The influence of Pierre Gauvreau and René Lévesque

Pierre Gauvreau and René Lévesque had an important influence in my life.

This week, these two illustrious Quebecers would have been 100 years old. Pierre Gauvreau, last Tuesday, and yesterday, René Lévesque. The media and several demonstrations will brilliantly mark the centenary of the birth of the former Premier of Quebec. An exhibition in his memory will open at the Musée de la civilization on November 17. With the exception of a modest article in the daily The duty, Pierre Gauvreau’s 100th birthday went unnoticed.

I rubbed shoulders with René Lévesque a lot. I met him during the Radio-Canada producers’ strike, then at his suggestion, I almost got into politics with Marcel Dubé in the 1962 provincial election. After his resignation from the Liberal Party, Lévesque asked me to bring together wealthy people in order to finance his Mouvement Souveraineté-Association, which I did with mixed success. I was also the craftsman of the “well-cooked” that marked Télé-Québec’s departure as Prime Minister. Afterwards, as we were neighbors at l’Archipel, a condominium in L’Île-des-Sœurs, we often had a bite to eat together. The man fascinated me with his intelligence, his lucidity and his casualness.


I owe Pierre Gauvreau my first lessons in dramatic writing. The overall refusal, the revolutionary manifesto he had signed with 15 other artists, not constituting a reference for potential employers, he resigned himself to putting aside his palette and his tubes of color to earn a living as a producer at Radio-Canada. He did wonders there.

Madeleine Arbour, his first wife, was a decorator for The Surprise Box of which I was the main author for a season. It was she who introduced me to Pierre. He immediately suggested that I write an “American” series, that is to say, in a team with other authors. It was not only unusual, but it was taboo among the authors of the time. I scripted the 91 episodes of Cove Street on situations submitted by various authors and Jovette Bernier, that the daily radio program What news ? had made known, wrote the dialogues. The series, which starred Gilles Pelletier as a schooner captain and dozens of other comedians, ended in 1965. Because it had been shot in black and white, it only aired once, television being now in color.


Gauvreau then tackled a titanic project: the life of Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville. This time, I teamed up with actor Jacques Létourneau and Jean Pellerin, columnist at The Press, for writing. Pierre had it built to the exact dimensions The Pelican, d’Iberville’s flagship, which anchored for several summers at the tip of Île d’Orléans. A huge basin taking the place of an ocean was converted into a studio. Miniature boats, exact replicas of the ships of the time, fought there naval battles settled to the quarter turn. Even if the series made the rounds of the world, Radio-Canada and the French, Swiss and Belgian televisions which had financed it, put an end to it after 39 episodes. She was too expensive.

Pierre then launched into the writing of the series The time of a peace, Cormorant and The Quiet Volcano before returning for good to his brushes. There are dozens of monuments, statues, busts, squares and streets to recall the memory of René Lévesque. As far as I know, nothing, not even an alley, perpetuates that of the prodigious artist that was Pierre Gauvreau, if not the devotion of Janine Carreau, his last companion, also a painter. It is shameful !

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