Every once in a while, a Cliff Bowes comedy turns up. Their rarity and scarcity explains why you probably don’t know who Cliff Bowes is. His one-reel comedies are undeservedly forgotten, but luckily some were accidentally preserved.
Cliff Bowes starred in a series of comedies for Educational Pictures, part of their one-reel “Cameo” series supervised by Jack White. More than eighty of these shorts were made from 1923-1927. Plus, there were other Educational shorts where he’s in support of comics like Lige Conley or Jimmie Adams. And that’s not counting the film roles he had 1916-1922.
Fortunately, some of the Cameos that Bowes starred in were made available in the 1920s and 1930s for the 16mm home-use rental market. While it’s hard to judge from viewing a fraction of his output, which is all that survives, it does seem like hunting through flea markets for any of his films would be a worthy effort.
The two Cliff Bowes comedies I’ve seen, Pep Up (1927) and Cheer Up (1924) are well made and have a great blend of physical gags and personality. It’s possible I’ve seen one or two others. He worked with a number of different directors at Educational, which tells me – from what survives – that regardless of who was behind the megaphone he was contributing to the process and had something to offer. Much like the case is with Hank Mann, and does so in the opposite direction when Billy Franey starred in one-reelers.
Cheer Up came to me in a 16mm print by way of another collector in 2011, John McElwee, when I’d begun scoring and posting rare comedies from my 16mm collection on my YouTube channel. When I did my first Accidentally Preserved DVD Kickstarter, I made sure to include this film on the disc. It was a nice-looking old print with original titles, and its got great gags and a good pacing and structure.
I also wanted to be sure people got to know who Cliff Bowes was…in case another one of his Cameo shorts turns up again.
You can read more about Cliff Bowes in Steve Massa’s Lame Brains and Lunatics: The Good, The Bad and The Forgotten of Silent Comedy (BearManor, 2013).
Here’s my print and score for Cheer Up, which you can enjoy on physical media along with several other rare comedy shorts, on Accidentally Preserved: Volume 1 (Undercrank Productions, 2012).
Here’s my YouTube channel intro to the film, from when I released the DVD and posted the films online.