The iconic Mister Kelly’s, once called a “supernova in the local and national night life firmament,” illuminated legendary Chicago’s Rush Street, and the entire country, by launching talent like Barbra Streisand, Richard Pryor, Bob Newhart, Bette Midler and Steve Martin. Its visionary owners George and Oscar Marienthal smashed colour and gender barriers to put unknown, controversial voices on stage and transform entertainment, as America knew it in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ’70s.

Now, with the club long gone, and its star talent reaching its golden years, George’s son David and director / screenwriter, Theodore Bogosian, go on a quest to collect the memories of the clubs before they are lost. Celebrity interviews now include Bob Newhart, the Smothers Brothers, Dick Gregory, Lainie Kazan, Herbie Hancock, Dick Cavett, Tim Reid, Fred Willard and Ramsey Lewis.

The film portrays through interviews, live footage, photos, music, and song, the most beloved and famous talent of our time at the decisive moments when they showed up, dug deep, and broke in. How do you change the world
with a laugh and a song? Find out in a film that documents the rise and fall of one of American entertainment’s great proving grounds.

Available Oct 12, 2021 from Virgil Films

Director’s Statement – Theodore Bogosian

For some mysterious and wonderful reason —even though I was born and raised in metropolitan New York –I spent the 1960s listening to Chicago radio stations. At all hours of the day and night my AM radio pulled in music from the Windy City on WLS, WCFL, and Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club and I gravitated toward Kup’s Show and
PlayboyMagazine on television and –thrillingly –in print. Fifty years later, when I was invited to collaborate on LIVE AT MISTER KELLY’S, I instantly realized that directing this documentary had always been my destiny. I even read the Tribune and Sun-Times at my local college library.

Not only was I steeped in Chicago’s Mid-Century media, I also never missed an episode of THE DICK CAVETT SHOW, THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JACK PAAR AND JOHNNY CARSON, THE MERV GRIFFIN SHOW, THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW, and any others that brought the Rising Stars of Music and Comedy into my living room 6 nights a week.

Now, I am making the best of a golden chance, the chance to present so many of these entertainment legends to a worldwide viewing audience. Including Barbra Streisand, Ramsey Lewis and Herbie Hancock to Bob Newhart, Lily Tomlin, David Steinberg and so many others, LIVE AT MISTER KELLY’S weaves their inimitable testimony into a tale of the Marienthal Brothers’ nightclub empire, proving that their venues deserve this loving re-examination.

These clubs were incubators for social change. They promoted both cosmopolitanism and racial harmony. And they endured through an era of unparalleled upheaval and social strife that caused their progressive ideals to crash head-on into the forces of Mayor Daley’s Machine, the Mob, and more traditional midwestern values.

This is the most star-studded film I’ve ever made and one of the most socially significant. Thank you so much for helping us restore and elevate Mister Kelly’s to its rightful place in global entertainment history.

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.