City Unique:
Montreal Days and Nights in the 1940s and ’50s

William Weintraub

Montreal in the 1940s and ’50s was Canada’s largest, richest, most vibrant and colourful city. It was, at the end of those prosperous decades, “bursting at the seams” and still growing. William Weintraub, writing with insight and affection, brings the Montreal of his youth vividly, entertainingly and wittily to life. The Montreal he describes so well was a city with two communities, English and French, who lived separate lives. They met along the dividing line that was “the Main” – St. Lawrence Boulevard and the nearby streets, where gambling joints, bordellos and night clubs prospered, and where striptease artiste Lili St. Cyr became the toast of the town and gangsters raked in profits while the police looked the other way. It was the Montreal of the charismatic Mayor Camilien Houde within the repressive Quebec of Premier Maurice Duplessis.

Weintraub also looks at what he calls the Third Solitude, Montreal’s Jewish community, which brought not just smoked meat and delicatessens to the vibrant area around the Main but a lively community that has played a major part in shaping the city and from which sprang such writers as Mordecai Richler and Irving Layton.

William Weintraub looks at all aspects of life in Montreal in what Mordecai Richler called “an engaging, evocative book about Montreal’s prime-time.”

William Weintraub was born in Montreal and worked there during the 1940s and ’50s. After graduating from McGill University, he became a reporter for the Gazette and then a writer and editor for Weekend Magazine. Later, as writer, director and producer with the National Film Board, he was involved in the production of some 150 films. He is the author of three comic novels, Why Rock the Boat?,The Underdogs and Crazy About Lili, and a memoir of his early days as a writer, Getting Started.