One Warm Line:
The Legacy of Stan Rogers

directed by Alan
Collins & Robert Lang
(Kensington, 1989)

It's fortunate indeed that those who never had the privilege of seeing Stan Rogers perform his songs have this opportunity to see him on film.

Stan Rogers, the Canadian folksinger who died in an airplane fire in 1983, really only had about six years of fame during his lifetime. Since then, thanks to word of mouth and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Stan has become larger than life, the quintessential Canadian folksinger.

One Warm Line captures the essence of Stan and presents some of his best-loved songs in a way never before seen, and lets him tell his own story of how he came to practice his craft. The film also gives voice to members of his family.

The song that has become known in some circles as "Canada's second national anthem," "Northwest Passage," provides a powerful opening scene with concert footage of Stan, Garnet and band with scenes of ships coming to grief in the Arctic ice, as he sings the line "to find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea."

One Warm Line continues with a mix of live music and interviews, including Stan talking about his own work. Then there's an amazing moment when we see a series of still photographs, as Connie Kaldor describes Stan's last concert in Texas, we hear the faint echoes of "Forty-Five Years" in the background, and you realize he is gone.

We hear many of his classics such as "Barrett's Privateers," "The Jeannie C," "The Field Behind the Plow," "The Mary Ellen Carter," "Fogarty's Cove" and "The Lock-Keeper" and "Make and Break Harbour." The rollicking version of "Barrett's Privateers" with Ryan's Fancy is a highlight. These are among Stan's unforgettable contributions to folk.

The interviews (with perhaps two exceptions) are powerful accounts of the man and his music. One sailor testifies that Stan's "Mary Ellen Carter" and it's "rise again" chorus literally saved his life in a shipwreck. Another fisherman says, "I've been fishing all my life, boy and man, and you say things in your song ('The Jeannie C') that I don't even dare think."

If there's any criticism of the film, they are minor. There is one unexplained sequence where a Basque fishing boat is shown and Stan is saying "Canadians are like puppies, we have to grow up and show our teeth," -- I can guess at what this might mean but it's not at all explained in the film. And the interviewees aren't always identified (at least on the version I saw).

One Warm Line is a fine introduction to Stan Rogers and his music. For those in the know, it's a welcome reminder of his legacy. As Stan might have said: "Your local library should have a copy. If they don't, ask 'why not?'"

- Rambles
written by David Cox
published 30 November 2002