Cliff Weimer has a passion for all kinds of classic movies; cartoons, shorts, serials and feature films made during the golden age of Hollywood.
The spell was cast in 7th grade when he experienced Charlie Chaplin’s silent masterpiece Modern Times on the big screen. “It changed my life,” says Weimer. “It opened a window to a world that I didn't know existed.”
For eight years he wrote for other movie-related sites, but yearned for the freedom that would come with being his own editor. Two years ago he started IN THE BALCONY, a wonderful website loaded with info geared to lovers of vintage films. His ambitious site is teeming with announcements and reviews of new DVD cartoon and short subject compilations, releases of cliffhanging serials long locked away in studio vaults, and help in finding obscure and long forgotten film treasures. “It’s a site where people who know and love movies can get together and read about them and talk about them” said Weimer, who keeps the conversation buzzing in multiple forums.
On the site, Weimer is known by his alter ego, Laughing Gravy - known to Laurel & Hardy fans as the duo’s shaggy dog first introduced in Hal Roach’s classic 1931 L&H short “Laughing Gravy.” The dog was also featured in Our Gang (The Little Rascals) and other Hal Roach comedy shorts.
In 1986 Weimer was motivated to begin a series of weekly movie nights for family, friends and neighbors, which would become the inspiration for IN THE BALCONY. At that time, the latest Star Wars movie was all the rage and his sons, age 5 and 7, were big fans. Anticipating yawns, Weimer nonetheless showed the boys a chapter from 1940’s Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe to a surprisingly enthusiastic response - and Friday Night Frights (FNF) was born.
The programs consisted of monster and sci-fi films, with some cartoons, comedy shorts and serials slipped in. The kids in the audience grew to love the older films and wanted more. “To see a 10 year old fall off the couch laughing at a black & white Abbott & Costello film is worth everything to me,” Weimer said. “The key with kids is to first show them The Little Rascals. All kids love the Rascals. Then show them Laurel & Hardy, and follow with Charlie Chase or Edgar Kennedy.”
To add to the fun, he often programs thematic movie nights, like slumber parties, beach movie nights, drive-in or double feature movie nights, etc. Posters and lobby cards related to the show are posted and a snack bar featuring nickel and dime candy is available. Sometimes a potluck or pizza dinner is on the bill. And when admission is charged, it's yesterday’s prices: 25 cents for adults and 15 cents for kids.
Studios are beginning to open their vaults and make available films that have been hidden away or neglected for years. Digital technology and the power of the internet have made rare and seldom seen films more accessible than they've been at any time in the past. In light of all this it's no wonder that LG claims “This is the golden age of classic movies.”
BijouBob and Laughing Gravy are kindred spirits, each in their own way bringing classic films to light, introducing them to new audiences, and uniting people with a shared enthusiasm for them. We're proud to announce that Laughing Gravy has graciously agreed to write for The Bijou Blog on a regular basis. We can't wait to see what he's going to do next.