Home Video Reviews
Errol was born in Sydney, Australia in 1881 but moved to the United States when he was still a youngster. By the age of twenty, Errol had become one of the leading comedians of the Ziegfeld Follies, New York's most famous revue that was also the launching point for Will Rogers, Fanny Brice and the afore mentioned W.C. Fields. He was best known for playing drunks wobbling about on legs that kept collapsing under him. This was hardly his only talent, however, and years of stagecraft honed his comedic abilities. Set Errol on comedy scripts and somehow he would make them hilarious.
Errol did not crack the movies as easily as some of the other Ziegfeld alumni, making only a few silents and appearing as comic relief in Paramount films of the early sound era such as Her Majesty Love! (1931). His way of enlivening films in small doses made him a natural for movie shorts. These twenty-minute entertainments were shown before feature films back when you really got your quarter's worth out of a trip to the movie house. Paramount started a Leon Errol series in 1933 and it continued even when he jumped to Columbia later that year, then to RKO where the series remained until the early 1950's.
Errol's character is typically a member of middle-to-upper management with a young wife. Despite the age discrepancy, she is the one who is suspicious of her husband and sometimes rightfully so. In the best short in this collection, Man-I-Cured (1941), Errol is off to stop his nephew from marrying a hotel manicurist. Unfortunately for Errol, this is at a hotel where he has apparently spent much extracurricular and extramarital time. Every hotel employee is ready to welcome back "Mr. Smith." "I must look just like this Mr. Smith," Errol tells his wife but his excuses begin to unravel when another manicurist, one with a hotel detective boyfriend, ends up in Errol's hotel room while his wife is out. Soon there are doors opening and closing, women losing their clothes and hidden here and there, all with the breakneck speed of the best bedroom farces.
Comic timing was obviously very important to Errol and it shows in many of the shorts here. Even when the material is weak, speed and surprise keep the laughs coming. By the time Errol made the last short in this collection, Lord Epping Returns (1951), he was 70-years old, yet the short still moves with a snap and speed younger comics would find hard to match. Errol at the time was in negotiations to carry his act to television but suddenly died before he could enter the land of eternal re-runs.
Leon Errol Two-Reeler Collection gives a small sample of Errol's work with ten titles ranging from 1938 to 1951. They will only whet your appetite for more. The DVD also comes with liner notes and a short biography.
For more information about Leon Errol Two-Reeler Collection or to purchase a copy, visit VCI Entertainment.
by Brian Cady