Leonard Cohen’s 1983 Musical for Canadian Television: I Am a Hotel

One of the more curi­ous pieces in Leonard Cohen’s illus­tri­ous cat­a­logue is his roman­tic half-hour musi­cal, I Am a Hotel, made for Cana­di­an tele­vi­sion in 1983. The film is essen­tial­ly a long-form music video. It was inspired by his song “The Guests,” which begins:

One by one, the guests arrive
The guests are com­ing through
The open-heart­ed many
The bro­ken-heart­ed few

The film tells the sto­ry, through music and dance, of the roman­tic yearn­ings of the hotel’s staff and guests, with Cohen appear­ing through­out the film as the detached but sym­pa­thet­ic sto­ry­teller. “It’s light enter­tain­ment,” Cohen told the Tole­do Blade in 1985. “It uses songs from my first record up through recent songs.” Those songs are:

  1. “The Guests” from the 1979 album Recent Songs.
  2. “Mem­o­ries” from the 1977 album Death of a Ladies’ Man.
  3. “The Gyp­sy’s Wife” from Recent Songs.
  4. “Chelsea Hotel #2” from the 1974 album New Skin for the Old Cer­e­mo­ny.
  5. “Suzanne” from his 1967 debut album Songs of Leonard Cohen.

I Am a Hotel was filmed at the King Edward Hotel in Toron­to over a six-day peri­od in April of 1983. It was direct­ed by Allan F. Nicholls and writ­ten by Cohen and Mark Shek­ter. The cast includ­ed ice skat­ing cham­pi­on Toller Cranston as “The Man­ag­er,” dancer and chore­o­g­ra­ph­er Anne Ditch­burn as “The Gyp­sy Wife,” and Celia Fran­ca, founder of the Nation­al Bal­let of Cana­da, as “The Diva.” The film was first broad­cast in Cana­da on May 7, 1984, and although it went on to win a Gold­en Rose at the Mon­treux Inter­na­tion­al Tele­vi­sion Fes­ti­val, it has rarely been shown since. The ver­sion above is from Dutch tele­vi­sion.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Leonard Cohen Reads “The Future”

The 2005 Doc­u­men­tary, Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man

The 1965 Doc­u­men­tary, Ladies and Gentlemen…Mr. Leonard Cohen

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Comments (4)
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  • P. Coristine says:

    Thanks so much for this post. In the wake of Toller Cranston’s recent death I was put in mind of this pro­duc­tion and was so glad to find it online. Thanks again!

  • John Kelly says:

    I saw this video on Aus­trali­a’s SBS chan­nel, many years ago, on one drea­ry Good Fri­day after­noon. A great video that I would rec­om­mend every­one to see.

    But, watch to the very end! Because there is a memo­r­i­al there to David Blue. I search record shops in Bris­bane and Syd­ney for this artist. Remem­ber, this was pre-google, pos­si­bly even pre-inter­net. Even­tu­al­ly to my great delight I found the album Sto­ries, by David Blue.

    These days, all of his albums can be found on the inter­net.

  • Roz Martin says:

    Look­ing for Toller …
    I found this inter­est piece.
    Dutch …hmmm.

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