Jay Scott, Canada’s preeminent film critic, died Friday of liver failure brought on by complications from AIDS. He was 43.
A three-time winner of Canada’s National Newspaper Awards for his criticism, Scott also had written about popular culture, food, travel and the visual arts. Widely respected internationally, he was a frequent commentator on radio and television and hosted “Jay Scott’s Film International” on TV Ontario.
Born Jeffrey Scott Beaven in 1949 in Nebraska, he grew up in New Mexico. Raised as a Seventh-Day Adventist, he was virtually forbidden by church doctrine to see films.
“University was a revelation for me,” he had said. “Suddenly I was in the midst of people with other philosophies and exposed to a range of art I never knew existed. I was lucky; it liberated me.”
His first journalism job was for the Albuquerque Journal, where he covered city news. In 1975, his growing disenchantment with American involvement in Vietnam and an offer from the Calgary Albertan brought him to Canada with his wife, Mary. He worked as an investigative reporter and began to write film criticism. The latter won him his first National Newspaper Award.
Two years later he was hired by the Toronto Globe & Mail as a feature writer and adopted the name Jay Scott. He wrote a news and notes column, “FYI,” before moving to the film review post.
His fluid, flamboyant style and ability to bring in references from pop culture and esoterica in his reviews brought him notoriety. He was a sensation in an area not noted for celebrity. Scott’s penchant for leather and passion for motorcycles only added to the mystique.
But there was always the bedrock of precision and insight in his work. He was a champion of films of his adopted country, the independents and a panoply of underdog movies that needed a voice.
He was also in the vanguard in the area of censorship repeal, which had seen such films as “Pretty Baby”and “The Tin Drum” banned in Ontario.
In addition to “Midnight Matinees,” a collection of his movie pieces, he also authored the books “Changing Woman, the Life and Art of Helen Hardin” and “The Prints of Christopher Pratt.” He also has a forthcoming book on the films of director Norman Jewison.
Scott separated from his wife in 1980. He leaves no immediate family. A funeral service will be held Tuesday in Toronto at the Timothy Eaton Church. Donations may be sent to Casey House or AIDS Committee of Toronto.