Friday, August 26, 2016

This Saturday: Valentino's 'Son of the Sheik'
with live music at Brandon (Vt.) Town Hall

Valentino in 'Son of the Sheik.' Showtime at Brandon (Vt.) Town Hall is Saturday, Aug. 27 at 7 p.m.

It's been a good month for media attention!

Earlier this month, I got a nice write-up in the Boston Globe. (See the link on the right of this page.)

This week, the Addison Independent, a twice-weekly paper in Middlebury, Vt., published a terrific piece by Charmaine Lam, a young writer on their staff.

What's great about Charlene's piece is not that it's about me. It's great because Charmaine was able to turn a long and rambling phone interview into a piece that covered a lot of ground, is easy to read, and completely and totally accurate. (Even more miraculously, it made me sound something like coherent!)

I've had to do this, and let me tell you: it's not easy, especially if the subject is totally new to you, which was the case with Charmaine.

So congratulations to her on a job well done. I expect it will bring new folks to our next screening in nearby Brandon, Vt., which is coming up this weekend.

For this one, we turn to drama: Rudolph Valentino in 'Son of the Sheik' (1926). Showtime is Saturday, Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. at Brandon Town Hall.

More details in the press release pasted in below. Hope to see you there!

And special thanks to the many sponsors who support the Brandon series, including Pam and Steve Douglass, sponsors of the Valentino program.

* * *

Valentino and Vilma Banky in 'Son of the Sheik' (1926).

WEDNESDAY, JULY 27, 2016 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Iconic screen lover Rudolph Valentino stars at Brandon (Vt.) Town Hall on Saturday, Aug. 27


Silent romantic epic 'Son of the Sheik' to be screened with live music on 90th anniversary of star's tragic early death

BRANDON, Vt.—He was the cinema’s first sex symbol, causing hordes of female moviegoers to flock to his pictures throughout the 1920s.

He starred in films designed to show off his Latin looks, his smoldering eyes, and his dancer’s body. And his untimely death in August, 1926 prompted mob scenes at funeral in New York.

He was Rudolph Valentino, who remains an icon for on-screen passion long after he caused a sensation in the 1920s.

One of Valentino’s most acclaimed films will be screened with live music on Saturday, Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. at Brandon Town Hall and Community Center, Route 7 in Brandon, Vt.

The screening is free and open to the public. Donations are accepted to help support the town hall's ongoing renovation and restoration. The screening is sponsored by Brandon residents Pam and Steve Douglass.

Live music will be provided by accompanist Jeff Rapsis, a New England-based composer who specializes in creating music for silent film presentations.

In 'Son of the Sheik' Valentino tackles two roles, as a father and his son.

Ahmed (Rudolph Valentino), the son of an Arab sheik and a kidnapped English gentlewoman (Agnes Ayres), loves local dancing girl Yasmin (Vilma Banky).

When he slips out of his father's heavily guarded compound to woo her, he is kidnapped and held for ransom by a group of bandits led by Yasmin's father (George Fawcett) and Ghabah (Montagu Love), the Moor to whom she is betrothed.

Can Valentino escape the clutches of his enemies and win the heart of his true love?

'Son of the Sheik' will be preceded by selected short subjects.

'Son of the Sheik' was a sequel to 1921's 'The Sheik,' an immensely popular film that established Valentino as the silent screen's great lover.

Then actor's final film, ‘Son of the Sheik’ was released following his death on Aug. 23, 1926 from complications from peritonitis. Valentino was only 31 years old.

The death took place at the height of his career, inspiring a day-long mob scene at the actor’s New York funeral.

An Italian immigrant who arrived penniless at Ellis Island in 1913, Valentino rose to superstar status in a series of silent pictures that enflamed the passions of female movie-goers from coast to coast and around the world. But he was more than a pretty face—during his career, critics praised Valentino as a versatile actor capable of playing a variety of roles; his achievements included popularizing the Argentinian tango in the 1921 drama ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.’

But Valentino's brief stardom was defined by the ‘Sheik’ roles, which brought a new level of exotic sexuality to the movies, causing a sensation at the time. In theaters, women openly swooned over Valentino’s on-screen image, especially in roles such as the ‘Sheik,’ which featured elaborate costumes. At its peak, his popularity was so immense that it inspired a backlash among many male movie-goers, who decried Valentino’s elegant image and mannerisms as effeminate.

Valentino’s sudden death fueled his status as a legendary romantic icon of the cinema. For years, a mysterious woman dressed in black would visit his grave at the Hollywood Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, leaving only a single red rose.

Valentino was aware of his effect on audiences, saying that “Women are not in love with me but with the picture of me on the screen. I am merely the canvas upon which the women paint their dreams.”

The Valentino program continues another season of silent films presented with live music at the Brandon Town Hall and Community Center. The series provides local audiences the opportunity to experience silent film as it was intended to be shown: on the big screen, in good-looking prints, with live music, and with an audience.

“These films are still exciting experiences if you can show them as they were designed to be screened,” said Rapsis, accompanist for the screenings. “There’s a reason people first fell in love with the movies, and we hope to recreate that spirit. At their best, silent films were communal experiences in which the presence of a large audience intensifies everyone’s reactions.”

For each film, Rapsis improvises a music score using original themes he creates beforehand. None of the the music is written down; instead, the score evolves in real time based on audience reaction and the overall mood as the movie is screened.

Upcoming events in Brandon Town Hall's 2016 silent film series include:

• Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016: Charlie Chaplin in 'The Kid' (1921). In Chaplin's breakthrough feature, a story with "a smile, and perhaps a tear," the Little Tramp raises an orphan. Sponsored by Bill and Kathy Mathis in memory of Maxine Thurston.

• Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016: Chiller Theatre, 'The Man Who Laughs' (1928). Get into the Halloween spirit with this creepy Gothic thriller starring Conrad Veidt. Sponsored by Omya, Inc.

Rudolph Valentino is 'Son of the Sheik' will be shown on Saturday, Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. at Brandon Town Hall and Community Center, Route 7, in Brandon, Vt.

Admission is free; free will donations are encouraged, with proceeds to support ongoing renovation of the town hall. For more information, visit www.brandontownhall.org. For more info on the music, visit www.jeffrapsis.com.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Coming up: A double dose of Rudolph Valentino
— plus composing, scoring a piece for orchestra

Some of our Kilimanjaro team at Karanga Camp, 12,800 feet, six days into the trek and two days before our summit attempt.

A cluster of shows coming up this week, including two screenings of Valentino's 'Son of the Sheik' (1926) in two very different parts of New England.

And then the decks will be cleared to make progress on a project that I'm very excited about—one involving that big mountain pictured above.

But first things first: the Valentino screenings will honor the 90th anniversary of the star's untimely death, which occurred on Aug. 23, 1926.

To mark this occasion, we're running his final film—'Son of the Sheik' (1926)—at the Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit, Maine on Thursday, Aug. 25, and then again on Saturday, Aug. 27 in Brandon Town Hall up in Brandon, Vt.

Detailed info about either screening can be found by clicking on the "Upcoming Silent Film Screenings" link at the upper right.

Coming to a theater near you—if you live in Maine or Vermont.

Valentino is one of the few silent-era stars whose name still holds sway with the public. So we usually get a good turnout when his name is on the program.

It's a great way to experience the special magic that he brought to the silver screen, so hope to see you there!

And then on Sunday, Aug. 28, it's the final installment of our summer series of silent boxing films at the Wilton (N.H.) Town Hall Theatre.

Keaton puts up his dukes in 'Battling Butler.

We're finishing with Buster Keaton's uproarious comedy, 'Battling Butler' (1926). The bell rings at 4:30 p.m.

Though not regarded as one of Buster's timeless classics, 'Butler' was the highest-grossing of any of Keaton's silent features in the 1920s.

In fact, its box office success was one reason that producer Joe Schenck allowed Keaton to go ahead with his ambitious next film, 'The General.'

So if you've enjoyed the Civil War adventure regarded as Buster's masterpiece, you might want to check out 'Butler,' the film that helped make it possible.

Why boxing? Popular in the 1920s, it remains a compelling marriage of civilization and brutality. Read Joyce Carol Oates' 'On Boxing' and you'll see what I mean.

Okay. what about this new project?

This summer, in-between improv-heavy silent film gigs, I've been putting together something completely different: a written-down piece for orchestra.

It's not a film score. It's a concert piece.

Kilimanjaro: the highest and biggest free-standing mountain the world.

Specifically, it's a musical depiction of Mount Kilimanjaro—you know, the big snow-capped peak in East Africa.

And it's scheduled to be played in January, 2017 by the New Hampshire Philharmonic, an orchestra based right here in my home state!

Just today I noticed the piece is listed on the Philharmonic's Web site (www.nhphil.org), so I figured it would be okay to go public.

The thing is, I'm still working on it, and expect to continue to do so for awhile yet. So this might help spur me on.

(Leonard Bernstein wrote music based on 'The Age of Anxiety.' Today, we live in 'The Age of Distraction.')

We negotiate the "Kissing Rock" on a cliff known as the Breakfast Wall above Barranco Camp.

Over the years I've been doing live accompaniment for silent films, I've gradually developed a musical vocabulary or language that I feel works for me.

And now I sense it's time to start using it in ways that are different from the improvised movie scores genre.

I still expect most of my musical energies will go towards creating in-the-moment film music.

But I sense it's time to starting writing some things down and see how that goes.

Why Kilimanjaro? Unexpected forces conspired to make this happen.

For starters, I had the good fortune to be part of a team that successfully reached Kilimanjaro's 19,431-foot summit in January 2015.

Our team on Day 5, coming down from Lava Tower Camp at 15,000 feet.

I didn't sign up for artistic purposes. I just wanted to see if I could do it.

But I was surprised to find the 10-day journey of hauling yourself up and then down the highest peak in Africa is an experience filled with music of various types.

One example: on the final overnight push to the summit, as we slowly ascended a narrow trail through the pre-dawn darkness, Tanzanian guides from several teams spontaneously sang traditional Christian hymns in Swahili. Wow!

Also, not a day goes by on the mountain without people breaking out into "Jambo Bwana," otherwise known as the Kilimanjaro Song.

On a more abstract level, there's the mountain itself. Go there and march all around it, as we did, and you'll find it makes music all its own.

Someone once said that great architecture is music frozen in time. I think that's true with nature, too—or at least that's what I found with Kilimanjaro.

On the summit, dawn, Jan. 10, 2015. Groups generally spend only a half-hour at the top of Kilimanjaro due to lack of oxygen and cold temperatures.

And I felt I wanted to capture some of that: the long trek across the volcanic plains, the drama of scrambling up the "Breakfast Wall," the intense experience of marching one step at a time at high altitude to the frozen summit ridge.

But there's more. It turns out that Mark Latham, the Philharmonic's music director, is from a family of British medical officers with a long history on Kilimanjaro.

Mark's grandfather was the first Englishman to climb to the summit following World War I, after the Germans ceded what was then the colony of "Tanganyika" to the United Kingdom.

Another one of his relatives (I think Mark's great-uncle) was the guy who discovered the frozen leopard on Kilimanjaro's upper slopes that Ernest Hemingway made so much of.

One of the sub peaks is "Latham Peak," and a key spot on the main climbing route is "Stella Point," named after Mark's great aunt, apparently the first woman to ever reach the summit.

Summit photo op. How often do you get to pose with a receding glacier?

And Mark himself was born in Tanzania, and climbed Kilimanjaro some years ago. Prior to our more recent ascent, he let us look through the family's scrapbooks, which was fascinating.

All of this seemed to be drawing us all together and suggesting that we do something musical about Kilimanjaro. And so we are!

So mark your calendars: the Philharmonic has the "Kilimanjaro Suite" on their schedule for Saturday, Jan. 20 and again on Sunday, Jan. 21.

And once this is done, I can start work on that long-awaited Pam Smart opera.

Me at the end of our climb, inspecting the "Tourist Rescue Book."

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Tonight: scoring 'Metropolis' in Ludlow, Vt.,
plus thoughts about Valentino's "Sheik" films

Working for the man in 'Metropolis' (1927).

Very excited about the chance to do live music tonight (Saturday, Aug. 20) for a screening of 'Metropolis' in Ludlow, Vt.

Showtime is 7 p.m. at the Ludlow Auditorium, which is upstairs from the town offices. It was never designed to be a movie theater, but it's a great place to experience silent film.

Among the reasons: the people are great, and so are the acoustics.

More info about tonight's screening is in the press release below.

For now, a few notes about Rudolph Valentino. His untimely death occurred on Aug. 23, 1926, which means the 90th anniversary is coming up next week.


He's one of the few stars from the silent era who remain a household name. Today, "Valentino" is still a synonym for exotic romance, even among people who've never seen any of his movies.

To help remedy that, I scheduled a spate of Valentino flicks in various places this month, with a special emphasis on 'Son of the Sheik' (1926), Valentino's final film.

Originally, I had intended to run double bills consisting of the original 1921 'The Sheik' as well as 'Son,' which was its sequel.

But a program featuring both titles runs well over three hours. And too much of anything—even Valentino—is not always wise.

So I've pared back most of the screenings to just 'Son of the Sheik,' generally regarded as the better of the two.

Overall, the original 'Sheik' is slower paced and more old-fashioned. The sequel is much zippier, more fun, and technically superior. Movie-making had advanced a lot in just five years.

However, now I'm not so sure. Last week I did run both back-to-back at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center in Plymouth, N.H.

And 'The Sheik' held up better than I expected, while its sequel seemed flat and less focused.

Vilma Banky and Rudy in 'Son of the Sheik.'

Afterwards, I polled the audience (about 40 people), and reaction was split right down the middle. Half preferred 'The Sheik,' while half preferred the sequel.

So we'll see. Maybe it really was just too much all at once, and 'Son of the Shiek' will come into its own when run on its own.

We'll find out next week, when I accompany the film on Thursday, Aug. 25 at the Leavitt Theater in Ogunquit, Maine, and then again on Saturday, Aug. 27 up in Brandon, Vt.

The one reqret I have about not running both films is that I lose the opportunity to create two intersecting scores.

Example: In 'The Sheik,' throughout the film I used a certain bold melodic signature for Valentino's title character and wove it into the score.

Then, for 'Son of the Sheik,' I used a completely different motif for the title character (the Sheik's son), and otherwise completely different material around it as well.

So THEN, when the Sheik's father shows up in the latter film, I brought back the original motif from the first movie, a move I thought was really effective.

But you can't achieve effects like that when you run only one title. Still, I'll do my best to help 'Son' connect with audiences curious about the Valentino appeal.

Poster for the original 'Sheik' film in 1921.

Speaking of which: one thing about 'Son' that's necessary to explain is that Valentino was to some extent making fun of his reputation as the screen's greatest lover.

Watch both Sheik films in succession, it's easy to see this. But without context, some of his moves in 'Son' might get taken the wrong way. "Oh, those primitive silent movies!" So it necessary to say a few works about that.

The good news is that both pictures hold up quite well on their own, so I'm looking forward to presenting more Valentino later this month.

But first, the imagined future beckons. Come up to Ludlow, Vt. tonight and see one of the biggies! More info in the press release below.

* * *


WEDNESDAY, JULY 27, 2016 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Futuristic silent film epic 'Metropolis' (1927)
to be shown in Ludlow on Saturday, Aug. 20


Landmark early sci-fi fantasy movie, with half-hour of rediscovered footage, to be shown with live music at Ludlow (Vt.) Town Hall Auditorium

LUDLOW, Vt.—A silent film hailed as the granddaddy of all science fiction fantasy movies will be screened with live music on Saturday, Aug. 20 at 7 p.m. at Ludlow Town Hall Auditorium.

The screening, sponsored by FOLA (Friends of the Ludlow Auditorium), will allow audiences to experience silent film in the way its creators originally intended: on the big screen, with live music, and with an audience.

The show, like all movies at the Ludlow Town Hall Auditorium, is free and open to the public. 'Metropolis' will be preceded by a short silent comedy film starring Buster Keaton.

"'Metropolis' is one of the great all-time classics of cinema, and we're thrilled to present it so fans can experience it with an audience and live music," said Ralph Pace, programmer and organizer of the series.

Original music for 'Metropolis' will be performed live by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based composer and silent film accompanist who performs at screenings around the nation.

'Metropolis' (1927), regarded as German director Fritz Lang's masterpiece, is set in a futuristic city where a privileged elite pursue lives of leisure while the masses toil on vast machines and live deep underground.

The film, with its visions of futuristic factories and flying cars, set new standards for visual design and inspired generations of dystopian fantasies from Ridley Scott's 'Blade Runner' to Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil.'

In reviving 'Metropolis' and other great films of cinema's early years, FOLA aims to show silent movies as they were meant to be seen—in high quality prints, on a large screen, with live music, and with an audience.

"All those elements are important parts of the silent film experience," said Rapsis, who will improvise an original live score for 'Metropolis' on the spot. "Recreate those conditions, and the classics of early cinema leap back to life."

Brigitte Helm works her triceps in 'Metropolis.'

In 'Metropolis,' the story centers on an upper class young man who falls in love with a woman who works with the poor. The tale encompasses mad scientists, human-like robots, underground spiritual movements, and industrial espionage, all set in a society divided between haves and have-nots.

The version of 'Metropolis' to be screened in Ludlow a newly restored edition that includes nearly a half-hour of missing footage cut following the film's premiere in 1927. The lost footage, discovered in 2008 in an archive in Argentina, has since been added to the existing 'Metropolis,' allowing plot threads and characters to be developed more fully.

After its premiere, the film's distributors (including Paramount in the U.S.) drastically shortened 'Metropolis' to maximize the film's commercial potential. By the time it debuted in the U.S. later that year, the film was only about 90 minutes long.

Evil Scientist! Boo!

Even in its shortened form, 'Metropolis' became a cornerstone of science fiction cinema. Due to its enduring popularity, the film has undergone numerous restorations in the intervening decades in attempts to recover Lang's original vision.

In 1984, the film was reissued with additional footage, color tints, and a pop rock score (but with many of its intertitles removed) by music producer Giorgio Moroder. A more archival restoration was completed in 1987, under the direction of Enno Patalas of the Munich Film Archive, in which missing scenes were represented with title cards and still photographs.

More recently, a 2001 restoration combined footage from four archives and was widely believed that this would be the most complete version of Lang's film that contemporary audiences could ever hope to see. But in the summer of 2008, the curator of the Buenos Aires Museo del Cine discovered a 16mm dupe negative of 'Metropolis' that was considerably longer than any existing print.

It included not merely a few additional snippets, but 25 minutes of "lost" footage, about a fifth of the film, that had not been seen since its Berlin debut.

The discovery of such a significant amount of material called for yet another restoration, which debuted in 2010 to widespread acclaim. It's this fully restored edition that will be screened in Ludlow.

" 'Metropolis' stands as an stunning example of the power of silent film to tell a compelling story without words, and reach across the generations to touch movie-goers from the real future, which means us," said accompanist Jeff Rapsis, who provides live music for silent film screenings throughout New England.

To accompany a silent film, Rapsis uses a digital synthesizer to recreate the texture of the full orchestra. The score is created live in real time as the movie is screened. Rather than focus exclusively on authentic music of the period, Rapsis creates new music for silent films that draws from movie scoring techniques that today's audiences expect from the cinema.

The restored 'Metropolis' will be shown on Saturday, Aug. 20 at 7 p.m. at Ludlow Town Hall Auditorium, 137 Depot St. in Ludlow, Vt. The screening is sponsored by the Friends of Ludlow Auditorium. Admission is free; donations are encouraged. For more information about the FOLA and its events, visit www.fola.us or call (802) 228-7239.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Next up at the Somerville Theatre:
'Stella Maris' in 35mm on Sunday, Aug. 14

Conway Tearle and Mary Pickford in 'Stella Maris' (1918).

Very excited for the Boston Globe (our region's biggest newspaper) to publish a preview about our screening of Mary Pickford's 'Stella Maris' (1918) on Sunday, Aug. 14 at 2 p.m.

Writer Loren King put together a nice piece on the film and on my approach to accompanying it.

It's online here, although you may need to be a subscriber to see the whole thing.

I've also posted it as a separate page under the "More Information" area to the right. Check it out!

I'm behind on postings and previews due to a heavy performance schedule in the past week.

Got back this past Monday from our stay in Rome, Italy, and then it was a silent film screening every single night for the rest of the week!

Tuesday, Aug. 9 was 'Desert Nights' (1929), a late MGM silent with John Gilbert, Mary Nolan, and Ernest Torrance battling to survive in the Kalahari Desert.

I love these end-of-the-road silents because they were generally overlooked when first released, and often contain some really good stuff.

'Desert Nights' was a prime example: a big MGM production with a strong cast and technically quite accomplished, and a film I'd never heard of or accompanied before.

Audience reaction at the Manchester (N.H.) City Library was strong. 'Desert Nights' still holds up. So it's one to file in the "unknown but surprisingly good" category.

The entrance to the Biltmore ballroom, site of a 1925 "world premiere."

Wednesday, Aug. 10 brought an unusual gig at the vintage Biltmore Hotel in downtown Providence, R.I.

I accompanied the great 1925 comedy 'Her Sister From Paris' in a ballroom packed with people dressed as vacationers from the 1890s through the 1920s.

This was part of a week-long "seaside vacation" experience run by "Moments in Time," a Connecticut-based group dedicated to reviving vintage holiday-making, with an emphasis on period dress and dance.

The events attract people from all over the nation: at the pre-show dinner, among my tablemates were a couple from North Carolina who clearly enjoyed the chance to visit a bygone era, sartorially and otherwise.

Showing a silent film with live music was a new wrinkle in this group's activities, and I'm pleased to report it was a smash hit.

Really! You know you're in for a good time when even the open titles generate raucous laughter.

But this turned out to be one of those great, great nights, where the film clicks right from the start and audience response is non-stop.

Constance Talmadge and Ronald Colman and a ballroom full of people dressed in vintage clothing. What's not to like?

Backstage at the Biltmore: what employees see when exiting any of the three service elevators, one of which is reserved exclusively for room service.

Because it was in an upstairs ballroom in an actual working hotel, I myself had the unusual experience of having to load-in not through the lobby, but "back stage" through the loading dock and service elevators.

It being a humid night with temps in the 90s, I have renewed respect and sympathy for the people who delivery room service. And I appreciated the "Smile, You're About to Go On Stage" reminders (in English and Spanish) in the employee elevators.

But everyone could not have been nicer and more helpful. So here's hoping there's room for more silent film screenings in future "Moments in Time" activities.

The Clayton family (owners of the Leavitt Theatre) always outdo themselves in producing large-format "sandwich board" sidewalk placards, even for obscure films.

Thursday, Aug. 11 saw me returning to the historic Leavitt Theatre (opened in 1923 and virtually unchanged since) in Ogunquit, Maine for "Silent Comedy Night" featuring Harry Langdon in 'Tramp Tramp Tramp' (1926).

Prior to the show, I polled the audience to see if any Langdon groupies were on hand. Surprisingly, some were!

With a modest turnout of about 50 people (and another warm night) one took a while to get going.

But no matter what else happens, it always comes to life when Harry winds up literally hanging by a thread over a cliffside. And that's what happened on Thursday night, and it was smooth sailing (and much laughter) from that point on.

A one-sheet promo for 'The Yankee Clipper.'

Friday, Aug. 12 brought me to Concord's Red River Theatres and 'The Yankee Clipper' (1927) starring William Boyd, known today mostly for his later work as "Hopalong Cassidy" in innumerable Westerns.

It was the latest installment of our monthly silent film program.

In summer, turnout for this series is sometimes anemic. But not the case this time: we nearly filled the small screening room with a crowd pumped for adventure on the high seas.

To try to stir up appropriate excitement, I opened my introduction like this:

Me: "Okay, how many Hopalong Cassidy fans do we have here tonight?"

Crowd: Yay!

Me: "And how many people here are fans of those great sailing vessels, the tall ships and the clipper ships?"

Crowd: Bigger Yay!

Me: "And how many fans do we have of U.S. President Zachary Taylor?!"

Crowd: Biggest yay of all, but possibly ironic.

But they really, really enjoyed the flick, a Cecil B. DeMille production that really holds up well. The fact that it's set in the 1840s gives it a timeless quality and a "history comes to life" kind of appeal similar to Buster Keaton's 'The General.'

As an added bonus, 'The Yankee Clipper' cast includes New Hampshire native Walter Long in yet another "tough guy" role, in this case "Ironhead Joe" who meets his requisite end only after having tobacco "chaw" being spit in his face by Junior Coughlin.

Long's appearance shouldn't be a surprise, though, as he seems to have appeared in about 70 percent of all films made during the silent era.

Someone should write a book about this interesting guy, who acted in everything from 'The Birth of a Nation' and 'Intolerance' to Laurel and Hardy comedies.

If they do, here's a working title: "Witness to Hollywood."

And that brings us up to today, when I'll head down to Beantown (otherwise known as Boston) and do music for 'Stella Maris' at the Somerville Theatre.

Not only does the cast include Mary Pickford playing two roles, but also features the legendary actor Gustav Von Seyffertitz (who would later play the evil "baby farm" owner in Pickford's 'Sparrows' in 1926) and Teddy the Dog, on loan from Mack Sennett's studio, where he routinely rescued damsels in distress. (Here he gets to experience more lasting satisfaction.)

Showtime is 2 p.m. The print is 35mm. What are you waiting for?

For more info, check out the press release I've pasted in below.

And for even more info, here's a great write-up from a Pickford blog-a-thon from a few years ago.

And here's a different perspective (and somewhat less charitable) from a paper in Asheville, N.C. prior to a recent screening.

For a film that's nearly a century old, 'Stella Maris' still gets a lot of press!

See you there!

* * *

The wonders of 1918 split-screen photography bring us Mary Pickford and Mary Pickford playing two lead roles in 'Stella Maris.'

WEDNESDAY, JULY 27, 2016 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Somerville Theatre to show rare silent feature film starring Mary Pickford


Intense melodrama 'Stella Maris' (1918) to be screened in 35mm and with live music

SOMERVILLE, Mass.—She was a pioneering figure in early cinema, and all the more remarkable because she worked in an otherwise male-dominated industry.

She was Mary Pickford, one of biggest superstars of the silent film era, as well as a major force behind the cameras during her long career.

Rediscover Pickford's unique appeal with a screening of 'Stella Maris' (1918), a melodrama starring Pickford, which will be shown with live music on Sunday, Aug. 14 at 2 p.m. at the Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, Somerville, Mass.

The film will be screened using a 35mm print from the U.S. Library of Congress. General admission to program is $15 per person.

Pickford was a screen veteran with nearly 10 years of experience and already a major star when she made 'Stella Maris,' a melodrama in which she played two roles.

Stella Maris (Mary Pickford), paralyzed since birth, lives in an opulent mansion and has virtually no knowledge of the outside world. She adores her frequent visitor John Risca (Conway Tearle), a journalist stuck in a loveless marriage to Louise (Marcia Manon).

After Louise viciously beats her maid Unity Blake (also Pickford), she is jailed, and Unity too falls in love with John. The two young women are hopelessly enamored of the same man, and after Louise's release something has to give.

'Stella Maris' is a classic example of the kind of emotionally charged melodrama that was immensely popular during the silent era, and which still holds up today when screened as intended—with live music, in a theater, and with an audience.

The film was directed by Marshall Neilan, a frequent Pickford collaborator.

Pickford, a pioneering film superstar, was a major force in early Hollywood, helping establish the United Artists studio and serving as a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which to this day bestows the annual Oscar awards.

However, Pickford's films receive comparatively little attention today, in part due to the myth that Pickford often played wholesome and traditional female characters that conformed with society's expectations at the time.

In truth, Pickford's best movies often featured her in roles that required her to take action, challenge authority, and play strong roles uncommon for a woman of the era.

Pickford would go on to make many successful films throughout the silent period, and further cemented her status as Hollywood royalty by marrying swashbuckling adventure icon Douglas Fairbanks Sr. in 1920.

The Pickford program is the latest installment of the Somerville Theatre's monthly "Silents, Please!" series, designed to showcase the silent era's best feature films the way they were intended to be shown—using actual 35mm film prints projected on the big screen, with live music, and with an audience.

"If you can put all these elements together, the films come to life in a way that's surprising to modern audiences," said Ian Judge, the Somerville's general manager. "Our silent film series has been very successful at attracting an audience, we're thrilled to continue it on a monthly basis."

'Stella Maris' will be accompanied by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based musician and composer.

For silent film, Rapsis improvises music in real time, while the film is running, using a digital synthesizer to recreate the "movie score" texture of a full orchestra.

"Making up a score live is a bit of a high-wire act, but it allows me to follow and support the film a lot more effectively than if I was buried in sheet music," Rapsis said. "Instead, I'm free to follow the film right in the moment. Each time it's different, which lends a certain energy and immediacy and excitement to the experience."

'Stella Maris,' a silent melodrama starring Mary Pickford, will be screened in 35mm with live music on Sunday, Aug. 14 at 2 p.m. at the Somerville Theater, 55 Davis Square, Somerville, Mass. Admission is $15 adults, $12 students/seniors; general admission seating. For more information, call (617) 625-5700 or visit http://www.somervilletheatre.com. For more info on the music, visit www.jeffrapsis.com.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Come visit our "silent film laboratory"
held monthly at Manchester's City Library

John Gilbert's never-screened final silent, 'Desert Nights' (1929). Delight or dud? We'll find out in August.

I've seen it happen again and again: a silent film that I've looked at by myself at home comes across as a real yawner, a tiresome dud.

But the same film, when screened in a theater, with live music and with an audience, snaps back to life and commands the screen!

I've found this occurs not just with well-known classics, but with obscure films that just never get shown.

Exhibit them as intended, and the whole experience comes together. The film somehow works.

This isn't always the case, of course. Truth is, you never know what kind of reaction an older film will inspire.

The only real way to know for sure is to get the film up on a screen and give it a chance with live music and with an audience.

That's what we've been doing at the Manchester (N.H.) City Library once a month for some years now.

Each month, I run an obscure film, usually one I've never accompanied before. Could be a drama, comedy, western, adventure—anything.

And together, we collaborate to find out if the film really has anything going for it.

It's kind of a laboratory for testing how much power remains in the batteries of these old flicks.

And there are a lot of films that survive. For every well-known silent such as 'Metropolis' or 'The General,' there are literally hundreds of other lesser-known flicks.

Overall, it's estimated that about 11,000 feature-length films were produced in the U.S. during the silent era.

Of those about 70 percent have been completely lost due to neglect, decay, and so on.

But that leaves something like 3,000 films out there, each potentially full of great artistic or cultural and entertainment value. Sometimes all three!

Over the years, our efforts have produced some surprise discoveries. Films that never get shown can still spring right back to life if shown as intended.

Among the stand-outs: John Ford's surprisingly intense Irish drama 'Hangman's House' (1928); the unexpectedly hilarious comedy 'Conductor 1492' starring Johnny Hines; and Greta Garbo steaming up the screen in 'Wild Orchids.'

We're on break this month, but we pick things up in August, and I hope you'll join us.

Together, we give forgotten films a chance to do what they were designed to do so long ago: to transport us, to entertain us, to inspire us.

Can they? Will they? Only one way to find out.

Below is a press release announcing the titles from now through the end of the year. See you at the library!

* * *

Yes, I know we misspelled "Desert" in this promotional ad for the silent film series at the Manchester (N.H.) City Library.

TUESDAY, JULY 26, 2016 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Live music means no "Shhh!" at Manchester City Library's silent film series


Monthly program features great films from cinema's early years shown free to the public

MANCHESTER, N.H. — The films may be silent. But the experience of seeing them is anything but.

That's because live music is always part of the show at the Manchester City Library's ongoing silent film series. And so is audience reaction.

The silent film programs are free and take place in the basement auditorium of the Manchester City Library, which is located at 405 Pine St. in downtown Manchester.

The schedule for the rest of 2016, just released, includes a ground-breaking drama from acclaimed German director F.W. Murnau, a rarely-screened Lon Chaney feature, and action flicks featuring firemen, the U.S. Coast Guard, and a woman who transforms herself into a leopard.

Each month, the library runs a classic film from the time before movies came with synchronized sound and dialogue.

Instead, filmmakers told their stories visually, with live music creating a unique atmosphere when the movie is shown in a theater.

"These are the films that caused people to first fall in love with the movies," said Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based silent film accompanist who creates and performs live music for the library's series.

"At the time they were new, nobody thought of them as silent," Rapsis said. "They were pictures that moved, a brand new art form. And the stories they told had a universal appeal that captured the public's imagination all over the globe."

The films are popular with audiences of all ages, from children to senior citizens.

All screenings in the series take place in Carpenter Auditorium, located on the lower level of the historic Manchester City Library building.

Shows in the series are free and open to the public. Screenings take place on Tuesday nights and begin at 6 p.m.

The complete schedule for the remainder of 2016 includes rarely screened dramas, action adventure flicks, foreign films, and more.

• Tuesday, Aug. 9 at 6 p.m.: "Desert Nights" (1929) starring John Gilbert, Ernest Torrence. A thieving couple victimize a diamond mine and kidnap its manager, but he gains the upper hand (and falls in love with the woman) when they flee into the hostile desert. Superstar Gilbert's final silent film, climaxed by an immense sandstorm.

• Tuesday, Sept. 6 at 6 p.m.: "The Last Laugh" (1924) starring Emil Jannings, directed by F.W. Murnau. Engrossing character study of what happens when the head doorman at a posh Berlin hotel is ordered to give up his uniform due to encroaching old age. German film full of iconic images that stretched the expressive power of cinema.

• Tuesday, Oct. 4 at 6 p.m.: "The Leopard Woman" (1920). Battle-of-wits jungle drama about an British explorer and a female spy from a rival goverment ordered to foil his mission. The fun begins when rather than killing the explorer, she falls in love with him―and then he goes blind!

• Tuesday, Nov. 1 at 6 p.m.: "The Third Alarm" (1922) and "The Coast Patrol" (1925). Fire and water mix in a double bill of classic low-budget melodramas, one about a firefighter forced to retire when the department switches from horses to motorized vehicles, and another about smugglers who threaten a lighthouse keeper's peaceful post.

• Tuesday, Dec. 6 at 6 p.m.: "Mockery" (1927) starring Lon Chaney. During the Russian Revolution, a mentally challenged peasant saves a beautiful countess from invading Cossacks, then obsesses over her. Often overlooked Chaney drama with heavy helping of class warfare.

In addition to telling good stories and having entertainment value, these films are also of interest for what they show about daily life in the time they were made.

"Over the years, films from the silent era have picked up additional interest as a record of a way of life that's quite different from today," Rapsis said.

For each film, Rapsis improvises a music score using original themes created beforehand. None of the the music is written down; instead, the score evolves in real time based on audience reaction and the overall mood as the movie is screened.

"Doing the music live is a bit of a high-wire act," Rapsis said. "But I find it's the best way to create music that reflects what's happening on screen and helps an audience connect and stay with a film."

The next screening in the Manchester City Library's monthly silent film series will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 9 at 6 p.m. Featured attraction is 'Desert Nights' (1929) starring John Gilbert and Ernest Torrance.

The program takes place in the Carpenter Auditorium, lower level of Manchester City Library, 405 Pine St., downtown Manchester. Admission is free and the program is open to the public.

For more information, call the library at (603) 624-6550 or visit online at http://www.manchester.lib.nh.us/

For more about the music, visit www.jeffrapsis.com.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Summertime double-header: Hitchcock's
'The Ring,' then Fairbanks in 'Thief of Bagdad'

An original poster for Alfred Hitchcock's film 'The Ring' (1927)

They do it in baseball. So why not in silent film?

Today is one of those "two screenings in one day" days. A double-header, just like baseball.

Unlike baseball, today's screenings are in two different stadiums—er, theaters. And this being New England, they're in two different states, too.

This afternoon, I'll be at the Wilton (N.H.) Town Hall Theatre for the next installment of our summertime series of silent boxing movies.

This time it's Alfred Hitchcock's early drama 'The Ring' (1927), which I've never done before.

But in terms of music, I've found the Hitchcock silents lend themselves to a sort of reverse-engineered Bernard Herrmann approach. So that's what I'll be taking.

Today happens to be a spectacular mid-summer day (mid-80s, sunny but not humid), so we'll see what kind of turnout we get.

In our favor: the Hitchcock name, plus some good exposure in the local media.

The bell rings at 4:30 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are always welcome.

More details in the press release below.

And after the final punch is thrown in 'The Ring,' I then haul myself and my gear down to the Aeronaut Brewery in Somerville, Mass., where we're running the epic Douglas Fairbanks Sr. film 'The Thief of Bagdad' (1924) at 8 p.m.

It's a great summertime flick: the granddaddy of all fantasy adventure movies. Flying carpets, magical spells, swashbuckling adventure, and more!

Artwork for the original release of 'The Thief of Bagdad.'

Doug was really firing on all cylinders in this big budget spectacular, which I think is the best of his 1920s epics.

I love presenting 'Thief,' in part because it always makes me feel like what a small kid in the 1920s must have felt like when he or she saw it in its original release.

I think of a small kid in some dusty plains town getting to go the moviehouse some hot Saturday afternoon, and seeing this.

I'm not a little kid, but 'The Thief of Bagdad' turns me into one every time.

And seeing it in a brewery with a big screen and a kick-ass sound system ought to be a really fun way to experience the movie.

The only issue is that because I'm a kid, I can't enjoy a few brews during the show, right?

Actually, I find I can't have any alcohol prior to accompanying a film. Even the slightest sip of wine seems to affect my ability to respond to a film musically.

Afterwards, it's another story entirely!

But back to tonight's show: We sometimes sell out screenings at the Aeronaut, which has limited capacity due to their occupancy permit.

But I just checked and it seems like there's room this evening for last-minute drop-ins. So come on down!

More info in the press release, which I'm posting below the one (below) about 'The Ring.'

* * *

A scene from Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Ring' (1927).

MONDAY, JULY 18, 2016 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Early Hitchcock film highlights Wilton (N.H.) Town Hall Theatre summer series of vintage boxing movies


'The Ring' (1927), silent drama of two fighters in love with same woman, to be screened on Sunday, July 24 with live musical accompaniment

WILTON, N.H.—An early film directed by Alfred Hitchcock is next up in a summer series of vintage boxing movies at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre.

'The Ring' (1927), an intense tale of two fighters battling over the same woman, will be screened with live music on Sunday, July 24 at 4:30 p.m.

The boxing series is part of the Wilton Town Hall Theatre's monthly silent film program. Admission to the screenings is free; a donation of $5 per person is suggested.

Live accompaniment will be provided by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based silent film musician.

'The Ring,' an early Hitchcock effort, was made when the director was still working in his native Great Britain.

The future "master of suspense" was just 28 years old when he helmed this silent drama set in the colorful world of English carnivals and fairgrounds.

'The Ring' is based on Hitchcock's only original screenplay, although he worked extensively alongside other writers throughout his career.

Silent-era boxing dramas are of interest to sports buffs because they're filled with scenes of the fight game at the height of its mainstream popularity.

At the time, boxing rivaled baseball as the nation's most popular sport. Neighborhoods, communities, and ethnic groups all rooted for their favorite fighters, and heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey ranked as an international celebrity.

Boxing stories were popular with early movie audiences as well.

"As an elemental contest between two opponents, boxing inspired early filmmakers to do some some great work," Rapsis said. "It's a visual sport that doesn't require a lot of dialogue or commentary to understand, and so was perfect for silent movies."

The Wilton Town Hall Theatre has been showing films since 1912. In addition to running current releases on its two screens, the theater remains committed to alternative programming such as its ongoing series of silent films with live music.

The silent series gives local audiences to experience early cinema as it was intended to be seen: on the big screen, with live music, and with an audience.

Keaton in 'Battling Butler,' to be shown in August.

The series concludes on Sunday, Aug. 28 with 'Battling Butler' (1926), Buster Keaton's uproarious boxing comedy about a pampered millionaire mistaken for a champion fighter.

The Summer Silent Boxing Film Series continues with a screening of Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Ring' (1927) on Sunday, July 24 at 4:30 p.m. at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre, 60 Main St., Wilton, N.H. Admission is free; a donation of $5 per person is suggested.

For more info, call (603) 654-3456 or visit www.wiltontownhalltheatre.com. For more info on the music, visit www.jeffrapsis.com.

* * *

Douglas Fairbanks Sr. plays the title role in 'The Thief of Bagdad' (1924).

MONDAY, JULY 11, 2016 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Aeronaut Brewing to screen 'The Thief of Bagdad' (1924) with live music on Sunday, 7/24

Epic silent film fantasy classic starring Douglas Fairbanks set new standards for Hollywood magic

SOMERVILLE, Mass. — Silent film with live music returns to the Aeronaut Brewing Co. this month with a screening of one of early Hollywood's most exciting fantasy adventure movies.

Douglas Fairbanks Sr. stars in 'The Thief of Bagdad' (1924), to be shown on Sunday, July 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the Aeronaut Brewery, 14 Tyler St. (near Union Square), Somerville, Mass.

Live music will be provided by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis. Admission is $10 per person.

Tickets are available online at www.eventbrite.com; search on "Aeronaut Brewery."

Or here's a direct link to tickets.

The program is open to the public and is part of the Aeronaut's commitment to showcase local music, art, and performance.

The athletic Fairbanks was the Harrison Ford of his time—a pioneering action hero among the first to entertain movie audiences with thrilling on-screen adventures.

Among his best work is 'The Thief of Bagdad' (1924), a timeless adventure boasting a great story, spectacular sets, and magical special effects.

In 'The Thief of Bagdad,' a bare-chested Fairbanks plays a crafty rogue who easily steals everything his heart desires—everything, that is, except the love of a beautiful princess, daughter of the powerful Caliph of Bagdad.

To win her hand, he must not only change his ways, but also convince her of his worthiness over many other highly placed suitors.

Doug flies carpet class in 'The Thief of Bagdad.'

In making the film, Fairbanks spared no expense for what some critics still regard as the most lavish fantasy movie ever made, a show-stopping adaptation of the traditional "A Thousand and One Nights" story in which a flying carpet is just one of many eye-popping sights that astounded movies audiences at the time.

Fairbanks, swaggering through massive marketplace sets and cavernous throne rooms as an incorrigible pickpocket, scales towering walls (with the help of a magic rope) and leads merry chases through crowded bazaars in his pursuit of loot—until he falls in love with the princess and vows to win her heart.

The jaunty opening is a preamble to the film's spectacular second half, in which the repentant thief embarks on an odyssey through caverns of fire, underwater palaces, and even outer space. Special effects range from a giant smoke-belching dragon to a magical flying horse, and still glow with a timeless sense of wonder from the early days of movies.

William Cameron Menzies's sets were among the largest ever created for a motion picture. Especially noteworthy is his design for a mythical Bagdad, a unique combination of Art Deco and Islamic elements—a dream city inspired by illustrations from story books.

Fairbanks, one of the most popular stars of the 1920s, was the inspiration for the character of George Valentin in the recent Oscar-winning Best Picture 'The Artist' (2011). Fairbanks was known for films that used the then-new medium of motion pictures to transport audiences to historical time periods for grand adventures and athletic stunts. He's often referred to as "Douglas Fairbanks Sr." to avoid confusion with his son, the actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

More than 90 years after its premiere, 'The Thief of Bagdad' continues to be held in high regard. In 1996, the film was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Fairbanks himself considered 'The Thief of Bagdad' to be his personal favorite of all of his films.

Live music for 'The Thief of Bagdad' will be provided by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis, who uses a digital synthesizer to create a traditional full orchestra "movie score" sound.

The screening continues the Aeronaut's silent film series, which aims to revive big-screen showings of great silent features that first caused audiences to fall in love with the movies.

"If you've never seen a silent film in a theater with live music and an audience, the Fairbanks pictures are a great way to experience the medium at its best," Rapsis said. "When you put all the elements together, silent film has an ability to stir up emotions in a way that no other medium can."

'The Thief of Bagdad' is appropriate for family audiences, although very small children may find some sequences frightening. The film runs 2 hours and 34 minutes.

'The Thief of Bagdad' (1924) starring Douglas Fairbanks will be screened with live music on Sunday, July 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the Aeronaut Brewery, 14 Tyler St. (near Union Square), Somerville, Mass. Admission is $10 per person. Tickets are available online at www.eventbrite.com; search on "Aeronaut Brewery." For more info, visit www.aeronautbrewing.com.

Here's a direct link to tickets.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

'Christmas in July' plus Mary Pickford feature
tonight (7/21) at Ogunquit's Leavitt Theatre

Mary Pickford in 'Tess of the Storm Country' (1922), playing tonight at 8 p.m. at the Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit, Maine.

Busy lately, so I'm a little behind in the silent film postings.

But still, tonight's program at the Leavitt Theatre out in Ogunquit, Maine is a worthy one, so here goes.

Tonight at 8 p.m., we're running a 'Christmas in July' show that includes some shorter holiday silents and Mary Pickford's great 1922 melodrama 'Tess of the Storm Country.'

This program is one that's worked well during the actual holiday season.

People respond well to the early one-reel versions of 'A Christmas Carol' and 'Twas the Night Before Christmas,' and Pickford's film (with its Yuletide ending) still packs a punch.

But this is the first time I've tried it out in mid-summer, decked out with a "Christmas in July" theme. So we'll see how it goes.

For more info, check out the text of the press release below. See you there!

* * *

Promotional ad for the 1914 version of 'Tess of the Storm Country.'

SATURDAY, JULY 9, 2016 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

'Christmas in July' silent film program at the Leavitt on Thursday, July 21



Celebrate the season with holiday classics from a century ago, brought to life with live musical accompaniment

OGUNQUIT, Maine—What did people watch before special holiday TV programs such as "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "A Charlie Brown Christmas" made their debut in the 1960s?

See for yourself with a special program of holiday classics from way back during the silent film era, all accompanied by live music.

Included will be the first-ever film versions of such popular tales as 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens and 'Twas the Night Before Christmas,' the poem by Clement C. Moore; each are more than a century old and less than 10 minutes long.

The family-friendly program will be presented on Thursday, July 21 at 8 p.m. at the Leavitt Theatre, 259 Main St. in downtown Ogunquit, Maine. Admission is $10 per person.

Live music will be provided by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based silent film accompanist who performs regularly at screenings around the nation.

The evening will be highlighted by a screening of 'Tess of the Storm Country' (1922), a full-length drama starring Mary Pickford that features a special Christmas-oriented ending.

"Even in the early days of cinema, the movies helped popularize classic holiday stories," Rapsis said. "So it's a real treat for us to turn back the clock and see where the tradition of holiday movies and TV specials first began."

The program will include the first known movie versions of 'A Christmas Carol' (1910) and 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' (1905).

The films each run less than 10 minutes long and were both produced as novelties by Thomas Edison, the inventor credited with pioneering the motion picture.

'Tess of the Storm County' (1922), a full-length feature, has been hailed as among Mary Pickford's best pictures.

The film tells a story of conflict between residents of a poor fishing village who live near the the estate of a wealthy family.

As the feisty daughter of a village leader who is unjustly put in jail, Pickford plays a key role in a melodramatic plot that takes many surprising turns.

Pickford, a pioneering film superstar, was a major force in early Hollywood, helping establish the United Artists studio and serving as a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which gives out the annual Oscar awards.

However, Pickford's films receive comparatively little attention today, in part due to the myth that Pickford often played wholesome and traditional female characters that conformed with society's expectations at the time.

A slide promoting 'Tess of the Storm Country.'

In truth, Pickford's best movies often featured her in roles that required her to take action, challenge authority, and play strong roles uncommon for a woman of the era.

The "Christmas in July" Program at the Leavitt will give local audiences a chance to experience silent film as it was meant to be seen—on a large screen, with live music, and with an audience.

"All those elements are important parts of the silent film experience," said Rapsis, who improvises a movie's musical score live as it screens. "Recreate those conditions, and the classics of early Hollywood leap back to life in ways that can still move audiences today."

Rapsis performs on a digital keyboard that reproduces the texture of the full orchestra and creates a traditional "movie score" sound.

Critics review 'Tess of the Storm Country':

"The most insistently moving picture ever made, its climax is the most stunning visual event ever arranged for a film comedy."
—The New York Times

"The reason to watch is Pickford's elfin grace; she is at her criminally cutest here. Tess boasts rapturous pictorialism and an all-stops-out-climax."
—Richard Corliss, Film Comment

The Leavitt, a summer-only moviehouse, opened in 1923 at the height of the silent film era, and has been showing movies to summertime visitors for nine decades.

The silent film series honors the theater's long service as a moviehouse that has entertained generations of Seacoast residents and visitors, in good times and in bad.

Upcoming shows in this year's silent series include:

• Thursday, Aug. 11 at 8 p.m.: 'Tramp Tramp Tramp' (1926); comic Harry Langdon enters a cross-country foot race to impress his dream girl, Joan Crawford!

• Thursday, Aug. 25 at 8 p.m.: 'The Sheik' (1921) and 'Son of the Sheik' (1926), two popular films of silent screen icon Rudolph Valentino on the 90th anniversary of his death.

• Thursday, Sept. 15 at 8 p.m.: 'The Winning of Barbara Worth' (1927); Ronald Colman and Gary Cooper compete for a woman's favor in this epic Western filmed on location.

• Saturday, Oct. 29 at 8 p.m.: 'The Man Who Laughs' (1928); celebrate Halloween with a creepy but riveting historical tale about a man forced to go through life with a maniacal grin.

A 'Christmas in July' silent film program featuring Mary Pickford in 'Tess of the Storm Country' (1922) will be shown on Thursday, July 21 at 8 p.m. at the Leavitt Theatre, 259 Main St., Route 1, Ogunquit, Maine. Admission $10 per person. For more info, call (207) 646-3123 or visit www.leavittheatre.com.