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Rasky, Harry


RASKY, HARRY (1928–), Canadian film maker, producer, director, author. Rasky was born in Toronto, one of eight children in a Yiddish-speaking Russian immigrant home. Harry, whose father was a cantor and shoḥet, spoke only Yiddish until he began public school. In 1949 he graduated from the University of Toronto with a B.A. in arts and began looking for a job in the media, a field not always welcoming to Jews. He found a first job as a reporter in Kirkland Lake in northern Ontario but soon moved back to Toronto to work as editor for a local radio station and also wrote copy for popular newscaster Lorne *Greene. In 1952 Rasky began to write and direct news programs for the new cbc television network and in 1955 he moved to New York to work for Edward R. Murrow. In 1970, already an accomplished documentary film maker and winner of an Emmy award for his film Hall of Kings, a documentary on Westminster Abbey, Rasky returned to Toronto, where he continued his career as freelance filmmaker.

Rasky regards his more than 40 films as infused with Jewishness – about half of his documentaries deal directly with Jewish themes and many of the rest are informed by his Jewish roots. His unique, innovative documentary films, often dubbed "Raskymentaries" for their combination of documentary and fiction-film elements, include: Homage to Chagall: The Colours of Love (1975), Arthur Miller on Home Ground (1979), Karsh: The Searching Eye (1986), and the autobiographical Nobody Swings on Sunday (2003). His work has chronicled the lives of people as diverse as Shaw and Tennessee Williams, Northrop Frye and Robertson Davies, Leonard Cohen and Henry Moore. In 2005 he was preparing a film on Italian-Jewish artist Amedeo Modigliani.

Rasky's art has been honored with more than 200 international prizes and citations, including the Venice Film Award, the Golden Eagle, several Peabody Awards, an Emmy, and two Oscar Nominations. In 1992, he was given the lifetime award of the Association of Canadian Television and Radio Artists. The Denver International Film Festival called Harry Rasky "the world's most acclaimed nonfiction filmmaker." Rasky has also published a number of books on his life, his art, and some of those he has documented on film, including Nobody Swings on Sunday, The Many Lives and Films of Harry Rasky (1980), and The Three Harrys (1999).

[Joel Greenberg (2nd ed.)]

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