Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Thursday, Jan. 27: 'Simba, King of the Beasts' (1928) w/live music at Wilton's Town Hall Theatre

A lobby card for 'Simba' (1928), a wildlife documentary produced by Martin and Osa Johnson, who pioneered airborne wildlife photography.

Sometimes two of my many separate lives crash into each other—like tonight!

This evening, as executive director of the Aviation Museum of N.H., I'll present a lecture on the lives of Martin and Osa Johnson, pioneer wildlife photographers and aviators.

And then, as silent film accompanist, I'll create music for 'Simba: King of the Beasts' (1928) a documentary made by the Johnsons that mesmerized audiences around the world.

All this takes place at the Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St. in Wilton, N.H. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. 

However, I understand that tomorrow's edition of our statewide daily newspaper, The Union Leader, will carry a big feature on our program. 

That's great, but the Town Hall Theatre is not exactly Radio City Music Hall in terms of capacity. 

So if you plan to attend, come early!

And if you're not aware of the Johnsons, it's not surprising. Although they enjoyed worldwide fame a hundred years ago, their name has faded from public awareness.

I wasn't aware of them at all until just a few years ago, when the Kansas Silent Film Festival programmed 'Simba.' (The Johnsons hailed from the Sunflower state.)

Wow! I was impressed and intrigued at the time. It's no wonder the Johnsons were celebrities—their life of adventure maintains a strong pull even in our "we've seen it all" age.

Heck, maybe the appeal is even stronger today!

Well, find out for yourself by attending tonight's program. Admission $10 per person, with all proceeds to benefit the Aviation Museum's youth aviation education programs.

Press release is below. See you tonight in Wilton!

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Martin and Osa Johnson with the Sikorsky S-39 float plane they flew around Africa in the 1930s to film exotic animals in their natural habitat.

WEDNESDAY, JAN. 19, 2022 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jrapsis@nhahs.org

Take off to adventure! Celebrating the Johnsons, pioneering aviators who captured first movies of African wildlife

Aviation museum program on Thursday, 1/27 spotlights globe-spanning adventures of Martin and Osa Johnson, whose plane had N.H. connection; includes screening of early documentary 'Simba: King of the Beasts' (1928) with live music

WILTON, N.H. — Want to see a century-old safari movie made in Africa by pioneering aviators whose special plane would later boast a Granite State connection?

Then take off to Wilton's Town Hall Theatre on Thursday, Jan. 27, when the Aviation Museum of N.H. presents 'Martin and Osa Johnson: Adventure's First Couple,' a combination lecture and movie screening.

The program starts at 7:30 p.m. and is open to the public. Tickets available at the door: $10 per person, general admission. All proceeds support the non-profit Aviation Museum's education programming.

The Town Hall Theatre is located at 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H. For directions, visit www.wiltontownhalltheatre.com.

The evening opens with a review of the extraordinary career of the Johnsons, a Kansas couple who gained worldwide fame in the early 20th century for far-flung exploits that combined adventure, aviation and wildlife photography.

Often wearing classic safari outfits and topped by pith helmets, the duo journeyed deep into Africa and Asia in the 1920s and 1930s, getting the first motion pictures of exotic wildlife in its native habitat.

Back home and in Europe, they achieved great popularity on the lecture circuit by recounting their exploits in foreign lands.

After Martin Johnson learned to fly, they used Sikorsky float planes painted with zebra and giraffe markings to reach remote regions of Africa and Asia, and also photograph wildlife from the air.

As filmmakers, the couple produced several wildlife documentary films chronicling their adventures. These also proved immensely popular, laying the groundwork for all wilderness filmmaking to follow.

The program will include with a screening of 'Simba: King of the Beasts" (1928), a documentary the Johnsons compiled from film they shot in Africa from 1923 to 1927. The silent film will be shown with live musical accompaniment.

The program will be presented by Jeff Rapsis, executive director of the Aviation Museum of N.H. Rapsis prepared the program with assistance from the Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum of Chanute, Kansas—Osa Johnson's hometown.

Rapsis, who moonlights as a silent film accompanist, will also provide the live music for the screening "Simba: King of the Beasts."

The 'Simba' documentary is not recommended for children due to graphic scenes of violence that include the shooting and killing of animals.

"Martin and Osa Johnson: Adventure's First Couple" is the first in a series of humanities programs planned for 2022 by the Aviation Museum of N.H.. The series is supported in part by Grappone Auto and the Sidore Foundation.

"The story of the Johnsons is one that combines aviation with so much else that humans find fascinating," Rapsis said. "Their work is worth looking at today because it's about topics that remain compelling: animals, wildlife, adventure, and exotic places."

"But now, so many decades later, their work has an added layer because it displays attitudes that prevailed a century ago in topics such as gender roles, treatment of animals, and race," Rapsis said. "As such, it can teach us a lot."

At the height of their fame, Martin Johnson was killed in 1937 in an airplane crash in California. Osa Johnson later wrote a best-selling book, "I Married Adventure," which recounted the couple's exotic and at-times dangerous expeditions.

Following her death in 1953, the couple's fame faded and their achievements were largely forgotten as new wilderness stars emerged in the television era, including Marlin Perkins (producer of 'Wild Kingdom') and undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau.

But one of the aircraft they used in their adventures—the Sikorsky S-39, a single-engine float plane—captured the imagination of Dick Jackson, a pilot and mechanic from Rochester, N.H.

Only 21 such aircraft were built in 1930-31, and by the early 1960s all had been lost or junked.

Looking for a project, in 1963 Jackson chose to restore a Sikorsky S-39 to flyable condition. The painstaking effort took more than four decades, but in 2003 Jackson completed the work and the world's only remaining S-39 made its maiden flight.

In honor of the Johnsons, the plane was painted in exactly the same giraffe pattern used by the famous couple during their African adventures. Today the aircraft remains airworthy, and is part of the collection housed at the "Fantasy of Flight" museum in Polk City, Fla.

The program will include recent scenes of the restored Sikorsky in flight—and on the water—in its Florida environs.

The Aviation Museum of N.H. is a non-profit 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization dedicated to celebrating New Hampshire's role in aviation history and inspiring tomorrow's pioneers, innovators and aerospace professionals.

For more information, visit www.aviationmuseumofnh.org or call (603) 669-4820. Follow the Aviation Museum on social media at www.facebook.com/nhahs.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Wednesday, 1/26: New Flying Monkey film series starts with comedy 'For Heaven's Sake' (1926)

Harold Lloyd as "J. Harold Manners" in 'For Heaven's Sake' (1926).

Next up: a screening of Harold's Lloyd's great comedy 'For Heaven's Sake' (1926) in Plymouth, N.H.

Complete info on that in the press release below. But first, an update from the front lines. 

We enjoyed great turnout and good reaction yesterday afternoon at a screening of 'Nanook of the North' (1922) at the Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H. 

The show was part of an ongoing series celebrating the 100th anniversary of significant films, including the year's top five box office hits, all of which survive.

Nanook was not among them, but was popular and influential to be included. Plus, what better film to show in the dead of a New England winter?

A century after its release, people are still drawn to director Robert Flaherty's images of Inuit people living among the Arctic ice floes and snow drifts. 

For the music, I used piano with sustained strings to create a soundtrack that seemed to mirror the landscapes and environments seen in 'Nanook.' 

It was the same thinking used by legendary composer Bernard Herrmann when he used strings only for Hitchcock's 'Pyscho' because he wanted a "black and white score for a black and white movie."

Just about everyone stayed after for what turned out to be an extended Q & A session, with people using their phones to look up information on topics about which I proved clueless.

The film was preceded by the Chaplin two-reeler 'Pay Day' (1922), which we ran in contrast to 'Nanook.' 

Where Flaherty's 'Nanook' marked the beginning of documentary films, 'Pay Day' was the last of Chaplin's short comedies. 

Speaking of beginnings: this Wednesday's screening of Harold Lloyd's comedy 'For Heaven's Sake' marks the start of another series—this one celebrating titles from 1926 that as of this month (January 2022) are now in the public domain.

Hope you'll join us for this uproarious comedy, which was actually Lloyd's top-grossing film of the silent era, although it doesn't get shown nearly as often as 'Safety Last' (1923) or 'The Freshman' (1925).

One other thing: 'For Heaven's Sake' is one of the films in which Lloyd starts at the top, rather than having to climb his way up. (Another one is 1923's 'Why Worry?')

So if you think Lloyd always followed the same "young man has to prove himself to win the girl" formula, then 'For Heaven's Sake' might surprise you.

Press release is below. Showtime is 6:30 p.m. See you there!

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An original poster promoting Harold Lloyd in 'For Heaven's Sake' (1926).

MONDAY, JAN. 10, 2022 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Jeff Rapsis at (603) 236-9237 • e-mail jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Flying Monkey series to highlight films that entered public domain on Jan. 1, 2022

Venue to screen classic comedies, dramas, and adventure films released 1926, all newly in the public domain

First up: Harold Lloyd's classic comedy 'For Heaven's Sake' with live music on Wednesday, Jan. 26

PLYMOUTH, N.H. — On New Year's Day, hundreds of movies became a lot easier to show and to watch.

That's because copyright protection for all films released in 1926 expired on Jan. 1, 2022, putting them in the public domain.

To mark the occasion, starting this month the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center will revive the top motion pictures of 1926.

The Flying Monkey's first-ever "Public Domain Extravaganza" will showcase vintage comedies, dramas, and adventure films, all with live music.

First up: Harold Lloyd's classic romantic comedy 'For Heaven's Sake' (1926), to be shown on Wednesday, Jan. 26 at 6:30 p.m.

General admission is $10. The screening will feature live accompaniment by silent film musician Jeff Rapsis.

In 'For Heaven's Sake,' Lloyd plays a wealthy young man smitten with the daughter of an impoverished clergyman who ministers to the urban poor.

On the day Lloyd and the girl plan to marry, Lloyd's wealthy country club friends kidnap him to prevent what they see as an embarrassing mistake.

Can the urban mission's petty criminals and chronic alcoholics rescue Harold and get him to the church on time?

Lloyd and friends atop an open-air double-decker bus in 'For Heaven's Sake.'

'For Heaven's Sake,' promoted with the tagline 'A Man With A Mansion, A Miss with a Mission,' became the year's 4th-highest grossing film, earning $2.6 million.

Critic Leonard Maltin described 'For Heaven's Sake' as "...a screamingly funny silent comedy."

Silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis will improvise a musical score to the film in real time as the movie is screened.

In creating music for 'For Heaven's Sake' and other vintage classics, Rapsis tries to bridge the gap between silent film and modern audiences.

"Live music adds an element of energy to a silent film screening that's really crucial to the experience," Rapsis said.

Upcoming screenings in the Flying Monkey's "Public Domain Extravaganza" include:

• Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, 6:30 p.m.: "The Temptress" (1926) starring Greta Garbo. MGM drama with Garbo destroying the lives of men everywhere. The perfect antidote for Valentine's Day.

• Wednesday, March 9, 2022, 6:30 p.m.: "The Winning of Barbara Worth" (1926) starring Ronald Colman, Vilma Banky, and Gary Cooper. Epic Western drama about the settling and irrigation of California's Imperial Valley, once a wasteland but now an agricultural paradise. Shot on location by director Henry King in Nevada's Black Rock desert, one of the first films to take audiences to the wide open spaces of the great American West. With a young Gary Cooper playing a key role.

• Wednesday, April 27, 2022, 6:30 p.m.: "Battling Butler" (1926) starring Buster Keaton. In an uproarious boxing comedy, Keaton plays Alfred Butler, a pampered rich idler with the same name as a feared boxing champion. When a girl he's pursuing thinks he's the fighter, Keaton has no choice but to start training.

• Wednesday, May 11, 2022, 6:30 p.m.: "Bardelys the Magnificent" (1926) starring John Gilbert. Gilbert tries his hand at swashbuckling in this big-budget MGM historical extravaganza about exploits of an unjustly disgraced French nobleman. A major film long thought lost until a single print was recently discovered in France.

• Wednesday, June 8, 2022, 6:30 p.m.: "The Black Pirate" (1926) starring Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. The original pirate film, with Fairbanks sword-fighting his way through a period adventure tale set during the age of sailing ships.

"By 1926, the movies had matured enough to offer a wide range of great entertainment that still holds up today," Rapsis said. "Come see for yourself as we screen some of the year's best flicks, all of which recently entered the public domain and now belong to us all."

Harold Lloyd's romantic comedy ‘For Heaven's Sake’ will be shown with live music on Wednesday, Jan. 26 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center, 39 Main St., Plymouth, N.H.

Admission to the screening is $10, general admission seating. For more info, call (603) 536-2551 or visit www.flyingmonkeynh.com.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Coming Sunday, 1/23: 'Nanook of the North' (1922), plus report from Detroit and Cleveland

'Spies' (1928), which received a memorable screening on Thursday, Jan. 13 at Cinema Detroit.

Just returned to home base in New Hampshire after a road-trip that took me 1,775 miles to performances in Detroit and Cleveland. 

Right now I feel more like a long-haul trucker than a silent film accompanist!

But the trip was well worth it, as each show was successful on several fronts.

Congrats to Cinema Detroit and the Cleveland Cinematheque for bringing their audiences the experience of silent cinema with live music.

And thanks to their audiences for coming out (during the recent pandemic spike, no less) in numbers healthy enough to make the whole effort worthwhile.

In Detroit, an audience of about 40 people turned out for Fritz Lang's espionage epic 'Spies' (1928), which just one person in the group had ever seen before. 

And that one person, a true Lang devotee, had never seen it in a theater with live music. 

So that's why he flew all the way from New York City just to experience it on the big screen, thus easily taking the "traveled the farthest" prize. (Not including the accompanist.)

Paula and Tim Guthat of Cinema Detroit pitched 'Spies' as an alternative to Lang's much-better-known 'Metropolis' (1927), which they feel has frequent screenings has rendered over-familiar, overshadowing his other work of the period.

I think they have a point. And Lang pulled through, with 'Spies' holding the screen for 2½ hours without a single person leaving. 

One reason for this is that 'Metropolis' and 'Spies' and another sprawling Lang late silent, 'Woman in the Moon' (1929), all share a common feature. 

Each is about very different things, but underneath they're all old-fashioned melodramas.

Yes! Despite their surface differences, each is driven by a pot-boiling page-turning barn-burner of a story. And like the D.W. Griffith epics, the narrative pulls the audience through. The story is structured so that you simply must keep watching. You can't help it. 

That's what happened last Thursday night (Jan. 13) at Cinema Detroit. You could tell—people were hooked. That, coupled with Lang's incredible visual story-telling, made for a memorable evening in a darkened theatre.

It went so well, the Guthats are thinking about screening another lesser-known Lang, such as the aforementioned 'Woman in the Moon.' I hope they do! 

Why? Not just because I would love to do music for it (although that's one reason), but also because the Lang pictures are great examples of films that really must be seen in a theatre with an audience for it to have its full effect. 

It was the same thing the next evening (Friday, Jan. 14) in Cleveland. 

Raymond Griffith shows off some dance steps in 'Hands Up!'

At the Cinematheque, a 35mm print of Raymond Griffith's 'Hands Up!' (1926) was greeted with continuous laughter right from the start. As with most silent comedy, being part of an audience that's enjoying the on-screen action gives you permission to laugh as well.

And if all goes well, you might just get that wonderful spontaneous combustion of laughter that's one of the great glories of the silent cinema, even today. 

And that's what we got at the Cinematheque. Once Griffith taught a tribe of Native Americans to forsake their wardance for the Charleston, there was no turning back. 

This was followed by a quieter but no less appreciative response for a screening of Ernst Lubitsch's 'The Marriage Circle' (1924), which I'd never accompanied before. 

In this case, I think audience members don't expect to find this kind of polished and sophisticated society comedy in silent pictures. For most people, silent comedy = Buster Keaton or the Keystone Cops.

But there it was! Long before Hollywood began cranking out so-called "screwball" comedies in the 1930s, it was producing polished society farces in quantity, starring the likes of Ronald Colman or (in 'The Marriage Circle') Adolphe Menjou. 

They just didn't have dialogue. But that didn't stop talented performers such as Colman or Menjou from saying all they needed via facial expressions, gestures, pantomine, and the artfully turned head or raised eyebrow. (And the occasional craftily-written intertitle.)

Both venues, by the way, were closed for 16 months (16 months!) starting in March 2020 at the pandemic's onset. Can you believe it?

That both endured the prolonged closure, and are now riding out the current surge with creative programming that includes silent pictures with live music, gives me a lot of confidence.

In an age where new options such as in-home streaming are gaining in popularity, I feel sure that as long as we have cinema, there will be an audience for motion pictures to be shown in a theater.

By the way, the reason I drove out there (rather than flew) is that for these performances I used my Korg digital synthesizer, which isn't exactly air-travel-friendly even with its sturdy (but monstrously heavy) carrying case.

And there's all the sound equipment and cabling I lug around. It's nothing I can't fit into my Subaru Forester with room to spare, but a LOT to send through the nation's air transport system. 

More to come, including a screening of 'Nanook of the North' later this month at the Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H. to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the film's release. 

The film is showing on Sunday, Jan. 23 at 2 p.m. More info in the press release below. 

And there will be cake! 

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A vintage poster for the documentary 'Nanook of the North' (1922).

MONDAY, JAN. 10, 2022 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Pioneering documentary 'Nanook of the North' to screen at Wilton Town Hall Theatre

Ground-breaking silent film to be shown with live music on Sunday, Jan. 23 to celebrate 100th anniversary of release

WILTON, N.H.—It's hailed as one of the first films to show the potential of the movie camera to take audiences to distant lands.

It's 'Nanook of the North' (1922), a ground-breaking movie about life among Eskimos above the Arctic Circle, to be screened on Sunday, Jan. 23 at 2 p.m. at the Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H.

Admission is free, with a suggested donation of $10 per person to help cover expenses.

The classic silent documentary will be shown with live music by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis.

Director Robert Flaherty’s film tells the story of Inuit hunter Nanook and his family as they struggle to survive in the harsh conditions of Canada’s Hudson Bay region.

Remarkably matter-of-fact in its depiction of the everyday struggle to stay alive in the Arctic hinterlands of Canada’s Hudson Bay, 'Nanook of the North' shows Flaherty’s interest in his Inuit subjects in each carefully framed shot.

'Nanook' was completed only after film from a previous expedition caught fire and was destroyed. Flaherty had to repeat his entire visit to the frozen north to reshoot the movie.

'Nanook' unfolds as a series of long takes interspersed by occasionally poetic intertitles, all of which serve to highlight seemingly mundane tasks required for survival in the frigid terrain.

Beyond its educational function, though, Flaherty’s profoundly empathetic intimacy with his subjects—the resilient, prodigious seal-and-walrus-hunter Nanook and his weathered clan—heightens what seems on the surface to be merely a dry informational pamphlet.

A scene from 'Nanook of the North' (1922).

To make the film, Flaherty built an ad-hoc film processing lab in the challenging Arctic conditions and trained his Inuit friends to be his technicians.

Immersed in the culture for over two years, Flaherty embraced the new art form as a way to show modern audiences that without all the complications and trappings of modern civilization, lives could be happily lived—even under nature’s harshest conditions.

Enormously popular when released in 1922, 'Nanook of the North' is a cinematic milestone that continues to enchant audiences.

In 1989, 'Nanook of the North' was one of the first 25 films to be selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

The screening is part of the Town Hall Theatre's ongoing series honoring the 100th anniversary of significant motion pictures that debuted in 1922.

Programs will include all of 1922's five highest-grossing titles, each shown on the big screen with live music, as well as century-old oddities, short films, cartoons, and more.

"Putting these films back on the big screen is a great way to celebrate the 100th anniversaries of some terrific motion pictures," said Rapsis, the silent film accompanist who will create live music for all screenings.

"These are films that set the standard for Hollywood, and still retain their power to entertain, especially when shown in a theater with live music and an audience," Rapsis said.

Upcoming programs in the Town Hall's 100th anniversary series include:

• Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022 at 2 p.m.: Rudolph Valentino in 'Blood and Sand.' Film's 'Latin Lover' in his first starring role, as a sexy bullfighter in this 1922 romantic thriller.

• Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022 at 2 p.m.: 'When Knighthood was in Flower.' Marion Davies goes medieval in this epic big budget costume picture from 1922 that put her on the map as a top Hollywood star.

• Sunday, March 13, 2022 at 2 p.m.: Norma Talmadge in 'Smilin' Through.' In honor of St. Patrick's Day, a 1922 romantic drama set in the Emerald Isle.

• Sunday, March 27, 2022 at 2 p.m.: Douglas Fairbanks in 'Robin Hood.' Celebrate the 100th anniversary of this blockbuster adaptation. Massive sets, great action, and Doug Fairbanks in the lead made this the top grossing film of 1922!

• Sunday, April 3, 2022 at 2 p.m.: Chaney/Houdini Double Feature. In 'Flesh and Blood' (1922), escaped convict Lon Chaney hides out in Chinatown and plots revenge. In 'The Man From Beyond' (1922) illusionist Harry Houdini plays an Arctic adventurer frozen for 100 years!

• Sunday, April 17, 2022 at 2 p.m.: Emil Jannings in 'Othello' The Bard's immortal tragedy brought to the screen in this early German version. Silent Shakespeare in honor of the author's 458th birthday.

Following the screening of 'Nanook of the North,' cake will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

‘Nanook of the North' (1922) will be shown live music on Sunday, Jan. 23 at 2 p.m. at the Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H.

Admission is free, with a suggested donation of $10 per person to help defray expenses. For more info, call (603) 654-3456 or visit www.wiltontownhalltheatre.com.


Sunday, January 2, 2022

A century in the making: Town Hall Theatre to screen 1922's top five box office attractions

The #1 box office blockbuste of 1922: Douglas Fairbanks in 'Robin Hood.'

Get set for a four-month series exploring the top box office hits of 100 years ago!

It's at the Town Hall Theater in Wilton, N.H., and starts on Sunday, Jan. 9 at 2 p.m. with Harold Lloyd's comedy 'Grandma's Boy.'

More on that in the press release below. First, I'd like to recount my recent adventure with a pipe organ in the neighboring state of Vermont.

New Year's Day brought 2022's first screening: accompaniment for 'The Phantom Carriage' (1921) at Epsilon Spires, the Baptist Church-turned-performing arts venue in Brattleboro, Vt.

The interior of Epsilon Spires, which until recently was a Baptist Church.

Because it once was a church, it has an organ—in fact, an Estey organ built right there in Brattleboro and installed in 1906. 

 And that's what I used to do music for Victor Sjöström's influential drama. 

I don't get many chances to do live pipe organ accompaniment. So it was a real treat to start the new year working with the "king of instruments." 

The Estey, though technically a church organ rather than one built for movie accompaniment, is nevertheless up to the job of film accompaniment. 

It has a nice variety of stops, making possible a range of textures. And it can really rock the house when called for.

(And I've since learned that among the church's former congregants was Jacob Estey himself, who founded the organ-building company that bore his name.)

I augmented the organ's sound by using my digital synthesizer to add in percussion at key moments: timpani, bass drum, and cymbals. 

Although the organ was in tune with itself, I found it pitched about a half-tone lower than my synthesizer, which is defaulted to A = 440 Hz. So I had to pull the synth pitch down to about 415 Hz to compensate.

I've since read that this lowered pitch is standard practice for some instruments in playing music from the Baroque era. So much to learn!

One other odd thing is the Estey's pedal board—but in this case, it's me that's out of synch. 

The Allen organ I have at home is equipped with what's called a "Princess" pedalboard, meaning it's smaller than a full-sized pedalboard. 

Specifically, it's built to 3/4 size, I guess to make it easier to fit in a living room, which is where it would have been played back in the era of the home organ.

So my instincts regarding pedal location are off by a certain amount. It takes time to adjust to the different proportions of a full-sized pedalboard. Even so, I managed to hit most of the notes I aimed for. 

Accompanying the film on an unfamiliar instrument was a workout. 

But I have to say, from the standpoint of the accompanist, bringing a film to a conclusion with an organ is especially satisfying for some reason.

And it's not because I ended big—with 'The Phantom Carriage' (called 'Körkarlen' in Swedish'), I actually pulled a move from the ending of the Brahms Symphony No. 3, drawing up to a quiet close. 

Rather, in silent film accompaniment, there's something about the sound of an organ that helps the sum add up to more than the parts.

I want to thank Jamie Mohr and her colleagues at Epsilon Spires for the chance to work with the Estey and accompany 'The Phantom Carriage.' 

There's talk of follow-up screenings. I'd welcome that because it would mean to chance to really get to know the Estey.

Again, I just don't get a lot of chances to play pipe organ, so I'm excited about a venue with a working organ that's fairly close to home base.

As was once said in a non-silent movie, "This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

Okay, onto the future, which in this case means heading back into the past.

On Sunday, Jan. 9, the Town Hall Theatre will begin a series of 100th anniversary screenings of the top box office hits of 1922.

First up is Harold Lloyd's breakthrough feature comedy 'Grandma's Boy,' which clocks in at No. 5 in the box office records. 

Plenty of other great pictures are lined up, too—but rather than have me prattle on about them here, check out the press release below.

Hope you'll join me in catching up on all the big hits of 1922 that for some reason you missed on their original runs!

*   *   *

Harold Lloyd in 'Grandma's Boy' (1922).

MONDAY, DEC. 20, 2021 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Start 2022 with Hollywood's top box office hits from a century ago

Town Hall Theatre to embark on 100th anniversary screenings of 1922's most popular big screen attractions

WILTON, N.H. — It's a film series 100 years in the making!

Starting in January, the Town Hall Theatre will reset the clock and celebrate the top box office hits of 1922, when the movies were just coming into their own.

The program includes now-classic blockbusters such as Rudolph Valentino's bullfighting drama 'Blood and Sand' (1922); Marion Davies in the medieval romance 'When Knighthood was in Flower' (1922); and the year's highest-grossing film, 'Robin Hood' (1922) starring Douglas Fairbanks Sr.

First up is Harold Lloyd's uproarious comedy 'Grandma's Boy' (1922), to be screened on Sunday, Jan. 9 at 2 p.m. at the Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H.

Live music will be provided by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis. Admission is free, with a suggested donation of $10 per person to help cover expenses.

Subsequent programs will include all of 1922's five highest-grossing titles, each shown on the big screen with live music, as well as century-old oddities, short films, cartoons, and more.

"Putting these films back on the big screen is a great way to celebrate the 100th anniversaries of some terrific motion pictures," said Rapsis, the silent film accompanist who will create live music for all screenings.

"These are films that set the standard for Hollywood, and still retain their power to entertain, especially when shown in a theater with live music and an audience," Rapsis said.

'Grandma's Boy,' the first feature in the series, tells the story a cowardly young man (Harold Lloyd) who seeks the courage to battle a menacing tramp who terrorizes his small hometown.

Audiences loved 'Grandma's Boy.' The film grossed $1.1 million, making it the year's 4th-highest grossing picture and the year's most popular comedy. 

At the time, a successful feature film typically grossed $100,000. The picture helped establish Lloyd as a major star for the rest of the silent film era, and prompted rival comedians Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton to also make feature-length films.

In revival, 'Grandma's Boy' continues to delight movie-goers and serves as a great introduction to the magic of silent film. It also provides a window into small town American life as it was lived a century ago.

The Jan. 9 screening will include a special 100th anniversary cake to be enjoyed to movie-goers on a first-come, first-served basis.

Upcoming programs in the Town Hall's 100th anniversary series include:

• Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022 at 2 p.m.: 'Nanook of the North' Breakthrough 1922 documentary tells the story of Inuit hunter struggling to survive in far-north Canada.

• Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022 at 2 p.m.: Rudolph Valentino in 'Blood and Sand' Film's 'Latin Lover' in his first starring role, as a sexy bullfighter in this 1922 romantic thriller.

• Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022 at 2 p.m.: 'When Knighthood was in Flower' Marion Davies goes medieval in this epic big budget costume picture from 1922 that put her on the map as a top Hollywood star.

• Sunday, March 13, 2022 at 2 p.m.: Norma Talmadge in 'Smilin' Through' In honor of St. Patrick's Day, a 1922 romantic drama set in the Emerald Isle.

• Sunday, March 27, 2022 at 2 p.m.: Douglas Fairbanks in 'Robin Hood' Celebrate the 100th anniversary of this blockbuster adaptation. Massive sets, great action, and Doug Fairbanks in the lead made this the top grossing film of 1922!

• Sunday, April 10, 2022 at 2 p.m.: Chaney/Houdini Double Feature. In 'Flesh and Blood' (1922), escaped convict Lon Chaney hides out in Chinatown and plots revenge. In 'The Man From Beyond' (1922) illusionist Harry Houdini plays an Arctic adventurer frozen for 100 years!

• Sunday, April 24, 2022 at 2 p.m.: Emil Jannings in 'Othello' The Bard's immortal tragedy brought to the screen in this early German version. Silent Shakespeare in honor of the author's 458th birthday.

The 1922 series is made possible in part by the unlikely survival of so many of the year's top titles.

"With 80 percent of all films from the silent era lost or missing, we're fortunate to have all top five films from 1922 available to screen a full century after their release," Rapsis said.

"We invite all silent film fans, and also those who haven't experienced this type of cinema in a theater with an audience and live music, to come see the motion pictures that caused people to first fall in love with the movies," Rapsis said.

'Grandma's Boy' will be screened with live music on Sunday, Jan. 9 at 2 p.m. at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H. 

Admission is free, with a suggested donation of $10 per person to help defray expenses. For more info, call (603) 654-3456 or visit www.wiltontownhalltheatre.com.
 
P.S.: Check out this flyer promoting the series!

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Announcing the '2022 Mid-Winter Lake Erie Silent Film Tour' in Detroit and Cleveland. Really!

'Spies' (1928), which I'm accompanying at Cinema Detroit on Thursday, Jan. 13.

Yes, really! Order the tour t-shirts before they're all gone.

Seriously: in mid-January, I'll be heading to the other side of the Appalachians to accompany silent film screenings at venues in Detroit and Cleveland. 

Pray for nice weather! Here's the line-up:

On Thursday, Jan. 13, it's Fritz Lang's 'Spies' (1928) at Cinema Detroit, an independent moviehouse in the Motor City.

On Friday, Jan. 14, I'll accompany Raymond Griffith in 'Hands Up!' (1926) and Ernst Lubitsch's 'The Marriage Circle' (1924) at the Cleveland Cinematheque.

And on Saturday, Jan. 15, it's music for 'Der Golem' (1920), the early German thriller that's part of this year's annual 36-hour (yes!) sci-fi marathon at Case Western University, also in Cleveland.

(More details on each screening are in the listings below.)

If you're within canoeing range of Lake Erie, please come join us for what promises to be a feast of worthy cinema. (Yes, I know Detroit isn't technically on Lake Erie, but close enough.)

Raymond Griffith demonstrates some up-to-date dance moves in 'Hands Up!' (1926), which I'm accompanying on Friday, Jan. 14 at the Cleveland Cinematheque.

This excursion represents something of a milestone. It's my first film accompaniment outing beyond New England since the pandemic hit back in March 2020.

And yes, it's all just an excuse for me to dine at L'Albatros in the University Heights neighborhood of Cleveland. Oh my God, the best French restaurant in North America! And probably South America.

Also, while in Cleveland I hope to hear local pianist George Foley and his colleagues play through uptempo 1930s tunes at one of their usual haunts. Nothing makes me happier than this kind of music played live. George, hope to see (and hear!) you.

Back to the movies: it's a great privilege to be hitting the road to do live music for such a strong line-up of titles. 

And in Detroit! And Cleveland! In January! How much glamour is one expected to cope with?

Well—not everyone can make it to the San Francisco Silent Film Festival or to Pordenone. So I'm delighted to help bring the silent film experience to the public in other places.

Many thanks to the venues for inviting me to perform, and for keeping silent film with live music as part of their programming.

A special thank you to the Case Western Reserve University Film Society, which got the ball rolling by agreeing to bring me back two years after I appeared in January 2020, just before the pandemic hit. 

That put me in Cleveland, where John Ewing of the Cinematheque was kind enough to program the Griffith and Lubitsch titles, which had been on the venue's schedule for spring 2020 before everything shut down.

And thanks to Paula Guthat of Cinema Detroit for taking a chance with Lang's sweeping espionage epic 'Spies' (1928), which I love accompanying and always plays like a house afire. People of Detroit: make a point of attending this one!

And I've got to hand it to Paula, as they're really promoting the heck out of 'Spies.' Check out their home page.

Okay, here's a detailed round-up of the "2022 Lake Erie Tour." Attend all four and you'll earn...the satisfaction of beating the odds. Plus I'll save you something from my charcuterie board at L'Albatross.

Until then, I'll be checking the long-term forecast. See you in the Midwest!

Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, 7:30 p.m.: "Spies" (1928); Cinema Detroit, 4126 3rd Ave., Detroit, Mich.; (313) 482-9028; www.cinemadetroit.com. Tickets $15, $13 for members. Director Fritz Lang's tale of espionage was the forerunner of all movie spy sagas, packed with double agents, hi-tech gadgets, beautiful (and dangerous) women, and an evil genius with a plan to take over the world, mwah-ha-ha-ha! Made immediately after Lang filmed 'Metropolis,' the futuristic classic, with many of the same performers in the cast. Silent film with live music at Detroit's independent movie theater, located downtown in a former furniture store.

Friday, Jan. 14, 2022, 7 p.m.: "Hands Up!" (1926) starring Raymond Griffith; Cinematheque at the Cleveland Institute of Art, 11610 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, Ohio; (216) 421-7450. Uproarious comedy in which a southern spy must work every angle to prevent a shipment of western gold from reaching Union forces. Featuring the sublime pantomime skills of silent comic Raymond Griffith, who really couldn't talk in real life, and so developed a whole repertoire of gestures to communicate—excellent training for silent cinema! Silent film with live music at Cleveland's premier venue for great movies.

Friday, Jan. 14, 2022, 8:45 p.m.: "The Marriage Circle" (1924) directed by Ernst Lubitsch; Cinematheque at the Cleveland Institute of Art, 11610 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, Ohio; (216) 421-7450. It's the World According to Lubitsch: in Vienna, Dr. Franz Braun (Monte Blue) and his wife, Charlotte (Florence Vidor), are exceptionally happy in their marriage until Charlotte's best friend, Mitzi (Marie Prevost), starts flirting with Franz. Mitzi's suspicious husband, Professor Josef Stock (Adolphe Menjou), hires a detective to investigate her infidelities, and the inquiry soon begins to focus on Franz. Silent film with live music at Cleveland's premier venue for great movies.

Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, approximately 6:30 p.m.: "Der Golem" (1920) at the 47th Annual Sci-Fi Marathon presented by the Case Western Reserve University Film Society, 10900 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, Ohio. Live music for 'Der Golem,' a featured attraction in this year's annual 36-hour (!) sci-fi marathon at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. In 16th-century Prague, a Rabbi creates a giant creature from clay, called the Golem. Using sorcery, he brings the creature to life in order to protect the Jews of Prague from persecution, but then complications ensue. Early German fantasy movie based on Central European folklore anticipates Frankenstein story.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

'The Strong Man,' ultimate Christmas film from the silent era, in Wilton, N.H. on Sunday, 12/26

Harry Langdon rises above it all in 'The Strong Man' (1926).

Timing is everything. And I think there's no better time to show Harry Langdon's feature comedy 'The Strong Man' (1926) than around Christmas.

And that's exactly what's happening at the Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H., where I'll do live music for the film on Sunday, Dec. 26 at 2 p.m.

I hope you'll attend! More info and details about the screening are in the press release, which I've pasted in below. 

But why Christmas? 'The Strong Man' has no references to Santa Claus or the three wise men or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. There's not a Christmas tree in sight!

Oh wait, that's right—Rudolph wasn't invented until the 1930s, as an advertising gimmick for the late retail giant Montgomery Ward. Wow, the culture moves so fast!

In terms of Christmas stories, 'The Strong Man' will never be the silent era's answer to 'It's a Wonderful Life,' despite the fact they were both directed by Frank Capra.

But despite its language of slapstick visual comedy, the story of 'The Strong Man' turns on many of the larger issues of Christianity and the presence of a savior among ordinary people. 

I've felt this for some time. Consider this post from the summer of 2012, after I'd accompanied the film in Brandon, Vt.:

The more I see of 'The Strong Man,' the more I admire it. Yes, it's widely thought of as Langdon's strongest feature, and credit is given to a very young Frank Capra, whose direction helped it immensely, I'm sure. But in addition to the comedy (from Langdon) and the strong story (from Capra), this film stands as a remarkably poetic illustration of some very important and timeless ideas.

What ideas? Well, how about 'The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth?' And poetry? For starters, consider how the movie takes the whole "Strong Man" circus/vaudeville imagery and catapults it into the arena of morality: in this case, the division between the peaceful Cloverdale residents and the newly arrived saloon crowd. In this situation, who is the real "strong man?"

And take the Cloverdale townsfolk, who march through the streets singing 'Onward Christian Soldiers' in search of their savior. And then there's Harry, on stage at the saloon before a disbelieving audience, attempting to perform miracles (and succeeding, for a time), and whose antics are climaxed by an ascent to the heavens (just to the rafters, but out of view of the audience), followed by a resurrection that includes doves (of peace?) flying out of his pants.

Harry as Jesus? That's a little much, especially because Jesus never wore a hat. But a lot of 'The Strong Man' resonates in this fashion. And then there's Harry's hopeless search for a girl he's never met, only to discover that she's blind—but then it's her very lack of sight that allows her to see the best in him.

Boy, don't get me going or we'll have a doctoral dissertation on our hands. But really, the film is that rich.

So what better time to put 'The Strong Man' on the big screen, and show it to a theater full of people, than that time of year when the birth of Christianity's savior is traditionally celebrated?

And that's where you come in—literally, in terms of the Town Hall Theatre, where doors will open at 1:30 p.m. on the day after Christmas. 

Please join us for a movie that's full of great comedy, but also infused with the spirit of the season—that same spirit that would blossom so brilliantly two decades later in Capra's 'Its a Wonderful Life.' 

Press release with more info is below. Merry Christmas to all—and to all a good time at the movies!

*  *  *

A visually busy trade publication ad promoting 'The Strong Man.'

MONDAY, DEC. 20, 2021 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Frank Capra's very first movie highlights Town Hall Theatre silent film program on Sunday, Dec. 26

Holiday weekend screening features Harry Langdon's classic comedy 'The Strong Man' with live music

WILTON, N.H. — Silent film with live music returns for the holiday weekend at the Town Hall Theatre with a showing of an uproarious comedy starring Harry Langdon.

The screening of 'The Strong Man' on Sunday, Dec. 26 at 2 p.m., gives families a chance to round out the holiday weekend with a fun activity suitable for all ages.

Directing 'The Strong Man' was young first-timer Frank Capra, who would later go on to create such Hollywood classics as 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' (1939) and 'It's a Wonderful Life' (1946).

Live music will be provided by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis. Admission is free, with a suggested donation of $10 per person to help cover expenses.

"For the Christmas weekend, we thought it would be fun to revive the first film made by the man responsible for 'It's A Wonderful Life,' one of the all-time holiday classics," Rapsis said.

'The Strong Man' tells the story of a World War I soldier (Langdon) who, following his discharge, finds work as assistant to a circus strong man. As the act travels the country, Langdon continually searches for a girl he corresponded with while stationed overseas in the military.

The search leads to a town controlled by Prohibition-era gangsters, which forces Harry to test the limits of his own inner strength even as he looks for his dream girl. Can Harry triumph over the bad guys? And is love more powerful than brute strength?

The feature-length film showcases the unique child-like personality of Langdon, who is largely forgotten today. For a brief time in the 1920s, however, he rivaled Charlie Chaplin as Hollywood's top movie clown.

Langdon's popularity, which grew quickly in the last years of the silent era, fizzled as the movie business abruptly switched to talkies starting in 1929.

'The Strong Man' was selected in 2007 for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

In recent years, 'The Strong Man' has been recognized as a major achievement of the silent film era—a satisfying and timeless balance of emotion and comedy.

"A little tragedy and a lot of laughs can be seen in 1926's The Strong Man," wrote critic Richard von Busack in 2007. "Director Frank Capra's energy and sturdy plot sense counterpoint Langdon's wonderful strangeness."

'The Strong Man' will be accompanied by live music by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based silent film accompanist who performs at venues across the region and beyond.

"These films were created to be shown on the big screen as a sort of communal experience," Rapsis said. "With an audience and live music, they still come to life in the way their makers intended them to.

"So the Town Hall Theatre's silent film screenings are a great chance for people to experience films that first caused people to first fall in love with the movies," he said.

Frank Capra's 'The Strong Man' will be screened with live music on Sunday, Dec. 26 at 2 p.m. at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H. Admission is free, with a suggested donation of $10 per person to help defray expenses. For more info, call (603) 654-3456 or visit www.wiltontownhalltheatre.com. 

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Unseen for a century: 'Straight is the Way' with live music on Thursday, 12/9 in Concord, N.H.

A vintage print ad promoting 'Straight is the Way' for its 1921 release.

I'm thrilled to be doing live music for upcoming screenings of 'Straight is the Way,' a comedy/drama released in 1921 and not seen in theaters for a full century.

The film's "World Re-Premiere" will take place on Thursday, Dec. 9 at Red River Theatres in Concord, N.H. Showings are scheduled at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

For details about the screenings, check out the full press release pasted in below.

Why stage the premiere in New Hampshire? Because 'Straight is the Way' is set in fictional 'Hampton Center, N.H.' (It was apparently shot, however, just outside New York City.)

And why now? Because after languishing in obscurity for 100 years, the sole surviving print of 'Straight is the Way' was recently transferred to digital media and is now available. 

The transfer was accomplished thanks to a successful crowd-funding effort (which I donated to) this summer led by Ed Lorusso, a Maine-based film buff. Ed has organized many such transfers of vintage films that survive in fragile one-of-a-kind film prints that otherwise wouldn't get shown.

Dig that vintage N.H. license plate!

So now 'Straight is the Way' is back among us. And although the transfer was done primarily to provide DVD copies to vintage film nerds, the movie's Granite State setting (as well as its 100th birthday) seemed to call for a theatrical run—to give this picture a chance to be seen once again on the big screen, and in a theater, with an audience and live music, as its makers envisioned it.

Thus, with Ed's blessing and the enthusiastic participation of Red River Theatres in Concord, N.H., we're giving the film its first known theatrical screenings in 100 years.

The return of 'Straight is the Way' to the big screen has captured some attention. Already we've received a big write-up in the Concord Monitor, the region's daily paper. Check it out here.

To me, the most interesting aspect of  'Straight is the Way' was its setting. When I learned the story took place in my home state of New Hampshire, I simply had to back the Kickstarter campaign, and couldn't wait to see the movie.

Very few movies, and almost NO silent films, are set specifically in New Hampshire. In terms of movie locales, the Granite State is pretty much off the map. 

Maybe it's because we're so far away from Hollywood. And of the few movies that are set in New Hampshire, most get made somewhere else.

One big exception is 'On Golden Pond' (1981), starring Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda, which was filmed in the Squam Lake area. Also, scenes for the 1995 movie 'Jumanji' were shot in Keene, N.H.


From 'Jumanji': "looters" race through "Brantford, N.H.," a.k.a. Central Square in Keene, in a photo taken by my former colleague Michael Moore at the Keene Sentinel.

But more commonly, Granite State settings are subbed out to more other "stand-in" locations. 

Take the 1991 comedy 'What About Bob?' with Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss. Set on New Hampshire's Lake Winnipesaukee, it was actually filmed at Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia.

How about 'To Die For' (1995), an adaptation of the Pam Smart murder-for-hire scandal? It was also set in New Hampshire, but filmed in Toronto, Canada.

It's not like we're without celebrity connections. (Name dropping alert!) Comedian Sarah Silverman grew up in Bedford, N.H. in a house on the same road as mine. Talk show host Seth Myers grew up in Bedford, too—for decades, his mother taught French in a middle school two houses from mine. 

And from an earlier era...legendary actor Claude Rains is buried in Moultonborough, N.H. And back in Bedford, my own community was once home to a spa called "Belle Reve," a 1940s getaway that attracted the likes of Peter Lorre. 

In the case of 'Straight is the Way,' the New York City scenes are clearly filmed on location in the Big Apple, where the studio was based. 

For the "Hampton Center" scenes, Lorusso can find no evidence that any shooting took place in New Hampshire. It's most likely the scenes were shot outside New York, in either rural Long Island or New Jersey, a common practice at the time. 

The one clue about the location is that the mansion in the film appears to be the Long Island summer home of Ethel Watts Mumford, who wrote 'The Manifestations of Henry Ort,' a story on which "Straight is the Way" is based.

But as they might say in Hampton Center, N.H., that don't make no never mind. It's a fun film that I think audiences will find enjoyable, especially if seen on the big screen with live music and an audience, as intended.

So thanks to Ed Lorusso for resurrecting this film, and for Red River Theatres for giving it a chance once again on the big screen a full century after its original release. 

See you there! More information in the press release below.

*   *   *

 

A vintage 'Coming Attractions' slide promoting 'Straight is the Way' (1921).

MONDAY, NOV. 29, 2021 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Vintage feature film with story set in N.H. to get first screening in 100 years

Rare surviving comedy/drama 'Straight is the Way' (1921) to be shown with live music at Concord's Red River Theatres

CONCORD, N.H. — It's a film that hasn't played in theaters since its original release exactly one century ago. And it's set in fictional 'Hampton Center, N.H.,' a small town where a pair of big-city crooks hide out from the law.

It's 'Straight is the Way,' a Paramount release that proved a modest box office success in the spring of 1921.

The film then completely disappeared—until now.

Next month, Red River Theaters of Concord will host the world re-premiere of 'Straight is the Way,' which boasts a screenplay by two-time Academy Award-winning writer Frances Marion.

The film will run twice on Thursday, Dec. 9: once at 5:30 p.m., and again at 7:30 p.m. General admission is $12 per person, $10 for Red River members.

Both screenings will feature live music by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based silent film accompanist who arranged for permission to screen the movie, which was transferred to digital media earlier this year.

The story follows two burglars who flee to rural "Hampton Center, N.H." to hide out in the unused wing of a mansion, where an impoverished family faces eviction.

Exposed to small town values, the pair resolve to change their ways.

 

A Ouija board scene in 'Straight is the Way' (1921).

'Straight is the Way' was promoted with the tagline: "They came to lift the silver, but they stayed to lift the mortgage."

The film, a comedy/drama, features scenes in which a Ouija board is used to contact the spirits of long-dead relatives.

Ouija boards had become popular in the years following World War I, when 'Straight is the Way' was released.

How does a film disappear for 100 years, and then resurface?

Produced by Cosmopolitan Pictures, 'Straight is the Way' was one of dozens of titles on Paramount's 1921 release schedule. After its initial run, the film was never reissued.

This was the fate of nearly all motion pictures of the era, most of which were lost to neglect, decay, or accident. Today, about 75 percent of all silent films no longer exist in any form.

But 'Straight is the Way' is among the survivors. A single 35mm print of the film is in the collection of the U.S. Library of Congress. The print was part of a hoard of film material donated long ago by 1920s star Marion Davies, whose pictures were produced by Cosmopolitan.

However, the print is on fragile and flammable nitrate cellulose film stock, meaning it can't be safely projected or loaned out. To keep the film from deteriorating, the print is kept in long-term storage at the Library of Congress media center in Culpeper, Va.

In 2021, Maine-based film archivist Ed Lorusso organized an online Kickstarter program to raise funds to transfer the surviving print of 'Straight is the Way' to digital media. The fundraiser was successful, and the transfer was completed earlier this year.

Lorusso made the film available on DVD to fellow vintage film enthusiasts, including accompanist Rapsis, who felt the film's Granite State setting merited a theatrical revival, complete with live music.

"Very few films are set in New Hampshire, then or now," Rapsis said. "What's interesting about 'Straight is the Way' is that it shows how the state was viewed at the time—a place of small towns and old-fashioned ways, including a constable patrolling the town in a horse and buggy."

Although 'Straight is the Way' contains authentic details such as New Hampshire license plates on the few autos that appear, Lorusso has found no evidence that any part of the film was shot in the state.

Instead, 'Straight is the Way' was produced in New York City, where Cosmopolitan Pictures was based, and which continued to host film production even after most movie-making moved to California in the 1910s.

'Straight is the Way' features several location shots of Manhattan scenes such as Washington Square in Greenwich Village as it appeared in 1921.

Lorusso believes the New Hampshire scenes were most likely filmed in the rural countryside of Long Island or New Jersey, just outside the city, as was common practice at the time.

Lorusso has identified one location: the mansion shown in the film is the summer home of author Ethel Watts Mumford in Sands Point, Long Island. Mumford wrote 'The Manifestations of Henry Ort,' on which 'Straight is the Way' was based.

The screenplay was by Frances Marion, the one recognizable name associated with the production.

Marion, a prolific writer, authored more than 300 screenplays in a career that spanned three decades. Her credits include silent classics such as 'The Wind' (1928); she would later win Academy Awards for writing the prison drama 'The Big House' (1930) and the iconic boxing story 'The Champ' (1931).

George Parsons as burglar "Loot" Follett in 'Straight is the Way' (1921).

'Straight is the Way' features a cast of solid performers, all unknown today: Matt Moore, Mabel Bert, Gladys Leslie, George Parsons, Henry Sedley, Van Dyke Brooke, and Emily Fitzroy.

The film was directed by Robert Vignola; the following year, he would direct Marion Davies in 'When Knighthood Was in Flower' (1922) a big budget costume drama.

Rapsis said the Red River screening of 'Straight is the Way' is a rare chance to see the film as it was meant to be experienced—on the big screen, with live music, and with an audience.

"On the 100th anniversary of the film's release, I'm delighted Red River will give New Hampshire audiences a chance to see the film as it was intended to be shown, and also see how our state was depicted in the early years of cinema." Rapsis said.

'Straight is the Way' (1921), a silent comedy/drama set in New Hampshire, will be screened with live music on Thursday, Dec. 9 at 5:30 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m. at Red River Theatres, 11 South Main St. in Concord.

A live score will be created by accompanist Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based performer who specializes in music for silent film presentations.

Tickets are general admission $12; Red River Theatres members $10. For more info and to purchase advance tickets, visit www.redrivertheatres.org or call (603) 224-4600.