GERUSSI, BRUNO

Canadian Actor

After an extensive career in stage, radio, and television and film, Bruno Gerussi has become one of Canada's most highly recognizable actors and television personalities. Despite the diversity of his career, the Canadian-born Gerussi is best known for his role as "Nick Adonidas" on Canada's longest running television series, The Beachcombers (1972-90).

Gerussi began his acting career on the stage where he ultimately performed both supporting and leading roles in Canadian Players and Stratford Festival such as Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar and The Crucible. The exposure and experience provided allowed Gerussi to make a smooth transition into the expanding arena of Canadian television production of the late 1950s and early 1960s. During this time the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) television developed a number of televised dramas, including The Crucible (1959), Riel (1961), and Galileo (1963), in which Gerussi assumed important dramatic roles.

After a two-year stint (1967-68) with his own nationally broadcast mid-morning CBC radio show Gerussi, Words and Music, Gerussi won the lead role on the popular CBC family adventure series The Beachcombers (1972-90) created by Marc and Susan Strange (Producers Philip Keatley, Derek Gardner). Gerussi portrayed Nick Adonidas, the Greek-born owner of Nick's Salvage Company, and father figure for a set of characters who inhabited the fishing village around Molly's Reach. Although largely consistent with the family-adventure genre, Beachcombers ("The" was dropped from the title in 1988) stretched the limitations of the form sufficiently to allow the various characters to evolve and the series to stay fresh during its long history. Over the course of the series, for example, the romantic, free spirit nature of Gerussi's character became increasingly responsible and fatherly towards his substitute family.

A total of 318 half-hour Beachcomber episodes were produced over a 19 year period. At its peak in 1982, the series attracted an audience of 1.94 million (25% of the available audience) during the "CBC Sunday night family hour" (7:30 P.M. time slot). Beachcombers was one of the few Canadian productions of its time to be widely exported, selling to as many as 34 countries at once, including Greece, Australia, Italy and Britain. The location of the production, Gibson's Landing a small fishing village on the coast of British Columbia, pulled upwards of 100,000 tourists a year as a result of the show's popularity. Despite the international appeal of Beachcombers, the program was often interpreted by Canadians as the quintessential Canadian program. This was true both in terms of its economic development--a relatively low budget product of the publicly subsidized CBC, as well as culturally, in the sense that it presented a relatively innocent, unglamourous group of characters and story lines, which distinguished the series from much of the U.S. prime-time programming distributed on Canadian airwaves. Ironically, CBC management attempted to revamp the series in its last years by increasing the level of action and violence in the story lines, decreasing the contrast to its competition. This move was publicly criticized by longtime cast members, particularly Gerussi, who saw this as an "Americanization" of Canadian programming. By 1988-89, Beachcombers' audience fell to 990,000, and the program was canceled the following year.

Since the 1970s Gerussi has accumulated dozens of television credits as a guest character on various Canadian and U.S.-Canada co-productions, including E.N.G., McQueen, Seeing Things, Hangin' In, Wojeck, Wiseguy and most recently on CBC's Side Effects. Gerussi is often cast in roles that take advantage of his "larger than life" persona. For example, Gerussi has acted as the host of the Canada Day telecast, and the opening of the Canada's National Arts Centre. Gerussi also hosted his own CBC afternoon cooking program for four years entitled Celebrity Cooks. This weekday production, often shot in one take, drew on the host's personality and ability to interact with the celebrities who acted as guest chefs.

Through his association with the Beachcombers series, and his decision to locate his career permanently in Canada rather than in the larger U.S. market, Gerussi has developed a particularly strong link to Canada and its television industry.

-Keith Hampson

 


Bruno Gerussi
Photo courtesy of Bruno Gerussi

BRUNO GERUSSI. Born in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, 1928. Educated at the Banff School of Fine Arts. Joined the Stratford Festival and the Canadian Players as a stage actor, mid-1950s; star of morning CBC radio show Gerussi: Words and Music, 1967-68; star of CBC television adventure series The Beachcombers, 1972-90; host of morning show Celebrity Cooks. Died 21 November 1995.

TELEVISION SERIES (selection)

1972-90 Beachcombers

TELEVISION SPECIALS

1995 Artisans de notre histoire (actor)

FILMS

1962 Alexander Galt: The Stubborn Idealist, 1962; The Stage to Three, 1964; Do Not Fold, Staple, Spindle or Mutilate, 1967.

RADIO

Gerussi: Words and Music, 1967-68.

STAGE (selection)

Twelfth Night; Romeo and Juliet; Julius Caesar; The Crucible

FURTHER READING

"Beachcomber Gerussi Rakes CBC Officials for Cancelling Show." Montreal Gazette, 26 June 1990.

"Gerussi Award Planned Bruno Award." Globe and Mail (Toronto, Canada), 19 January 1996.

"Gerussi's Move On, But Still Pines for The Beachcombers." Vancouver (Canada) Sun, 20 September 1991.

"Gerussi Busy Despite Demise of Beachcombers." Winnipeg (Canada) Free Press, 19 September 1991.

"Beachcomber Gerussi Rakes CBC Officials for Cancelling Show." Montreal (Quebec, Canada) Gazette. 26 June 1990.

"Stormy Weather on the Sunshine Coast: Bruno Gerussi Has His Doubts About Head Office." Globe and Mail (Toronto, Canada), 1 August 1989.

 

See also Beachcombers; Canadian Programming in English