Amour, délices et cie

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Three of the performers of the soap opera Amour, délices et cie, with its creator, Joseph Louis Réal Giguère, Montréal, Québec. François Piazza, “Sur les ailes de Télé-Métropole – Amour, délices et cie s’envole.” Photo-journal, 18 to 25 June 1969, 44.

As I began writing this article of paramount importance for the future of the human genome, yes, yes, paramount, absolutely, some notes of the musical theme of Amour, délices et cie popped into my mind, after more than 50 years. And the craziest thing is that this show was of no interest to the young geek I was at the time – and that I am still, in an older form of course. Memory is a strange faculty, is not it? Anyway, let’s move on.

So, hello, my reading friend. Did you miss me? A little? A lot? Not at all? I see. If that’s how it is, let’s start without further delay our unfortunately rather short review of a well-forgotten soap opera, the aforementioned Amour, délices et cie. I found the photo that adorns this article, for example, in the issue of Le Petit Journal, a weekly from Montréal, Québec, gone for many years, which covered the week of 18 to 25 June 1969.

Amour, délices et cie had its origins in the desire of Télé Métropole Incorporée, a broadcaster based in Montréal, to offer its viewers a light program for the summer season of 1969. Joseph Louis Réal Giguère, a well-known writer, radio and television host, and actor, conceived the plot of a musical soap opera, in all likelihood the second Canadian-made adult television show that dealt with aviation. As we all know, the first work of this type was CF-RCK, a television series mentioned in a November 2018 issue of our blog / bulletin / thingee.

The plot of Amour, délices et cie revolved around the beautiful novel, the beautiful story that linked an airline pilot and a flight attendant / stewardess employed by a fictitious Canadian airline, Ouest-Air. Rejecting out of hand the regulation which forbad flight attendants from marrying, the 2 lovebirds were joined in matrimony under a veil of secrecy. Even their best friends and colleagues were unaware of this marriage. It went without saying that this secret gave rise to many misunderstandings.

The first 30-minute episode of Amour, délices et cie went on the air in early June 1969. While critics readily admitted that the colours of the show, the play of the actors, the songs performed by the main performers and the sound were pleasant, the fact was that the plot and texts were strongly scented with rose water. These criticisms seemed to be kept up over the weeks.

This being said (typed?), the ratings were significant enough to lead the management of Télé Métropole to extend Amour, délices et cie until 1970. In fact, this musical soap opera was ranked 4th among the most popular shows in Quebec, with 700 000 viewers it was said. This good news was soon followed by a withdrawal from the schedule announced before the end of August 1969, however. Indeed, the 2 main characters of the soap opera informed the management of Télé Métropole that they had projects elsewhere that interested them more. Strongly occupied by various projects, Giguère did not protest very loudly.

In the best tradition of soap operas, a dramatic turn of event changed the game in mid-September, as the 13th and last episode of Amour, délices et cie went on the air. New episodes of this musical soap opera would be broadcasted during the summer of 1970, said a representative of Télé Métropole. As the new year began, the situation was still evolving. The Montréal firm would in fact only present the episodes filmed in 1969.

As we both know, Canadian soap opera type television shows are not exactly numerous. An American television network broadcasted the 13 episodes of Fly by Night between April and July 1991, for example. This Canadian-French-American co-production told the story of the adventures and mishaps in Canada and Europe of the staff of Slick Air, a small fictional airline from Vancouver, British Columbia. The best-known actress or actor in this well-forgotten series was none other than Shannon Lee Tweed Simmons, a Canadian personality better known for her roles in a number of erotic films and for her life as a couple with the Israeli American bassist of the rock band Kiss, Gene Simmons, born Chaim Witz.

What is it I hear, my reading friend? A sigh of relief from the fact that this issue of our blog / bulletin / thingee is short? Think again. I’m not done with you yet.

Wishing to see the interest surrounding Amour, délices et cie grow, Télé Métropole organised a master stroke in collaboration with a regional airline, Québecair Incorporée. In mid-May 1969, 3 of the principal performers showed up at Montreal-Dorval International Airport. One of them, Serge Laprade, briefly took control of a British Aircraft Corporation BAC-111 short-range jetliner flying to Québec, Québec, under the supervision of an experienced pilot of course. A reporter collected his reaction a little bit later.

It’s quite an extraordinary thrill. I never thought it would happen to me. I intended to take flying lessons. But now, no more hesitation. I’m dying of anxiety. I discovered a new passion: airplanes! I feel that this television show will be most fantastic, in my opinion!

While Laprade was experiencing piloting, his studio comrades, Francine Moran and Suzanne Valéry, were temporarily replacing the real flight attendants of the BAC-111. They thus served coffee to the 89 passengers of the aircraft, completely amazed by their presence on board.

Would you like to read a peroration on the BAC-111, courtesy of yours truly? This is a purely rhetorical question, of course. You will get it whether you like it or not. This being said (typed?), I shall be brief.

The BAC-111, or BAC 1-11 / One Eleven, owed its origin to a wish expressed in 1956 by British European Airways Corporation Limited, a British crown corporation mentioned in August 2017, April 2018 and February 2019 issues of our blog / bulletin / thingee. It wanted to acquire a jet airliner to complement its Vickers Viscount turboprop airliners, an aircraft mentioned in the aforementioned April 2018 issue of our blog / bulletin / thingee. Hunting Percival Aircraft Limited / Hunting Aircraft Limited, a division of the Hunting Group, prepared plans for a small twin engine jet.

In 1960, under heavy pressure from the British government, Hunting Aircraft joined 3 other aircraft manufacturers to create British Aircraft Corporation Limited (BAC). Its airliner project, considered too small, was greatly enlarged. Judged once again too small, this second design was in turn enlarged, giving birth to the BAC-111. Unlike other British airliners of this time, this aircraft was not primarily designed to meet the sole needs of domestic airlines, which was a good idea.

A prototype flew in August 1963. It crashed with its crew in October. With BAC immediately modifying the aircraft, potential buyers, both British and foreign, maintained their orders. The first commercial flight of a BAC-111 took place in April 1965. BAC, which became British Aerospace Public Limited Company in 1980, manufactured about 235 examples of this excellent machine between 1963 and 1982 – a relatively small number if I may say so.

The Romanian state-owned firm Întreprinderea de Avioane Bucureşti bought the production rights of the BAC-111 in 1979. Given the serious economic, political and social problems that hit Romania in the 1980s, not to mention the lack of potential customers, it delivered only 9 Rombac 1-11 between 1982 and 1989.

You will be intrigued, or not, my reading friend, to learn that the BAC-111 was involved in the controversy surrounding the acquisition of the American Douglas DC-9 short / medium range twin-jet airliner by Trans-Canada Air Lines (TCA) / Air Canada.

In the early 1960s, this Canadian crown corporation began to think about replacing its Viscounts with a jet aircraft. BAC, then headed by Sir George Robert Freeman Edwards, a friend of the president of TCA, the anglophile and anglophone Gordon Roy McGregor, hoped to land the contract. Members of the Canadian crown corporation’s technical team evaluating the available aircraft were concerned that, like the Viscount before it, the BAC-111 could only be used in North America after many modifications.

An important French company, Sud-Aviation Société nationale de constructions aéronautiques, hoped for its part that its slightly older twin engine SE-210 Caravelle would be chosen. President Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle, a larger than life character mentioned in March and September 2018 issues of our blog / bulletin / thingee, lobbied Canadian Prime Minister Lester Bowles Pearson to that effect. Québec Premier Jean Lesage, another prominent figure, mentioned in July and September 2018 issues of our blog / bulletin / thingee, claimed in public that the Canadian airline should not reject the Caravelle simply because it was French.

While attending a parliamentary hearing on the new airliner, McGregor touched off a crisis. Not realizing that his microphone was still on, he said that the Caravelle was not good for his company, adding that this aircraft was no great shakes anyway. Many francophone Quebecers were furious. Université de Montréal students picketed the Montréal office of TCA. Policemen on horseback came to disperse them. Realising that he had blundered, McGregor let in a small group of students. Using the data accumulated by his technical team, he explained why the Caravelle did not meet the needs of TCA.

As was said (typed?) above, in the end, it was an American aircraft manufacturer, Douglas Aircraft Company Incorporated, which won the Canadian contract with its brand new DC-9, one of the most successful short / medium range jet airliners of the 20th century. And yes, you’re very right, my reading friend, the incomparable, yes, yes, incomparable, collection of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa, Ontario, does include a DC-9.

Generous and magnanimous as I am, I consent without delay to let you go about your business. See ya.

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Rénald Fortier