly show, Saturday Night at the Movies. It aired double features of old films.

Technicolor and CinemaScope/A cast out of Hollywood 

Yost hosted SNM for twenty-five years. Many of his selections focused on Golden Age Hollywood movies, in a variety of genres. He also hosted a half-hour show, Magic Shadows, which serialized feature films from Monday to Friday. 

The interviews on SNM were a highlight. In addition to actors and directors, Yost talked to below-the-line workers such as cinematographers and editors.

Meanwhile, with Paddy’s marriage to Garry Hall, and the birth of her children Gavin and Janet, the family’s appreciation of old movies expanded in new directions. SNM was integral to this growth.

“As far as I know, Garry wasn’t much of an old movie buff before Paddy, but was intrigued by her interest,” says Paula. “Janet and Gavin inherited their mom’s love of old film. Janet has been having screenings with her peers, introducing them to movie that she enjoyed with her mom. Gavin has always had a thing for Rita Hayworth. Definitely a movie family.”

Yost’s legacy

Yost retired from the show in 1999. The final movie he aired was a contemporary one: Speed, written by his screenwriter son Graham Yost.

This Toronto Star article tells of father and son attending the film’s Hollywood premiere in 1994, where they met one of Elwy Yost’s fans:
“It was a real fantasyland kind of feeling that evening,” said Graham. “We go in [to the Chinese Theater], my dad’s sitting right next to me.” Suddenly, before the curtain went up, a hand reached out and tapped Elwy on the shoulder.

“Are you Elwy Yost?” asked an up-and-coming young filmmaker. “I just have to thank you.”

Graham instantly recognized Quentin Tarantino. Turns out the film maverick watched every episode of Elwy’s “The Moviemakers,” a syndicated compilation of his “Saturday Night” interviews.

“It was so meaningful to see all of those people being interviewed,” said Tarantino, then fresh off his writing and directing debut with “Reservoir Dogs.”
Also in 1999, Yost was made a member of the Order of Canada, a distinction that, according to Wikipedia, “recognizes the outstanding merit or distinguished service of Canadians who make a major difference to Canada through lifelong contributions in every field of endeavour.” 

SNM continued until 2013. Footage of Yost’s interviews went to Hollywood’s Motion Picture Academy. Last year, TVOntario aired a documentary about him.

Paddy starts the Caftan Woman blog

In 2008, Paddy added to her other interests in singing, writing and theater acting by launching her film blog Caftan Woman, named for her fascination with caftans. It started as a general interest blog but quickly encompassed all the things she had to say about old movies.

Two months before Yost’s death in 2011, Paddy wrote this on CW about him
…Contemporary viewers used to the proliferation of specialty channels may not realize what a boon it was for film fans to see movies uncut and commercial free, but let me tell you, it was as if we had died and gone to cinema heaven…. Elwy was our guide through the history of classic film. His unbridled enthusiasm for the subject made it alright for us to be movie lovers.
I started my own film blog in 2010. I connected with many other bloggers, who discussed both contemporary and classic movies, and learned from them all. 

Paddy, for me, was unique not only for her wit and knowledge, but for her perspective on movies. More than any other film blogger, I would quote from her, write companion pieces in response to things she had written and start blogathons with her, because through CW I knew her as a person. 

Saturday Night at the Movies helped shape that person. Though we never met in real life (several Zoom conversations notwithstanding), it was as if we did. My life is better for the experience—and I know I’m not alone in that regard.

Paddy started her blog as a way to share her love of movies, classic film and family,” says Paula. “Also to exercise her creativity as a writer. Finding her audience and connecting with her fellow bloggers was a huge bonus. Actually, the highlight of being a blogger.”

With Paddy and Janet at a TVO Open House.
Courtesy of Maureen Nolan.



More entries in the Caftan Woman Blogathon can be found at Another Old Movie Blog and The Lady Eve’s Reel Life on May 6.

Thanks to Paula and Maureen Nolan for their contributions to this post.


  1. This is terrific, Rich. It captures Paddy's love not only of old movies but of the clan of classic film bloggers, and I like how you bring us back to her own personal film fan roots. Well done!

  2. Thanks a lot. Getting Paula and Maureen’s perspective was a bonus. It was important to me.

  3. This is fantastic, Rich. Anyone not knowing Paddy at all would certainly get to know her through this post. It is clear Paddy meant a lot to you as your admiration comes through. Thank you for sharing this.


    1. She totally did. In the early years of Wide Screen World, It took me awhile to find something resembling a direction. I suspect it wasn’t until meeting Paddy—and also bloggers like you and Jacqueline—that I may have settled on one.

  4. This was awesome, Rich. Oe of the first things that came to my mind when thinking of Paddy was Elwy-- their joy and love of movies seemed much the same. Thanks so much for this

    1. Paddy talked about Elwy Yost occasionally, but this was the first time I really learned not only who he was, but how influential he was. He was Robert Osborne long before Robert Osborne.

  5. Such a deep and meaningful post. You totally captured her essence and what made all of us love and truly value her so much. Thank you.

  6. What a fascinating post! I feel I not only got to know Paddy better but also got a wonderful history lesson at the same time. Thank you, Rich.

  7. That was more or less the idea. I wanted to know who this guy was that meant so much to her.

  8. This is a beautiful post, Rich. I knew Elwy Yost was central to her development as a classic movie fan, but I never knew the back story behind him. I guess all of us who were Paddy's friends owe him a great debt. After all, he was part of what led Paddy to become the wonderful person she was.

    1. You said it! I wish I had grown up with SATURDAY NIGHT.

  9. I loved this tribute, Rich. Thank you for sharing so much about Paddy, as well as for introducing me to Elwy Yost and his impact on her life. I also loved reading about how her love for classic films has extended to her her family, and about Janet doing screenings! Paddy's legacy lives on.

  10. Rich, this is wonderful, and a special tribute to Paddy. I didn’t know this detail about the beginnings of Paddy’s love of cinema, and your look at Elwy Yost illuminated what must be an important slice of culture for film-loving Canadians.

    Hope to see you back at one of our Zoom film discussions.

  11. Hi Jocelyn. Thanks. Perhaps I will stop by again. I liked your Boston Zoom group.

  12. Rich, this is AWESOME!! She often spoke of Elwy Yost, and you've written the perfect tribute to Paddy and Elwy. I loved, loved this. Thank you.

  13. Terrific post! I love how you've given us a history of Paddy's love for movies both through Elwy Yost and her wonderful family. Such an important piece of Paddy's life that you've brought to this blogathon. Thank you.

  14. I’m just glad I thought of the idea first.

  15. This is such a cool tribute. What a loss for the film blogging community.

  16. You got that right. Thanks.

  17. Lovely tribute Rich, and some lovely contributions