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Secret Cinema’s TWO-REELERS program at the Maas Building was very well
received, and we can all use some laughs…so let’s do it again (but
with all new films)!
From the 1920s through the 1950s, audiences expected a full bill of
entertainment from movie theaters. Besides a feature (or two) and coming
attractions, they would also watch a newsreel, a cartoon, perhaps a
travelogue, and more often than not, a comedy short, or “two-reeler.”
Sadly, comedy shorts faded away as television became ubiquitous in
American households, and situation comedies took the place of the
theatrical format. Today, the Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy and Our
Gang are the best-known stars of this vanished film genre — but there
were dozens of other stars and series that were familiar to talkie-era
Some actors who made comedy shorts became huge stars, like Bing Crosby,
Bob Hope and W.C. Fields. But others who were just as famous to
moviegoers in the 1930s and 40s — Leon Errol, Tom Kennedy, Andy Clyde
and Billy Gilbert, to name just four once-prominent funnymen — are, in
the 21st century, obscure to all but the most savvy film buffs.
Well, nothing is too obscure for Secret Cinema, and on Friday, April 12,
Secret Cinema will return to the Maas Building to again celebrate this rich and
varied corner of film history. TWO-REELERS 2019 will showcase a variety
of rarely-seen comedy series and stars of yesterday.
There will be one complete show at 8:00 pm. Admission is $9.00.
The program is still being assembled, but below are details on just a
few of the films to be shown. And full disclosure: To fit as much
variety into this program as possible, we’ll probably also include a few
ONE-reel shorts (we thought TWO-REELERS made for a snappier program
BOOBS IN THE WOODS (1940, Dir: Del Lord) – When exploring the wide world
of comedy two-reelers, it becomes obvious that producers would try
teaming up seemingly random pairs of the comic players in their stables
in the hope of finding a winning combination. This outing from Columbia
showcases two of the greats: flustered, crotchety Andy Clyde, and
beloved Third Stooge and one-time “Ugliest Man in Hollywood” (and
all-time Secret Cinema hero!) Shemp Howard. Here Andy hopes to find
peace and relaxation on a camping trip, but the presence of his
trouble-making brother-in-law Shemp makes that unlikely. Director Lord
helmed many Three Stooges shorts, earning tribute from the 1980s rock
band who named themselves after him.
GOOD MEDICINE (1929, Dir: Leslie Pearce) – Edward Everett Horton is
best-known as the prolific character actor whose supporting roles added
mirth to countless classic films like THE FRONT PAGE, LOST HORIZON, and
ARSENIC AND OLD LACE — not to mention for his narration of the
“Fractured Fairy Tales” segments of THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY AND
BULLWINKLE. Few of his many fans realize that he developed his trademark
jittery, befuddled style while starring in a series of comedy shorts for
Educational Pictures, initially in the silent era but continuing into
talkies. These films are virtually lost to film history…but not at
Secret Cinema! This is one.
Leon Errol short to be announced (there are many to choose from!) – That
Leon Errol is virtually unknown to modern audiences borders on the
criminal. He emigrated to the U.S. from Australia, and then enjoyed a
long career in vaudeville and on Broadway, with some tentative roles in
silent slapstick films. It was not until Errol was in his fifties that
he perfected the trademark characterization seen in nearly a hundred
two-reelers, and numerous features (including several in the “Mexican
Spitfire” series, with co-star Lupe Velez) — and at his peak, the actor
was in his sixties. In these films, Errol plays a balding,
somewhat-irascible man with a fondness for drinking and a knack for
mix-ups with pretty girls — leading to inevitable conflicts with his
always-suspicious wife. Errol’s flustered reactions to the tight spots
he winds up in (sometimes innocently and sometimes not) provided the
laughs in most of his 165 screen appearances.
100% SERVICE (1931) – George Burns and Gracie Allen made audiences laugh
in vaudeville, radio, film and television, and Burns’ career lasted into
the 1990s (his wife Gracie died in 1964). This early short gives a good
example of their unique chemistry and impeccable comic timing.
Plus much, much more!
The Maas Building was previously a brewery and a trolley repair shop.
This beautifully restored 1859 brick and timber workshop today serves as
a multipurpose art event and catering space.