Peter Morris was Professor in the Department of Film Studies (now Film and Media) at Queen's from 1976 to 1988. In his memory, and to honour Peter's lifetime of contributions to Canadian film, his family has established a scholarship at Queen's that will be presented annually to a graduating Film student with exceptional academic standing. With the growing support of friends, colleagues, and former students, that fund will be enriched and ensured.
Born in England, Peter Morris trained as a chemistry student, but his enthusiasm for cinema took hold early. Though still young while at the Canadian Film Institute, he was already a mentor to his colleagues. He collected and catalogued films that had not been seen or even mentioned in years and laid building blocks of Canadian cinema history. When he took a faculty position at Queen's he was not yet forty, but already a "grand old man" of the relatively new discipline, Canadian film studies.
In his courses and in his own scholarly work while at Queen's, Peter broke ground in the historical and critical study of Canadian film and television. He completed Embattled Shadows, his influential chronicle of pre-World War II Canadian cinema, not long after arriving at Queen's. While here, he continued his insightful critical inquiry into formative moments and figures in Canadian film and media: John Grierson, founder of the National Film Board of Canada; silent-era writer and performer Nell Shipman; contemporary experimentalist Michael Snow; the CBC's introduction of television to Canada. A historian and encyclopaedist, Peter produced a compendium on Canadian film, The Film Companion, still an invaluable resource for students and scholars.
Peter specialized in Canadian film, but he taught international film history as well as courses in areas of particular enthusiasm and expertise, including Japanese cinema and British film comedy. He encouraged the best in his students, and he was unstinting in his support for the Film department and for film culture, national and local. He served as the first president of the Film Studies Association of Canada and founding editor of the Canadian Journal of Film Studies. Here in Kingston, under his guidance the Film department's on-campus screenings evolved into the National Film Theatre and then moved downtown, into the Princess Court Cinema, where we saw movies, Canadian and foreign, for a decade.
If you knew Peter as a member of the department or in the university, you'll recall that he was typically gracious and gentle in demeanour if also sometimes strong of opinion and determined, wry in his humour, and loyal and dedicated in his profession. Though Peter took the opportunity to move to York University, where he spent the rest of his career, he remained a friend of the department at Queen's. His influence resonates and his memory remains with several generations of Queen's students.
The Peter Morris Memorial Scholarship was established in memory of Peter, and is awarded on the basis of academic excellence to a graduating student completing an honours degree where the primary concentration is Film and Media.