City Unique: Montreal Days and Nights in the 1940s and '50s

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9780771089916: City Unique: Montreal Days and Nights in the 1940s and '50s
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Montreal in the 1940s and '50s was Canada's largest, richest, most vibrant and colourful city. It was, at the end of those prosperous decades, "bursting at the seams," still growing, still far ahead of Toronto. No one then could foresee the rise of Quebec separatism, which would cripple the city, and send it into its long decline.

In City Unique, William Weintraub introduces the reader to many of the extraordinary characters who gave Montreal its singular flavour. They include Camillien Houde, the mayor who was interned during the war for advocating treason; Lili St. Cyr, the ultimate striptease artiste, who mesmerized men and boys; Maurice Duplessis, the dictatorial premier who could evict individuals from their homes if he suspected they were communist; Harry Ship, the czar of illegal gambling dens; and Anna Beauchamp, the flamboyant madam who operated a string of at least a dozen brothels.

Montreal was a "wide-open town," the vice capital of Canada, where the amply bribed police and politicians connived to resist all attempts at reform. But two crusaders, Pacifique Plante and Jean Drapeau, were determined to clean up the city and Weintraub gives a lively account of their battle with the vice lords.

During the era, far-reaching changes took place within the communities that comprised Montreal's three solitudes - the English, the French, and the Jewish - and the author examines their effects. He also describes the city's passionate ideologues, both communist and fascist, their struggles and changing fortunes in the aftermath of the Second World War. He examines, too, the emergence of a generation of novelists, playwrights and poets, including Hugh MacLennan, Gabrielle Roy, Irving Layton and others who set a new standard for Canadian literature.

The 1940s and '50s were a unique period, different from everything that came before - the Great Depression, the lingering stuffiness of the Edwardian era - and different from the period that followed - signaled by Quebec's Quiet Revolution. It was a pivotal, momentous time. William Weintraub, writing with indignation and affection, brings the Montreal of his youth vividly, entertainingly and wittily to life in this extraordinary book.

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About the Author:

William Weintraub was a reporter for the Gazette and a writer for Weekend magazine. Later, as writer, director, and producer with the National Film Board, he was involved in the making of some 150 films. He is the author of Why Rock the Boat?, The Underdogs, and City Unique.

Review:

"For years, I had been hoping someone would write a book about Montreal in the 1940s. No one could have done it as well, as wittily and as accurately as Bill Weintraub. His City Unique is authentic and coherent, impeccably researched, even-handed and a pleasure to read. He knows Montreal, he knows its history and, above all, he was there."
–Mavis Gallant

"This is Montreal, seen as never before in a frank and fascinating expose of an era of stunning poverty, incredible corruption, and riveting political and sexual machinations. Yet, at the same time, it is a wonderfully funny and affectionate portrait of the city's races, their artistic triumphs and tribulations."
–Brian Moore

"An engaging, evocative book about Montreal's prime-time."
–Mordecai Richler

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Weintraub, William
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William Weintraub
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ISBN 10: 0771089910 ISBN 13: 9780771089916
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