Dressler tributes pour in at Dinner At Eight

By Cecilia Nasmith

The tributes to Marie Dressler came pouring in at one of the highlight events of Cobourg's celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the Oscar-winning actress's birth.

The board of directors of Marie Dressler Foundation – formed at the time her Cobourg birthplace was rehabilitated after a disastrous 1989 fire – hosted the event at the Best Western Cobourg Inn and Convention Centre and named it after her classic 1933 movie.

Among their other guests, they welcomed Northumberland-Peterborough South MP Kim Rudd and MPP David Piccini, Cobourg Councillors Aaron Burchat and Brian Darling, retiring Mayor Gil Brocanier and his acclaimed replacement Deputy Mayor John Henderson, and special guests Helga Stephenson and John Lownsbrough.

The occasion was enhanced by the many guests who dressed in the 1930s fashions of Marie's heyday, having their photographs taken by Fred Gouvela of Snapd Northumberland West in front of vintage cars generously donated for the evening by Ken Willcocks and Karol Shaw.

Foundation chair and president Rick Miller opened the evening with an overview of Marie's life and achievements, with a special focus on an earlier celebration of her birthday.

The beloved actress turned 65 at a moment in time when her long career was at an apogee and she was an acknowledged box-office draw of enormous magnitude. It was 1933, and Hollywood turned out in force to celebrate her. In a nod to her home town, the proceedings were carried by direct radio link to Cobourg's Capitol Theatre (now the home of the Dutch Oven), where Cobourg Mayor JP Delanty (father of former mayor Peter Delanty) hosted the event.

At her 150th birthday party, dinner by Best Western executive chef Brian Forsythe was complemented by live period music performed by John Kraus and members of the Northumberland Orchestra.

Cobourg's biggest birthday cake came from – of course – the Dutch Oven, donated by Lauren Maclean. It was marched out to a resounding chorus of Happy Birthday, and sliced up and served as the evening's dessert offering.

Tributes received from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism Pablo Rodriguez, MP Rudd, MPP Piccini, Toronto International Film Festival artistic director Cameron Bailey, and the Mayor and Councillors of the City of Los Angeles were read to guests during the evening.

Mayor Brocanier made a special presentation on behalf of the town to Bill Patchett – not only for his role as a founder of the Marie Dressler Foundation, but in honour of his tremendous positive impact on the residents of Cobourg through his philanthropy and his dedication and commitment to fundraising for a large number of causes over the years.

There was even a showing of the film Dinner At Eight, with an introduction by special guest Helga Stephenson, former TIFF director and former chief executive officer of the Canadian Academy of Film and Television.

Dinner At Eight was the latest in a string of special events with which the foundation has celebrated this important anniversary year. The final event takes place on Marie's actual 150th birthday, Nov. 9.

Cobourg Council has proclaimed this day to be Marie Dressler 150 Celebration Day, and a family-friendly event is planned from 4 to 6 p.m. at Victoria Hall – more details will be announced shortly.