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Mister Kelly’s documentary to preview on WTTW-Channel 11

The film about the fabled Rush Street nightclub will air Thursday in an abbreviated version.

The marquee at Mister Kelly’s at Bellevue and Rush trumpets a Joan Rivers residency in this 1960s photo.
Chicago History Museum

Chicago will get its first look at a new documentary about the famed Rush Street nightclub Mister Kelly’s this week on WTTW-Channel 11.

The film will air as a one-hour special at 8 p.m. Thursday, followed by a rerun at 10 p.m. Sunday. The full version, clocking in at 80 minutes, premieres nationally this fall.

The film includes live footage of performances from the club, where such greats as Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Herbie Hancock and Lenny Bruce got their acts together during their up-and-coming years. Big names including Billie Holiday, Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Woody Allen and the Smothers Brothers chose the venue as the site of their live albums.

Executive producer of the film is David Marienthal, whose father George and uncle Oscar operated Mister Kelly’s as well as two other prominent Chicago nightclubs of the era: the London House and the Happy Medium Theater.

“Our city was the entertainment epicenter of the country during that time,” Marienthal said in a statement, “and my father and uncle built an unrivaled talent incubator.”

Marienthal donated his archive of interviews, recordings, photos and memorabilia to the Newberry Library, which is planning to launch a Mister Kelly’s exhibition in 2023.

“Live at Mister Kelly’s” was directed by veteran documentary and dramatic filmmaker Theodore Bogosian.