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THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED ROCHDALE COLLEGE was first produced by Reg Hartt in 1997. Hartt gave a copy to Jane Jacobs, author of the pivotal THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES. A few days later he received a fan letter from her.

Reg Hartt first arrived at the doors of Rochdale College in September, 1968. He went there to meet Judith Merril, editor of THE YEAR’S BEST SF. On meeting Hartt Merril said, “You belong here.” It was the beginning of a friendship that would last until Merril’s death.

Rochdale College began as an 18 floor student residence created by the University of Toronto’s Campus Co-op.

Hartt did not long stay at Rochdale. He moved to Ottawa, Ontario where he stayed with his uncle, Douglas Hartt, then serving as Director General of Public Works Canada. Purchase of a book on the occult at a used book store led Hartt to Ottawa’s Bartonian Metaphysical Society. Hartt sat at the back of a large room with over a hundred others listening to Dr. Winifred Barton Hartt observed a man sitting by the exit door wearing a red plaid shirt who faded from view before Hartt’s eyes. He kept an eye on the spot observing the man two more times before the intermission at which point he  spoke with Dr. Barton telling her what he had seen. She asked him to wait, left the room, returned with a photograph. She asked, “Is this the man.” It was. Dr. Barton said, “That is the caretaker. He died yesterday. Where you saw him was his favourite place to sit during our meetings. You belong here.”

Hartt returned to Toronto and Rochdale College just before Christmas 1969. There a friend, Brian Vaughan, invited Hartt out to Hollywood, California.

Stopped by two Hollywood police officers Hartt was asked, “What did you do in Toronto?” He replied, “I showed films at Rochdale College.” The police officers said, “Do you mean Canada’s Communist Training Center?”

Hartt realized immediately that if the police in Hollywood, California, which he knew is the most out of touch place on earth then Rochdale College had to be the hippest place on earth. Hartt determined to return to Toronto to be part of Rochdale. He arrived where he was crashing to find a letter waiting for him from the legendary motion picture star Mae West. It was an invitation to come up and see her. Hartt wrote her a note of thanks in which he wrote he was returning to Toronto to be part of Rochdale College.

Rochdale College was the boldest experiment in alternate education ever undertaken. At Rochdale College there were no teachers. Each Rochdalian was called to be their own teacher. By chance Hartt had that year discovered the Wilhelm/Baynes edition of THE I CHING which teaches that learning and doing must be one otherwise both are dead.

What Rochdale had were resource people. These were people who, having achieved success in their field, were invited to live at Rochdale all expenses paid not to teach but to speak with any who wished to speak with them.

Reg Hartt returned to Rochdale College to find a letter waiting for him in the office from Mae West. He met with then Rochdale President Peter Turner who asked, “What can you do?” Hartt replied, “I can give you a film program.” Turner appointed Hartt Rochdale College Director of Cinema Studies. Turner said, “We have no money. I can’t pay you. We can’t fund you. We can only give you the space.” Hartt replied, “The space is enough. I don’t need your money. The program will pay its own way.”

Hartt gave Rochdale College the best film study program on the planet.

One night when Hartt was screening the Billy Wilder film A FOREIGN AFFAIR (1948) the police raided Rochdale College. At that precise moment the illegal underground nightclub in which Marlene Dietrich was performing in the movie was raided. A voice boomed out over the sound system, “This is a raid!”

The audience, between the curtain watching the legions of police attacking Rochdale, panicked. Hartt told them, “Take your seats. Be still!”

Someone said, “What gives you the authority to speak to us?”

Hartt replied, “There are police officers going through this building with drawn guns. If you leave here you could get killed. Sit still until this blows over.”

The audience did.

Hartt then left the screening area to look out on the second floor area.

At once a police officer dropped to one knee aiming his gun between Hartt’s eyes.

To find out what happened read THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED ROCHDALE COLLEGE by Reg Hartt. You’ll be glad you did.

What has been said about Reg Hartt:

Reg Hartt mixes stories from his youth with antidotes and truisms that cause people to pause and question what they know.” -Raymond Helkio

  1. “Reg Hartt has a feel for film unique in this country…genius level.”—Elwy Yost.
  2. “Reg Hartt has had an amazing impact given the size of the venue and the esoteric nature of the programming. He’s had an incredible impact on the city. No one else is doing it. No one else has ever done it.”–Rob Salem.
  3. “Reg Hartt teaches like Neal Cassady drove a bus.”—Joe Fiorito, Toronto Star.
    Q: Did growing up in Toronto influence your obsession?
    A: My knowledge of silent films, German and French cinema, came an awful lot from Reg Hartt’s Cineforum. At first he showed films at Innis College, then he had a place on Mercer St. for a while. Reg showed some really incredible silent films, from Phantom of the Opera to D.W. Griffith’s films. His strength was putting incredibly good soundtracks on the films. He has a really good ear for movie music and back in the good old days when it was all analog, he would splice them together himself.

A city that sees value in rules, but no value in letting Reg Hartt bend them, has no right to claim Jane Jacobs’ legacy, writes Edward Keenan.

The city should drop its misguided fight against Reg Hartt…

“I am a friend of Reg Hartt. So is anyone who can appreciate a man who teaches the way Neal Cassady drove a bus. I mean that, where you have style wrapped around content and tied with a ribbon of beat improvisation, there you have angels. Harvey Pekar was an angel. And I’ve never met anyone with wings who did not have an ego. Nor is this an easy town for a man who is larger than life, and does not to suffer fools.You might like to know that the friends of Reg Hartt included the non-fool-suffering Jane Jacobs, who knew a thing or two about what, and who, makes life worth living in the city; that’s good enough for me.”

Michael Valpy in THE GLOBE AND MAIL wrote, “Reg Hart  is what living in a metropolis is all about. He personifies the city as a meeting place of ideas, as a feast of experience and discussion and debate, as a triumph over the banal and soporific of the original and provoking.”

Some audience members were visibly distressed by the frequency and force of Hartt’s interjections into the program but it is clearly his chosen way of doing things, and the payoff in information is worth it. He has many good stories to tell: about Oswald the Lucky Rabbit’s transformation into Mickey Mouse, Disney’s most enduring character; about the furor that greeted the creation of Tweety Pie, which subsided only when the artists painted him yellow; and much valuable technical information for the animation students. He has some interesting tales about Mel Blanc, Warners’ resident genius of voice characterization, as he continues the series with a full scale look at the Warner work of Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng, and others. It’s the best work of its kind you will see anywhere because, except in rare oases in the United States and Eastern-Europe, they don’t make them like that anymore.

JULIA SCUTARU, retired journalist, Bucharest, Romania, 2000 wrote, “In Toronto, I discovered by chance, Cineforum. Pure chance but a fortunate one. In that small room exhaling culture, passion and dedication, I watched the movie TRIUMPH OF THE WILL, an important historical, political and social document., and real artistic achievement….As a journalist (in Romania) I worked in the cultural field, including film reviews. Therefore I came to the Cineforum not just as a movie lover, but as a knowledgeable professional…We live in an era authoritatively dominated by brainwashing and political correctness…I admired Reg Hartt’s courage and passion put in searching out and defending the human truth, the artistic truth, the historical truth; the Truth and unveiling it…Discovering Reg Hartt and his Cineforum was one of the most important events of my visit in Toronto.”

DAVID BEARD, owner CINEBOOKS, quoted in THE TORONTO STAR, Nov. l, l979
“This man has devoted his whole life to bringing the film classics to the public. He treats animation-cartoons, if you will-as art. He is underfinanced, overworked and snubbed. I think we should pay tribute to him.

GREG WILLIAMS, MA (Ph, D. Candidate), President, University College Film Society, and Chairman of the Subcommittee for film, U. C. Symposium: I wish we had more time to chat together last night about our respective (and mutual) interests in film.
‘Cineforum’ has attained the status of an institution; it represents an achievement of which you should rightly feel proud.

“I can only hope the ‘University College Film Society’ will someday approximate its success and that I will, personally, match your inspired delivery as a master of ceremonies.

“As a newcomer to the business of arranging film programs, so far I am your equal perhaps only in enthusiasm. Thus I find your presentations to be not only exceptional in their content but also edifying in their execution. As an academic (in the field of English) I am also impressed by the high scholarly standard that pervades your informed and witty introductions,

“I frequently wonder if you have ever considered writing a history…some very good books have been written…but no text has dealt with it in a definitive way. A marshaling of your knowledge would, I am certain, produce a very fine volume indeed.”

DOUGLAS ELIUK, education officer NATIONAL FILM BOARD OF CANADA, formerly Canada’s Cultural Attache to America, .
“(REG) Hartt is acknowledged as a phenomenon in the film community. He is someone who does not rely on government grants, subsidies or institutional protection to generate his film activities. He depends entirely on his intelligence, talent and resourcefulness. His events are produced with care and good sense, in a clean and friendly atmosphere and with an almost avuncular consideration for his fans, As a film officer for the National Film Board of Canada for 30 years, I have seldom seen anyone who added so much substance and passion to the cultural fabric of our society as he has done with his lectures and presentations.”

From a letter to an out of Toronto cinema:
“Last week I finally got a chance to see a film I have been trying to see for literally years. That film is METROPOLIS, and I don’t mean Giorgio Moroder’s head-banger version. No, I’m talking about the most complete version of the film as it was meant to be seen in a l6mm print so clear, so clean you’d think the film was made a year ago. Wow. I mean I have been hearing stories about METROPOLIS for a long time, but I never thought my expectations would be met let alone far
surpassed. And this without the “help” of Mr. Moroder. Does this mean there wasn’t a soundtrack?

“Far from it. Accompanying the film was a brilliant (and I mean brilliant) soundtrack combining both modern music and classical pieces. This soundtrack suited the film when we all know Moroder’s didn’t. So who has this print of the film? Reg Hartt….If you know anything about Reg Hartt you know his lectures are anything but boring. He’s thrown chairs at people, kicked non-believers out, slandered near everyone under the sun (who usually deserves it) and started near riots. In other words, a real entertaining guy. Honestly. Reg is a lot of fun, he knows more about film (and the politics of film) than all of my teachers combined. And his soundtracks!”

DOUGLAS ELIUK, education officer National Film Board of Canada; Canadian Cultural Attache to America: “I have left so many cinemas looking like I’ve been smelling onions for two hours that it is a pleasure and a catharsis to alert you to a redeeming film experience I enjoyed recently. It was not exactly an epiphany, but when something brilliant comes along, it deserves comment beyond self congratulations on managing to stay awake.

“What I’m referring to is a recent screening of Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS I attended at Reg Hartt’s Cineforum. I’ve seen the film with every sort of accompaniment except organ grinder and a monkey. When organ and even the now rare orchestral accompaniments have been attached to one of the “silent” classics, it is still hard to avoid the giggle factor what with all the usual silent movie grand overwrought gestural school of acting methods. However, Reg Hartt has completely transcended the predictable approach and has presented a classic film with a brilliant multi-layered sound track that forgives the histrionic giggle factor. Hartt allows us to see a great film with a fresh perspective.

“I am not Mr. Hartt’s P. R. council but as someone who has been in the film industry for decades and who celebrates cinematic excellence, I hope you will take the opportunity to experience this superb revitalization of METROPOLIS with its innovative music track.”

“Reg Hartt has presented a classic film with a brilliant multi-layered sound track that allows us to see a great film with a fresh perspective. As who celebrates cinematic excellence, I hope you will experience this superb revitalization of METROPOLIS with its innovative music track.”–Douglas Eliuk.




PETER MOORE, British Artist.

“I am a Brit artist. I love Toronto. I have sometimes heard it said that Toronto is boring. It is a comparatively well ordered city. Maybe that is why some imperceptive people think it boring. The thing is I keep having amazing successes in Toronto. My friend Bob Welton who decided he was much happier in Warsaw than in London used to say in London everything is possible and nothing is probable. I just find in Toronto not everything is possible but lots of things, important things, are quite probable. Does this make sense?

“ANYWAY, a wonderful surprise in Toronto is Reg Hartt’s Cineforum. I was walking down Bloor Street with my friend Alan, a composer, a Torontonian who, searching for fulfillment in London, has realized that everything he wanted existed in his original home, Toronto. It was my birthday. He said, “What do you want to do for your birthday?” I said, “I want to go and see that!”

“I was pointing at a mysterious poster for TRIUMPH OF THE WILL, (the film of Hitler’s l934 Nuremberg rally). I’d always wanted to see that.

“So we went and I found myself in the most perfect place on earth to watch a film. With the film was an unexpected treat….a brilliant, unbiased, sensible and stimulating introduction by the amazing Reg Hartt. PETER MOORE, British Artist.


“So once again, in German mode, we went to see Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS. Reg had somehow spliced on to the film his own soundtrack. Now this was interesting because a while later we went to the Art Gallery of Ontatio where the same film was shown-much bigger screen-and with piano accompaniment. It was interesting to compare the two showings. Reg’s came out winning.”

So, yes, there are a few folk who don’t like me.

David Mamet, in his books TRUE AND FALSE and BAMBI VS. GODZILLA, states, “Invent nothing. Deny nothing. Stand up. Speak up. Stay out of school.”

Jane Jacobs, a patron of my work from her arrival in Toronto,the most important thinker and writer about cities of our time until her death over a few beers in her home, said, “The best part of what you offer is what you have to say.”



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