He was born in Toronto into a Jewish family, where he completed studies at University College. He participated in CBC Television's first four years writing and producing CBC Newsmagazine (1952-1955). He also produced a documentary for the 1961 debut evening of CTV Television Network. He earned more than 200 awards during his career in which his films numbered more than 400.
In late 1950s Rasky moved to New York where he was hired by towering figures in the broadcasting world such as Murrow and Cronkite. After learning the tricks of the trade Rasky became a freelance director and began to travel around the world documenting every inch of his journey. Throughout the 1960s Harry made films on Castro, Che Guevera, Lady Bird Johnson, Eleanor Roosevelt, The Nobel Prize Winners in 1964 (which included Martin Luther King Jr.) and many more individuals. He also made two wildly different docudramas entitled "Hall of Kings" - for which he won an Emmy - and "Upon This Rock" which starred Orson Welles. His films were called "Raskymentaries" by the New York Times and Los Angeles Times and noted for their poetry of the screen.
After making a film in Vietnam entitled "Operation Sea War", Rasky decided that politics was not his area of interest. He decided to dedicate his filmmaking career to documenting the world's greatest creators. By the early 1970s Harry returned to his native Toronto when the CBC offered him a simple arrangement: "make one film a year for us on whatever you want." Throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s, Harry came into contact, once again, with the most interesting people alive in the world. He made films on Leonard Cohen, Marc Chagall (nominated for an Oscar), Henry Moore, Baryshnikov, Teresa Stratas, Will and Ariel Durant, Christopher Plummer, Yousef Karsh, Tennessee Williams, and Arthur Miller. He also made sweeping epic films that covered a variety of issues including "The War Against the Indians" and "The Spies That Never Were."
Rasky died in hospital of heart failure on 9 April 2007 while recovering from a hip fracture sustained at his home.
Awards and recognition
- 1985: Directors Guild of America Awards, Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary/Actuality:, Homage to Chagall: The Colours of Love
- 1992: Margaret Collier Award
- 2002: appointed Member of the Order of Canada
- 1966: Emmy Award for Hall of Kings
- 1977: Academy Award Nomination for Homage to Chagall: The Colours of Love
- "Canada's 'poet with a camera' Harry Rasky dies at 78". CBC News. 10 April 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-10.
- "Harry Rasky dies in Toronto". Northern Stars. Retrieved 2007-04-10.[dead link]
- Order of Canada citation: Harry Rasky
- Harry Rasky archives held at the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, York University