Thursday, August 16, 2018

The problem with ice cream for dinner, plus 'Her Sister' tonight and again Saturday night

Constance Talmadge and Ronald Colman in 'Her Sister from Paris' (1925), which I'm accompanying tonight (Thursday, Aug. 16) at the Capitol Theatre in Arlington and on Saturday, Aug. 18 in Ludlow, Vt.

Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it's changing tastes. Maybe I did a lousy job with the music.

For whatever reason, a program last night of two-reelers from Chaplin's Mutual period failed produce what I would call an abundance of laughter.

People enjoyed it, I thought, and the applause seemed hearty enough after each film.

But while the comedies were running, little evidence of chortles or guffaws or belly laughs reached my ears.

That's unusual, as the Mutuals are when Chaplin really first hit his stride in a big way, I think. And they're proven laugh-getters.

Last night at the Leavitt Theatre, we ran four: 'Behind the Screen,' 'The Rink,' 'Easy Street' and 'The Cure.'

All are what I would consider crackerjack comedies. They're full of classic Chaplin gags and sequences that produce uproarious laughter.

Chaplin and company in 'The Rink.'

So what happened last night? Well, on top of the factors already mentioned, let me add these:

1. We had about 60 people in attendance. And weirdly, everyone sat way in the back of the theater. And the Leavitt now offers a bar and food service up in the "balcony" (actually an area even further back) and a lot of people were up there.

So it might have been the case that me, sitting way down under the stage, wasn't able to hear the laughter. Could be. But I heard enough to know I wasn't hearing enough, if that makes any sense.

2. The "Ice Cream for Dinner" factor. By that I mean it's one thing to watch one 20-minute comedy short. But it's a whole other ballgame when you string four of them together in a row, like cars in a freight train.

Like most short comedies of the period, Chaplin's two-reelers were intended to be just one part of a varied program that would include newsreels, dramas, travelogues, live vaudeville acts, and who-knows-what else.

As such, they functioned quite well, giving audiences a dose of high energy yucks to liven things up. It's a little like how dessert functions as part of a whole meal: a little sweet reward for all the other good stuff we've consumed.

But when you string four comedies together, it's too much. It's like having four ice cream sundaes in a row. After awhile, the appeal can't help but wear thin.

Look! I actually found a picture of four ice creams sundaes!

Yes, I've seen cases where comedies are strung together at film conventions, and they do quite well. But film conventions are often for the hard core, and that's a very different audience than the general public that's not familiar with the silent film idiom.

So last night's Great Laughter Draught of 2018 might be the cause of too much comedy all at once. Something to remember when people ask for a "night of Charlie Chaplin" or similar programs.

Well, onward we go. Tonight finds me accompanying the first of two screenings this week of 'Her Sister From Paris' (1925), a comedy starring Ronald Colman and Constance Talmadge.

On Thursday, Aug. 16, it's at the Capitol Theatre in Arlington, Mass. Showtime is 8 p.m. For information about the show, I've pasted in the press release for this screening below.

Then I'll be repeating it on Saturday, Aug. 18 up in Ludlow, Vt., at the Ludlow Auditorium, as this year's "silent film with live music" event, which is always a pleasure to be a part of.

Coming up: lots of news about screenings in Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Sioux City, Iowa. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, hope to see you at a screening near or far!

Constance Talmadge in 'Her Sister from Paris' (1925).

TUESDAY, JULY 10, 2018 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

'Her Sister From Paris' on Thursday, Aug. 16 at Arlington's Capitol Theatre


Uproarious 'battle of the sexes' silent comedy starring Constance Talmadge, Ronald Colman to be presented with live music

ARLINGTON, Mass.—The scene: Europe. The cast: Rich people. Get swept off your feet by not one but two privileged ladies, both played by amazing actress Constance Talmadge, in this effervescent battle-of-the-sexes comedy.

Silent film with live music returns to the Capitol Theatre, 204 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington, Mass. with the comedy 'Her Sister from Paris' on Thursday, Aug. 16 at 8 p.m.

The special program will be presented with live music by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis. Admission is $12 adults, $10 kids and seniors.

In 'Her Sister from Paris,' Ronald Colman and Constance Talmadge play a wealthy American society couple living in Vienna.

Due to an argument, she leaves to stay with her mother. At the railway station she meets her identical twin, a celebrated dancer in Paris (also played by Talmadge), who agrees to trick the husband to help rekindle her sister's marriage.

The fun starts when both the husband and his friend, an official at the British Embassy, fall in love with the sister, leading to a dizzying round of complications.

Among the most popular stars of the silent era, Constance Talmadge specialized in light "society" comedies. However, she had acting and pantomime skills that made her a versatile actress able to tackle any role.

In 'Her Sister From Paris,' Talmadge delivers a virtuoso performance playing both sisters. Although their appearance is identical, each woman is quite different from the other, which Talmadge conveys through body language and on-screen attitude.

Ronald Colman, whose career would go on to span radio and television, was already a popular leading man in films at the time 'Her Sister From Paris' was made. Colman more than holds his own as the two sisters conspire against him.

Ronald Colman and Constance Talmadge in 'Her Sister from Paris.'

The screening of 'Her Sister from Paris' provides local audiences the opportunity to experience silent film as it was intended to be shown: on the big screen, in restored prints, with live music, and with an audience.

"If you can put pieces of the experience back together again, it's surprising how these films snap back to life," said Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based silent film accompanist who creates music for silent film screenings at venues around the country.

"By showing the films as they were intended, you can really get a sense of why people first fell in love with the movies."

In creating music for silent films, Rapsis performs on a digital synthesizer that reproduces the texture of the full orchestra and creates a traditional "movie score" sound.

Upcoming titles in the Capitol's silent film series include:

• Thursday, Sept. 13, 8 p.m.: 'The Last Laugh' (1924). In this ground-breaking character study from director F. W. Murnau, Emil Jannings delivers a tour-de-force performance as a doorman in a swanky Berlin hotel.

• Thursday, Oct 18, 8 p.m.: 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' (1923). Just in time for Halloween: Lon Chaney stars as Quasimodo in this sprawling silent film adaptation of Victor Hugo's classic story.

'Her Sister From Paris' (1925) starring Constance Talmadge and Ronald Colman, will be screened with live music on Thursday, Aug. 16 at 8 p.m. at the Capitol Theatre, 204 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington, Mass.

Admission is $12 adults, $10 kids and seniors. For more info, call (781) 648-6022 or visit www.capitoltheatreusa.com.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Coming up: 6 screenings, 5 days, 4 states... Back to reality with a silent film mini-marathon

A colorful vintage poster for a sound re-releaes of 'The Cure,' one of the Chaplin shorts we're running at the Leavitt Theatre on Wednedsay, Aug. 15.

Just recently back after nearly a month tramping around Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, with a little bit of China on the way out and back thanks to day-long layovers in Beijing.

It was a terrific trip, but it's great to be back and great to pick up again on an even longer journey: creating live music for silent film screenings.

I didn't waste time, jumping back on the accompanist bench one day after returning, jet lag notwithstanding. The occasion: one of my favorite gigs on the annual calendar, a vintage dance group that occasionally stages "movie nights" during their summertime get-togethers.

The films are chosen as much for their fashions as anything else; this year we ran 'Show People' (1928) with Marion Davies and William Haines, which I thought was a good match for the group.

Reaction was huge! The picture drew big laughs right from the start, and response never flagged. And for the first time in my experience, an audience actually cheered at the film's seltzer-spraying pie-throwing "come to your senses" climax. What a rush!

After the movie (and the popcorn) was over, there was dancing!

So my thanks to all the vintage dance folks for continuing to include silent film with live music in their activities. Looking forward to next time!

Things continued this past weekend with two programs of Laurel & Hardy short comedies: one from DVD in Brandon, Vt. on Saturday, Aug. 11, and another on Sunday, Aug. 12 at the Somerville (Mass.) Theatre using 35mm prints from the Library of Congress.

No surprise that Stan & Ollie killed in both shows, with each title producing big laughs at the boys' antics. It'll be interesting to see if the upcoming bio-pic about the team will generate any renewed interest—not that the films themselves need any help. They still work great!

Laurel & Hardy on the big marquee of the "SOMERVILL ATRE."

The highlight of both screenings was 'Big Business' (1929), and not just because it's a hilarious comedy. I think there's also something satisfying about seeing this film, with its tale of Christmas tree sales gone awry, in the middle of a hot and humid New England summer.

The Laurel & Hardy comedies, by the way, are great for instilling discipline in an accompanist. More than most comedies, I think the L & H shorts really demand a very simple "nursery rhyme" type approach, at least at the start, in order for them to work with an audience.

In any comedy, I feel if you start off with big energetic circus-type "this is FUNNY" music," you risk hampering the film for a simple reason: audience members can't hear each other laughing.

And if people can't hear each other reacting, then you don't get that spontaneous combustion in which laughter grows and spreads to everyone in the room. Eventually, everyone is laughing, even if it's just because of all the laughter. It becomes impossible to resist!

Once an audience gets going, it's one of the great glories of the silent film experience. And when you reach that point, the accompanist can go big, as long as it's in support of the comedy. But not before, I think.

The Laurel & Hardy silents are prime examples of films that benefit from this approach. They often start small, but then inexorably build to chaos and mayhem in a process that producer Hal Roach dubbed "reciprocal destruction."

Big Business: the "before" shot...

So in 'Big Business,' after a suitable "Dance of the Cuckoos" intro (the L & H theme song), I shifted to a simple two-note version of "O Christmas Tree" as the pair make their way hawking Christmas trees through sunny California. Sometimes fast, sometime slow, sometimes in a minor key, sometimes just silence—but never anything big.

It's only when they encounter arch-nemesis James Finlayson, and audience reaction begins to grow, that I felt it was appropriate to ramp up the music a notch—but even then, just a little.

And as the on-screen war escalates, the music can rise to match it, but always with a sense of something in reserve until it's the right moment to let loose.

In 'Big Business,' I like to keep things tightly controlled until the moment when Finlayson causes the car to explode. Once that happens, there's no turning back, and the music can morph into full-scale battle mode, with repeated notes up top and 'O Christmas Tree' snarling through modulations in the bass.

...and the "after" shot...

And then there's a moment when Ollie starts swinging a shovel at expensive vases hurled out a window by Stan. Usually I avoid quoting recognizable tunes, but in this case everything's so over the top that shifting in to 'Take Me Out To The Ballgame' really works to sharpen the comic absurdity.

So just a few thoughts from this weekend's time on the bench.

Surprisingly, one short that got a very strong response was 'Do Detectives Think?' (1927), a title early in the series made when Laurel & Hardy still weren't officially a team.

In Brandon, I chose a church organ setting on my keyboard, and played up the "spooky" aspect of the film, which is full of graveyards and shadows and masks.

The laughter was nearly continuous, and I think I found myself a new Halloween short comedy! (I've been hoping for something other than Keaton's 'The Haunted House.')

All this was preparation for a mini-marathon this week: one that finds me accompanying six screenings over five days in four states!

I'll be spending more time on silent film than I will sleeping. I guess that's what they call "living the dream." :)

First up: the summer silent film series returns to the historic Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit, Maine with a program of Charlie Chaplin comedies on Wednesday, Aug. 15 at 8 p.m.

After that comes screenings in Arlington, Mass; then Townsend, Mass,; then Charlestown, N.H.; then Ludlow, Vt.; and then Somerville, Mass.

Details for the Chaplin program in Ogunquit are below in a press release I've pasted in. Hope to see you at a screening soon!

* * *

Chaplin and his stock company of players getting tangled up in 'The Rink.'

TUESDAY, JULY 10, 2018 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For more info, contact: Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Charlie Chaplin short comedies with live music on Wednesday, Aug. 15 at Leavitt Theatre


Program of classic silent films show why the 'Little Tramp' first rocketed to worldwide popularity

OGUNQUIT, Maine—More than a century after he first stepped in front of a movie camera, Charlie Chaplin remains one of the world's most recognizable cinematic icons. But what made him famous in the first place?

See for yourself when a selection of Chaplin's best short comedies are screened on Wednesday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. at the Leavitt Fine Arts Theatre, 259 Main St. Route 1, Ogunquit, Maine; (207) 646-3123.

Admission is $10 per person, general seating. The program will be accompanied by live music performed by New Hampshire composer Jeff Rapsis.

The program of Chaplin's short comedy films is the latest in this season's silent film series at the Leavitt.. The series aims to show the best silent films in the manner that caused people to first fall in love with the movies—on the big screen, in a theater, with live music, and with an audience.

A native of London, Chaplin was touring the U.S. in 1913 as a music hall performer when he agreed to join Mack Sennett's famous Keystone Studio, which specialized in producing fast-paced slapstick comedies. Chaplin first appeared on movie screens in early 1914, and quickly established himself as a distinctive performer.

Based on his growing popularity, in 1916 Chaplin signed a contract with the Mutual Film Corp. to produce 12 short 20-minute screen comedies for the then-astronomical salary of $10,000 per week. In the next 18 months, the dozen films Chaplin produced for Mutual are regarded as his first true masterpieces, and at the time helped cement his position as the king of movie comedy.

As a whole, the films show Chaplin's growing confidence both as a screen performer and film director. At the same time, each one forms a unique comic adventure involving highly different settings, no two alike: a department store, a skating rink, and even a movie studio.

"The Mutual comedies are where Chaplin really comes into his own," said Jeff Rapsis, who will provide live music for the screenings. "These are the films that people think of when they think of Chaplin and slapstick comedy, and they're still as laugh-out-loud funny today as they were when first released so long ago."

The Leavitt program includes four Mutual comedies, which show Chaplin at work during 1916 and 1917, a period that he recalled in his autobiography as "the happiest time of my life." Critics point to the Mutual comedies as a new high point for Chaplin, and audiences responded to the films with worldwide acclaim.

The films show Chaplin creating comedy in settings that vary widely. In 'Behind the Screen,' Chaplin plays a stagehand at a dysfunctional movie studio; 'The Rink' gives Chaplin a chance to display his talent on roller skates; 'Easy Street' finds Charlie taking a job as a policeman in the roughest part of town. In 'The Cure,' Chaplin wreaks havoc at a pretentious health spa.

All the Mutual comedies feature Chaplin's stock company of players, highlighted by female lead Edna Purviance and gargantuan actor Eric Campbell, who portrayed menacing bosses and bullies and was usually Charlie's rival for Edna's affection. Each film is about 20 minutes long, the standard length for a comedy at the time; they'll be shown in groups of three, with an intermission at the mid-point.

The Mutual comedies were so popular that they continued to be rereleased and replayed throughout the silent film era, even after Chaplin began making full-length feature films during the 1920s. They continued to be shown on television and today are popular staples with film collectors and movie buffs.

"The thrill in watching nearly all of the Mutuals comes in the Promethean moment when Chaplin’s inventiveness intersects with his genius and produces cinematic comedy sequences unlike any before," wrote Jeffrey Vance, author of "Chaplin, Genius of the Cinema." (2003) "The Mutuals are Chaplin’s laboratory, offering an unprecedented glimpse into the inner workings of the mind of a great cinema pioneer."

The popularity of the Mutuals was so pervasive, some critics believe they helped shape the course of cinema.

"The Mutual films were so successful that many other comedians tried to copied them, thus expanding the motion picture medium," Vance wrote. "The popularity of the Chaplin films and the universal appeal of the Tramp character did much to legitimize the new medium in twentieth-century culture."

Other programs in this year's Leavitt silent film series include:

• Wednesday, Sept. 12, 7 p.m. 'Her Sister From Paris' (1925) starring Ronald Colman, Constance Talmadge. The scene: Europe. The cast: Rich people. Get swept off your feet by not one but two privileged ladies, both played by amazing actress Constance Talmadge, in this effervescent battle-of-the-sexes comedy.

• Saturday, Oct. 27, 7 p.m.: 'Faust' (1926) directed by F.W. Murnau. Just in time for Halloween, our annual "Chiller Theatre" presentation! Oscar-winning actor Emil Jannings stars in F.W. Murnau's terrifying version of the classic tale. A visual tour de force, full of creepy characters and frightening images.

A program of Charlie Chaplin's best short comedies will be shown on Wednesday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. at the Leavitt Fine Arts Theatre, 259 Main St. Route 1, Ogunquit, Maine; (207) 646-3123; admission is $10 per person, general seating. For more information, visit www.leavittheatre.com. For more info on the music, visit www.jeffrapsis.com.


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Elephants and Harold Lloyd: thoughts on
visiting Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and China

Promoting the Kansas Silent Film Festival at Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

Just back from roaming the back roads of Southeast Asia since mid-July.

The trip wasn't about silent film music. But I did get chances to promote the Kansas Silent Film Festival (every February in Topeka, Kansas!) via t-shirt, as seen above at the Bayon Temple of Angkor Tom.

These spectacular ruins are part of the sprawling Khmer-era complex in Cambodia known collectively as "Angkor Wat."

Another place I plugged the Kansas festival was in Tianenanman Square, with Chairman Mao himself looking over my shoulder.

Not sure what effect this will have. But I'll tell the folks in Topeka to keep an eye out for inquiries from China or Cambodia. You never know!

I did find one historical antecedent to a famous silent film image. Doesn't this 12th century temple carving of an elephant under attack remind you of the "guns pointing at Harold Lloyd" still from the Lloyd short 'An Eastern Westerner'?



Okay, I start right back up with shows this Thursday (a private screening for a vintage dance group in Nahant, Mass.) and then back-to-back Laurel & Hardy screenings this weekend.

On Saturday, Aug. 11 at 7 p.m., it's Stan and Ollie in silent short subjects (and a few surprises!) at Brandon Town Hall in Brandon, Vt.

And then on Sunday, Aug. 12 at 2 p.m., it's an all-35mm silent Laurel & Hardy program at the Somerville Theatre, Davis Square, Somerville, Mass.

For more information, I've pasted in both press releases below. Hope to see you at a show real soon!

* * *

Laurel & Hardy demonstrate salesmanship in 'Big Business' (1929).

TUESDAY, JULY 10, 2018 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Laurel & Hardy silent comedies with live music in Brandon, Vt. on Saturday, Aug. 11


Program featuring 'Stan & Ollie' promises another fine mess, plus fun and laughter for the whole family

BRANDON, Vt.—Laughter for the whole family is on tap at Brandon Town Hall, where classic silent comedies starring Laurel & Hardy will be screened with live music on Saturday, Aug. 11. The show starts at 7 p.m.; admission is free, donations are encouraged.

The program, the latest in the Brandon Town Hall's summer silent film series, will feature short comedies made by the iconic comedy team prior to the advent talkies, where their popularity continued.

Music will be provided by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based composer who specializes in improvising live accompaniment for silent films.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were already successful comic actors when they were teamed in 1927 during the twilight years of the silent film era.

The pair, sporting derby hats and a unique gift for slapstick incompetence, began starring in a series of short comedies that quickly rocketed them to worldwide fame.

Four of the duo's best early films are on the Aug. 11 program in Brandon, which will be highlighted by 'Big Business' (1929), recognized as one of the best short comedies ever produced.

In 'Big Business', while selling Christmas trees door to door in sunny California, Stan and Ollie do battle with an irate customer, producing mayhem that's quite the opposite of 'Peace on Earth.'

"The Laurel and Hardy silent comedies are fun to revive because they're so simple and basic," said Rapsis, who will accompany the films. "Audiences still love them, and it's refreshing, because their style of comedy is so timeless, and also so different from what's on television and in today's movies."

The Aug. 11 comedy program is the latest in the Brandon Town Hall's Summer Silent Film Series, which features monthly screenings of classic silent films with live music. All proceeds of the series will be used to support the historic town hall's ongoing renovations.

"All of these films were designed to be seen in theaters by large audiences, not on a small television screen by people sitting at home," Rapsis said. "In showing silent films at Brandon Town Hall, we aim to recreate the lost magic of early cinema comedy by bringing together crucial elements for its success—the best available prints, projection on the big screen, a live audience, and, in the case of silent films, live music."

Laurel & Hardy short comedies will be shown on Saturday, Aug. 11 at 7 p.m. at Brandon Town Hall and Community Center, Route 7, in Brandon, Vt. Admission is free; donations are encouraged, with proceeds to support ongoing renovation of the town hall. For more information, visit www.brandontownhall.org.

* * *

Would you buy a Christmas tree from these guys?

TUESDAY, JULY 10, 2018 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Laurel & Hardy silent comedies with live music at Somerville Theatre on Sunday, Aug. 12


Program featuring misadventures of 'Stan & Ollie' in 35mm promises multiple fine messes, but also fun and laughter

SOMERVILLE, Mass.—Laughter for the whole family is on tap at the Somerville Theatre, where classic silent comedies starring Laurel & Hardy will be screened with live music on Sunday, Aug. 12 at 2 p.m.

Live music will be provided by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis. Admission is $15 per person, $12 students/seniors.

The program includes four of the iconic duo's classic silent comedies, made before the transition to talkies: 'Call of the Cuckoos' (1927), 'You're Darn Tootin' (1928), 'The Finishing Touch' (1928), and 'Big Business' (1929).

All titles will be shown using 35mm prints on loan from the U.S. Library of Congress.

It's the latest installment of the Somerville's 'Silents, Please!' series, which gives movie-goers a chance to experience great pictures of the silent era as originally presented.

"Seeing these great pictures on actual 35mm film and in a theater with live music is an opportunity that's increasingly rare," said Ian Judge, manager of the Somerville Theatre.

Music will be provided by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based composer who specializes in improvising live accompaniment for silent films.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were already successful comic actors when they were teamed in 1927 during the twilight years of the silent film era.

The pair, sporting derby hats and a unique gift for slapstick incompetence, began starring in a series of short comedies that quickly rocketed them to worldwide fame.

The Somerville program will be highlighted by 'Big Business' (1929), recognized as one of the best short comedies ever produced.

Selling Christmas trees door to door in sunny California, Stan and Ollie battle an irate customer, resulting in mayhem that's anything but 'Peace on Earth.'

"The Laurel and Hardy silent comedies are fun to revive because they're so simple and basic," said Rapsis, who will accompany the films. "Audiences still love them, and it's refreshing, because their style of comedy is so timeless, and also so different from what's on television and in today's movies."

Laurel & Hardy short comedies will be shown on Sunday, Aug. 12 at 2 p.m. at the Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, Somerville, Mass. Tickets are $15 adults, $12 students/seniors. For more information, visit www.somervilletheatre.com or call (617) 625-4088.



Monday, July 9, 2018

In which we start with 'Peter Pan' (1924)
and end nearly 100 years in the future
on a miniature golf course in Cambodia

An original poster for 'Peter Pan' (1924).

Just one more screening to go before I embark on an extended journey to Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.

I'll accompany the silent film version of 'Peter Pan' (1924) on Wednesday, July 11 at 7 p.m. at the Groton Public Library, 99 Main St., Groton, Mass.

Very excited as it's a new venue for me, and everyone's been very helpful in making it happen. Admission is free and hope you can make it!

And then the next day, I'll board a self-propelled heavier-than-air machine that will fling itself down a long paved strip at a place called JFK airport.

Thanks to physics, it will rise into the air. And thanks to people smarter than me (and liquid biomatter pumped from deep underground), it will head due north, up the Hudson River Valley and keep going right up over the North Pole, and then down to Beijing, China.

There, we'll board another heaver-than-air machine that will carry us to Bangkok, Thailand. All in less than one day!

Science fiction? I don't need to read it, as I feel like it surrounds me all the time.

Here's an observation: spending a lot of time with movies from a century ago can really help preserve a sense of wonder about the current age we live in, which is 100 years in the future!

And now, a word about recent audiences.

I don't know what it is, but the past month brought healthy attendance, and great reactions, at silent film screenings around the region.

Selfie outside the Somerville Theatre.

Just yesterday, we enjoyed a strong turnout for 'The Docks of New York' (1928) at the Somerville (Mass.) Theatre, despite a spectacular mid-summer Sunday afternoon.

And last night, a good crowd at the Aeronaut Brewery (also in Somerville) hooted and hollered through a double feature of William S. Hart in 'Hell's Hinges' and Buster Keaton's 'Go West.'

And earlier this week, 'The Beloved Rogue' got a big reaction at the Capitol Theatre in Arlington. I forgot how funny that film is!

On the marquee of the Capitol: right up there with 'The Ant and the Wasp.'

And at the Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit, Maine, a group of hardy film fans forsook getting good advance spots for the local 4th of July fireworks in favor of taking in 'The Yankee Clipper.'

'Yankee Clipper,' by the way, turned out to be a great flick for Independence Day, with its 1850s American-vs.-British clipper ship race from China to Boston.

The thread running through each of these screenings was audience reaction. Each produced a noticeably strong response from those in attendance.

I don't know if it's fatigue from current events or fallout from global warming or something science has not yet uncovered.

But for some people, lately there's definite need for the silent film experience, at least from the reactions I've been witnessing.

So, although it'll be nice to be away from the keyboard for a spell, I'm already looking forward to jumping back on the silent film merry-go-round when I get back next month. See you then!

The ultimate goal of my journey: to play miniature golf at Angkor Wat. Talk about 'Peter Pan'!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Live music for three films in a single day: 'Docks' and 'Hell's Hinges' and 'Go West,' oh my!

Betty Compson and George Bancroft in 'The Docks of New York' (1928), directed by Josef von Sternberg.

It's one of the very best films from the silent era. And I get to do live music for it tomorrow.

It's 'The Docks of New York' (1928), a drama running in 35mm at the Somerville (Mass.) Theatre on Sunday, July 8 at 2 p.m.

More details about the movie and the screening in the press release pasted in below.

It's the latest installment of the Somerville's 'Silents, Please!' series, and I've been looking forward to this one for awhile.

Why? Because it's a late silent (one of the last from Paramount) that shows the medium at the height of its power and eloquence.

Directed by Josef von Sternberg, the movie uses light and shadow, camera placement and atmosphere, and features a cast of great faces: George Bancroft, Betty Compson, Clive Cook, Olga Baclanova, and Gustav von Seffertitz, among others.

Extras seem to have been chosen in a kind of reverse beauty pageant, and the whole run-down waterfront saloon atmosphere and its ballet of light and shadow is captured in masterful black & white by cinematographer Harold Rosson, who would go on to win an Academy Award a decade later for his work on MGM's 'The Wizard of Oz' (1939).

To add to the anticipation, legendary Somerville Theatre projectionist David Kornfeld reports that the print (from the UCLA Archive) looks fantastic.

To quote David:
"We have a gorgeous print, with ravishing density, courtesy of our friends at UCLA. I ran it last night & it will blow you away!
Well, you can't get better marks than that.

So if you think movies from the silent era were all primitive "flickahs" accompanied by rinky-tink piano music, please attend.

(Weirdly, there are two long sequences in 'Docks' that really do call for rinky-tink piano music. But it's in the context of a run-down waterfront saloon.)

Later the same day, I'm at the Aeronaut Brewing Co. (also in Somerville), where we're screening a Western double feature that's half drama and half comedy.

For drama, it's the deadly serious 'Hell's Hinges' (1916), an early William S. Hart effort.

And for comedy, it's 'Go West' (1925), Buster Keaton's send-up of the genre.

I've wanted to try something like this for a long time—to see if running a serious film first, and then a parody after it, makes any difference in the comedy.

A lot of silent film comedy consists of sending up popular films of the period. So, after John Barrymore's 'Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde' came out, Stan Laurel starred in 'Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pride.'

To audiences at the time, the comedy was playing off a popular film that most people had recently seen.

But to us today, it's hard to recreate that context unless you show both films. And that's a problematic thing to do.

Why? Because the comedy/parody is usually 20 minutes or less, while the film it mocks is often a full-length feature.

So if you show the comedy first (the usual position in a program), the audience hasn't yet seen the feature.

But if you show the comedy after the feature...well, a short film doesn't seem like the way to end a program, does it?

My solution was to take two relatively short features (both are about one hour) and run them back-to-back.

So on Sunday, night, Hart's 'Hell's Hinges' will function as the set-up, while Keaton's 'Go West' will be the pay off.

Will it work? Join us and find out. In addition to the press release for 'Docks of New York,' I'm also pasting in the press release for the Aeronaut screening as well.

See you at one, the other, or both!

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TUESDAY, JUNE 26, 2018 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Cinematic masterpiece 'Docks of New York' to screen Sunday, July 8 at Somerville Theatre


Josef von Sternberg's silent working class drama to be shown in 35mm on the big screen with live music

SOMERVILLE, Mass.—It's a rare chance to see a masterpiece of early cinema presented as intended: via 35mm film, on the big screen, with live music and in an actual theater.

It's 'The Docks of New York' (1928), a working class drama directed by Josef Von Sternberg, to be shown at the Somerville Theatre on Sunday, July 8 at 2 p.m.

Live music will be provided by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis. Admission is $15 per person, $12 students/seniors.

It's the latest installment of the Somerville's 'Silents, Please!' series, which gives movie-goers a chance to experience great pictures of the silent era as originally presented.

"Seeing these great pictures on actual 35mm film and in a theater with live music is an opportunity that's increasingly rare," said Ian Judge, manager of the Somerville Theatre.

"But it's the only way to really understand why people first fell in love with movies, and why these pictures were so popular in their day."

Betty Compson and George Bancroft in 'The Docks of New York' (1928).

'The Docks of New York,' one of the last silent films released by Paramount Pictures, explores the lives and loves of lower-class waterfront denizens.

Roughneck stoker Bill Roberts (George Bancroft) falls for Mae (Betty Compson), a wise and weary dance-hall girl. But the relationship changes Roberts' hard-luck life in unexpected ways.

Fog-shrouded cinematography by Harold Rosson ('The Wizard of Oz'), expressionist set design by Hans Dreier ('Sunset Boulevard'), and sensual performances by Bancroft and Compson make this one of the legendary director Joseph von Sternberg’s finest works.

The film was daring for a Hollywood picture at the time for its realism: the unflinching and unromantic portrayal of working class people, and its refusal to rely on traditional story formulas and outcomes.

Unlike many early movie directors, von Sternberg emphasized the visual quality of his pictures, using lighting and scene composition in new and innovative ways.

Working as a studio director for Paramount, the native Austrian was aided by the increasing ability of black-and-white film stock by the mid-1920s to capture light and shadows.

The result was a series of ground-breaking dramas at the very end of the silent era, including 'Underworld' (1927) and 'The Last Command' (1928), the latter which helped Emil Jannings win "Best Actor" at the first-ever Academy Awards ceremony.

After the transition to talking pictures, von Sternberg discovered German actress Marlene Dietrich, inviting her to Hollywood to make a series of highly successful pictures under his direction.

With their moody lighting and extensive use of shadows, von Sternberg's films are widely acknowledged as paving the way for the "film noir" look that took hold in Hollywood in subsequent decades.

Although von Sternberg's directing career faded in the 1950s, his legacy continues today in surprising places—including the field of early rock music.

Between 1959 and 1963, Sternberg taught a course on film aesthetics at the University of California at Los Angeles, based on his own works. His students included Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek, who went on to form the rock group The Doors.

The group recorded songs referring to Sternberg. Manzarek has described Sternberg as "perhaps the greatest single influence on The Doors."

'Docks of New York' was released at the very end of the silent era, causing it to be overlooked by critics at the time.

Previewed by the New York City press during the same week that saw the fanfare opening of Al Jolson’s 'The Singing Fool,' Sternberg’s film was ignored in the excitement over competing talking pictures.

Film critic Andrew Sarris lamented that Sternberg’s film “quickly vanished in undeserved oblivion...confirm[ing] Chaplin’s observation that the silent movies learned their craft just about the time they went out of business.”

Museum of Modern Art film curator Charles Silver ranked The Docks of New York as “probably the last genuinely great silent film made in Hollywood [rivaling] Chaplin’s masterpieces of the 1930s.”

Upcoming programs in the Somerville's silent film series include:

• Sunday, Aug. 12: a selection of Laurel & Hardy's rarely screened silent comedies, all in 35mm prints from the Library of Congress, including 'Big Business' (1929), 'The Finishing Touch' (1928), 'You're Darn Tootin'' (1928), and 'Call of the Cuckoos' (1927).

‘The Docks of New York' (1928) will be shown on Sunday, July 8 at 2 p.m. at the Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, Somerville, Mass. Tickets are $15 adults, $12 students/seniors. For more information, visit www.somervilletheatre.com or call (617) 625-4088.

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And here's a release for the Aeronaut double feature...

Buster and his co-star Brown Eyes in 'Go West' (1925).

THURSDAY, JUNE 7, 2018 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

'Go West' with Buster Keaton at Aeronaut Brewing Co. on Sunday, July 8


Classic silent film comedy masterpiece to be screened with live musical accompaniment

SOMERVILLE, Mass.—He never smiled on camera, earning him the nickname of "the Great Stone Face." But Buster Keaton's comedies rocked Hollywood's silent era with laughter throughout the 1920s.

See for yourself with a screening of 'Go West' (1925), one of Keaton's landmark feature films, on Sunday, July 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Aeronaut Brewing Co., 14 Tyler St., Somerville, Mass. Admission $10 per person, limited seating. Tickets available through eventbrite.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/events/377955156024833/
Eventbrite: www.aeronaut-film.eventbrite.com

The film will be shown with live musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based performer regarded as one of the nation's leading silent film musicians.

The program will include an early western, 'Hell's Hinges' (1916), starring William S. Hart.

The screening is part of the Aeronaut's commitment to give local artists and audiences a chance to connect in the brewery's performance space.

In 'Go West,' Buster heads out to ranch country, where the stone-faced comedian encounters romance with—a cow! Can he save his love from a trip to the livestock yards? Rustle up some belly laughs as Buster must once again prove himself worthy to all those who doubt him.

Buster Keaton heeds the title in 'Go West.'

'Go West' was an unusual film for Keaton. With its portrayal of a down-and-out wanderer who becomes a reluctant hero, 'Go West' could have been a vehicle for Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp.

The film was praised by critics and did well at the box office, but today is lesser known than Keaton classics such as 'The Navigator' (1924) and 'The General' (1926).

Co-starring in 'Go West' is a mourn-faced cow named Brown Eyes, with whom Keaton worked extensively prior to the filming. Brown Eyes received a credit in the movie, and even got a salary of $13 a week for her acting.

Keaton's female co-star is actress Kathleen Myers. Joe Keaton, the comedian's father and a popular vaudeville performer, appears briefly in a barbershop scene.

Much of 'Go West' was shot on location in Kingman, Ariz., during the summer of 1925, in temperatures approaching 120 degrees.

"These films are audience favorites, and people continue to be surprised at how engrossing and exhilarating they can be when shown as they were intended: in a theater, and with live music," said Rapsis, who accompanies more than 100 screenings each year at venues around the nation.

Rapsis improvises live scores for silent films using a digital synthesizer to recreate the texture of the full orchestra.

"It's kind of a high wire act," Rapsis said. "But for me, the energy of live performance is an essential part of the silent film experience."

‘Go West' (1925) starring Buster Keaton will be shown with live music on Sunday, July 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Aeronaut Brewing Co., 14 Tyler St., Somerville, Mass. Admission $10 per person, limited seating; tickets available through eventbrite.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/events/377955156024833/
Eventbrite: www.aeronaut-film.eventbrite.com

For more information, visit www.aeronautbrewing.com.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

A mad dash of silent film accompaniment, plus working Curly Howard into a press release

Tonight at the Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit, Maine: tall ships on the big screen!

Happy 4th of July! A few notes before breaking into a silent film accompaniment sprint in the next week: five performances prior to departing for Laos and Cambodia.

The mad musical dash begins today with a screening of 'The Yankee Clipper' (1927) at the venerable Leavitt Theatre in downtown Ogunquit, Maine.

Looking forward to this (showtime 7 p.m.) because the old all-wood Leavitt Theatre sort of reminds me of one of those old all-wood tall ships. They're both grand contraptions from another era.

Also, Ogunquit is on the Maine coast, which means it'll be about 20 degrees cooler than inland New Hampshire today.

We're enduring a week-long heat wave in New England, which may be good training for Laos and Cambodia (and for global warming in general) but that doesn't make it pleasant.

Last night's bike ride in particular felt less like New Hampshire and more like Death Valley, with added humidity.

Even at 7 p.m., temps were stuck near 100 and the air was not moving. It was like bicyling through a giant oven. So Ogunquit will be a relief, I hope.

Plus, I'm going out a bit early to avoid traffic, and also to make a pilgrimage to what I consider the finest run-down clam shack on the East Coast.

(Everyone knows that the best fried seafood comes from run-down shacks within view of the Atlantic—the more run-down, the better. I think it's the same dynamic at work as not ever cleaning a frying pan but letting it become "seasoned" over time.)

It's Ceal's Clam Shack in Seabrook, N.H. Open only from Memorial Day to Labor Day, it's my Holy Shrine of Fried Food I Should Not Eat. But once or twice a year, I don't care.

A view from 2016. They update the painted date every season.

And about tonight's screening: I think 'Yankee Clipper' is a great choice to celebrate Independence Day, and not because it has 'Yankee' in the title.

Rather, it depicts a time when the young United States was first making waves on the world stage: specifically, the lucrative China tea trade in the 1850s.

So it harks back to a time long past, which makes it easy to forget today's troubles and relive the good old days, with their slavery and disease and cruelty and...wait, never mind.

Still, it's a great flick because it stars leading man William Boyd (long before he aged into the "Hop-along Cassidy sidekick role in innumerable Westerns) and, most importantly, it'll get out before the Ogunquit fireworks start.

See you there tonight!

Then tomorrow night it's John Barrymore in 'The Beloved Rogue' (1927), a film well-suited for heat wave relief because it's set in mid-winter medieval Paris.

It's running on Thursday, July 5 at 8 p.m. at the Capitol Theatre in Arlington, Mass. More details in the press release below.

But this is an under-rated picture with great performances from Barrymore, Conrad Veidt, and Marceline Day. Worth checking it out as a kind of pre-Bastille Day experience.

And then it's a two-fer on Sunday, July 8: a 35mm print of 'Docks of New York' (1928) at the Somerville Theatre at 2 p.m., and then a Western-themed silent double feature at the Aeronaut Brewery (also in Somerville, Mass.) at 7:30 p.m.

With the latter, we're running William S. Hart's ultra-serious 'Hell's Hinges' (1916) followed by Buster Keaton's Western send-up 'Go West' (1925). The Hart film is the set-up, with Keaton the punchline.

More on these two programs a bit later this week, but both are really worth catching.

And then I cross the finish line on Wednesday, July 11 with a screening of 'Peter Pan' (1924) at the Groton (Mass.) Public Library, a new venue for me. Looking forward to this one, too!

Then it's throw the toothbrush and malaria tablets in a bag, and off we go!

For now, though, consider taking in William Boyd tonight in 'The Yankee Clipper' (1927) tonight at the Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit, and John Barrymore in 'The Beloved Rogue' tomorrow night at the Capitol in Arlington.

A press release for the latter is pasted in below. And I'm particularly proud of this one, as I was able to work in references to beloved stooge Curly Howard. (They're both beloved rogues of a sort.) Check it out!

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Forget the heat wave and lose yourself in frozen mid-winter Paris courtesy 'The Beloved Rogue.'

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 27, 2018 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

John Barrymore's 'The Beloved Rogue’ with live music Thursday, July 5 at Capitol Theatre


Exploits of 'Poet, Pickpocket, Patriot' of medieval France captured in spectacular silent film epic

ARLINGTON, Mass.—See Drew Barrymore's grandfather in one of his most celebrated performances!

It's legendary actor John Barrymore in 'The Beloved Rogue' (1927), an epic about the exploits of Francois Villon, the legendary "poet, pickpocket, patriot" of medieval France.

See this rarely screened silent adventure flick on Thursday, July 5 at 8 p.m. at the Capitol Theatre, 204 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington, Mass. Admission is $12 adults, $10 kids and seniors.

A live musical score for the movie will be performed by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based silent film accompanist.

John Barrymore swashbuckles in 'The Beloved Rogue' (1927).

'The Beloved Rogue' follows the life of Francois Villon, beloved by the citizens of medieval Paris but banished from the city by King Louis XI for impudence.

But when the king is threatened by a rival, dark horse Villon emerges as the only hope of winning the day. Can Villon save the monarchy, and also win the hand of the aristocratic Charlotte de Vauxcelles?

In one of his most colorful, energetic performances. Barrymore—known during the silent era as "The Great Profile"—stars as Villon,

German actor Conrad Veidt delivers a memorable performance as the superstitious King Louis XI, while Marceline Day plays Villon's love interest, Charlotte de Vauxcelles.

Of special note: an appearance by diminutive character actor Angelo Rossitto, a dwarf. 'The Beloved Rogue' was his first film in a long career that spanned all the way to 'Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome' (1985).

Set in a snowbound wintertime Paris, a highlight of 'The Beloved Rogue' are imaginative sets created by legendary art director William Cameron Menzies.

Critics continue to cite 'The Beloved Rogue' as one of Barrymore's strongest performances.

"Not history, just an eye-filling, spirited, tongue-in-cheek costume tale with Barrymore in great form," wrote Leonard Maltin.

Barrymore was a member of a legendary acting clan that included film actor Lionel Barrymore and stage actress Ethel Barrymore. Among his John Barrymore's descendants are actress Drew Barrymore, his granddaughter.

Barrymore's trademark "profile" was immortalized by comic Curly Howard in 'Movie Maniacs' (1936) when he turns sideways to the camera and asks, "Ain't I gettin' to look more and more like Barrymore?"

Produced and released by United Artists, 'The Beloved Rogue' was lost for some 40 years until a copy was discovered in the late 1960s in the collection of film pioneer Mary Pickford.

Pickford, an early champion of film preservation, tried saving all things "United Artists", the production company she co-founded.

'The Beloved Rogue' is the latest in a series of monthly silent film screenings at the Capitol Theatre.

The series aims to recreate the lost magic of early cinema by assembling the elements needed for silent film to be seen at its best: superior films in best available prints; projection on the big screen; live musical accompaniment; and an audience.

“These films are still exciting experiences if you 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.”

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.

Upcoming titles in the Capitol's silent film series include:

• Thursday, Aug. 16, 8 p.m.: 'Her Sister from Paris' (1925) starring Constance Talmadge, Ronald Colman. Talmadge in top form playing two very different sisters in this effervescent battle-of-the-sexes romantic comedy.

• Thursday, Sept. 13, 8 p.m.: 'The Last Laugh' (1924). In this ground-breaking character study from director F. W. Murnau, Emil Jannings delivers a tour-de-force performance as a doorman in a swanky Berlin hotel.

• Thursday, Oct 18, 8 p.m.: 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' (1923). Just in time for Halloween: Lon Chaney stars as Quasimodo in this sprawling silent film adaptation of Victor Hugo's classic story.

'The Beloved Rogue' will be shown on Thursday, July 5 at 8 p.m. at the Capitol Theatre, 204 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington, Mass. Admission is $12 adults, $10 kids and seniors. For more info, call (781) 648-6022 or visit www.capitoltheatreusa.com.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Next up: Summer silent series at the seaside, plus Harvard Magazine silent film music story—and chalk up another great escape for Houdini!


Wow! I finally made it into Harvard! The magazine, that is.

Yes, the current issue of Harvard Magazine includes an in-depth look at the art of silent film accompaniment as practiced at the Harvard Film Archive.

In chronicling the "surprisingly diverse ecosystem" of silent film music, writer Sophia Nguyen was nice enough to include comments by yours truly along with accompanists Robert Humphreville and Martin Marks.

All of us accompany silent film programs at the archive—those on the regular schedule, and sometimes for classes that use silent film in their curriculum.

The story is here.

Me, I'm thrilled to see any attention paid to this little corner of the performing and visual arts.

So thank you, Sophia, for such a great job capturing a slice of this sub-set of the Harvard cultural scene, and serving it so artfully to the magazine's audience.

Next up for me: Thursday is opening night at the Leavitt Theatre, a seaside resort moviehouse where films have been shown every summer since 1923.

The fare remains mostly first-run blockbusters. But each summer, the Clayton family brings me in for a series of silent films with live music, both as a novelty and to honor of the theater's roots as a silent moviehouse.

Amazingly, the building remains virtually unchanged since the theater opened in the 1920s. Under each of the wooden seats, you'll find a loop of thick-gauge wire to give gentlemen a place to stow their hats.

For those wondering, yes, the Leavitt did install digital projection a few years ago, although they maintain one of their 35mm projectors in place just in case.

The Leavitt's original 1923 interior, still intact in 2018. The angle doesn't show the steeply-raked floor, which results in near-stadium seating. Notice the proscenium arch is sized for the original silent film 1:1.33 aspect ratio.

Opening night for the 2018 season is Thursday, June 28 with a screening of Buster Keaton's great comedy 'The Navigator' (1924), plus a Buster short or two.

More details about this screening, as well as the rest of the summer's schedule, are in the press release below.

For now: speaking of hats, I wanted to tip mine to Mr. Harry Houdini, who drew an unexpectedly large crowd to the Town Hall Theatre yesterday (Sunday, June 23) for a screening of 'Haldane of the Secret Service,' his 1923 adventure thriller.

I think the gloomy weather (cloudy, sticky, periodic showers) helped. But in speaking with attendees (and many first-timers), there's no doubt 'Houdini' maintains his magnetism.

It's a continuation, no doubt, of his original appeal.

Consider: our program included newsreel footage of Houdini doing escape routines in various cities—wriggling out of straitjackets while suspended by his feet high above the ground.

Each one was accompanied by shots of enormous numbers of people (all the men wearing hats) gawking at Houdini's exploits. Then and now, the man just knew how to draw a crowd!

About 'Haldane': for me, this was yet another example of previewing a picture and wondering how any audience would be able to follow the action, or take it seriously.

But on the screen and in front of an audience, 'Haldane' came together and came to life! It made total sense, and moments that seemed slow and dull when viewed alone were instead full of edge-of-your-seat suspense.

So chalk up another great escape for Houdini: even when imprisoned by a mediocre film, he managed to break out in triumph!

Hope to see you by the sea in Ogunquit this Thursday. Here's the press release:

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WEDNESDAY, JUNE 13 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For more info, contact: Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit to host summer silent film series with live music


Classic comedies, action-packed dramas highlight schedule; featured stars include Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin

OGUNQUIT, Maine—Classics of the silent film era will return to the big screen starting next month at Ogunquit's Leavitt Theatre, which will host a season of vintage cinema with live music in the historic facility.

The series gives area film fans a chance to see movies from the pioneering days of cinema as they were intended to be shown—on the big screen, with an audience, and accompanied by live music.

Most screenings will be weeknight evenings and will begin on Thursday, June 28 with 'The Navigator' (1924), a classic silent comedy starring Buster Keaton

The series runs through October, concluding with a Halloween screening of F.W. Murnau's chilling silent version of 'Faust' (1926) on Saturday, Oct. 27.

Admission for each screening is $10 per person.

A total of five programs will be offered in the series. Films will include a program of Charlie Chaplin's great short comedies and "Her Sister From Paris" (1925), a sophisticated romantic comedy starring Ronald Colman and Constance Talmadge.

"These are the films that first made people fall in love with the movies, and we're thrilled to present them again on the big screen," said Max Clayton, the Leavitt's manager.

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.

"These movies were intended to be shown in this kind of environment, and with live music and with an audience," Clayton said. "Put it all together, and you've got great entertainment that still has a lot of power to move people."

Live music for each program will be provided by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based performer and composer who specializes in scoring silent films.

In accompanying silent films live, Rapsis uses a digital synthesizer to recreate the texture of the full orchestra. He improvises the music in real time, as the movie is shown.

In scoring a movie, Rapsis creates music to help modern movie-goers accept silent film as a vital art form rather than something antiquated or obsolete.

"Silent film is a timeless art form that still has a unique emotional power, as the recent success of 'The Artist' has shown," Rapsis said.

Keaton boils an egg in 'The Navigator' (1924).

First up in the Leavitt's series is Buster Keaton in 'The Navigator' (1924) on Thursday, June 28 at 7 p.m.

Although Keaton never smiled on camera, his comedies rocked theatres with laugher throughout the 1920s.

In 'The Navigator,' Buster sets sail in a comedy about a spoiled rich couple marooned all alone on a drifting ocean liner.

Keaton, famous for visual humor and mechanical gags, acquired a real ocean liner to create 'The Navigator,' turning the vessel into one of the biggest comedy props in movie history.

The film, a smash hit, helped establish Keaton as one of the major comedians and stars of the silent film era.

Other programs in this year's Leavitt silent film series include:

• Wednesday, July 4, 7 p.m.: 'The Yankee Clipper' (1927) starring William Boyd. Two tall ships race from China to Boston to win a lucrative tea contract. Sea-going adventure set in the heyday of the fast "clipper" ships. Starring William Boyd, who would later go on to play beloved sidekick 'Hopalong Cassidy' in innumerable Westerns.

• Wednesday, Aug. 15, 7 p.m. 'Charlie Chaplin's Best Short Comedies.' A selection of classic short comedy films that helped propel the Little Tramp to worldwide fame and rocked the globe with laughter. See the movies that paved the way for Chaplin to go on to make later masterpieces such as 'The Gold Rush' and 'City Lights.'

• Wednesday, Sept. 12, 7 p.m. 'Her Sister From Paris' (1925) starring Ronald Colman, Constance Talmadge. The scene: Europe. The cast: Rich people. Get swept off your feet by not one but two privileged ladies, both played by amazing actress Constance Talmadge, in this effervescent battle-of-the-sexes comedy.

• Saturday, Oct. 27, 7 p.m.: 'Faust' (1926) directed by F.W. Murnau. Just in time for Halloween, our annual "Chiller Theatre" presentation! Oscar-winning actor Emil Jannings stars in F.W. Murnau's terrifying version of the classic tale. A visual tour de force, full of creepy characters and frightening images.

Buster Keaton's 'The Navigator' (1924) will lead off this season's silent film series on Thursday, June 28 at 7 p.m. at the Leavitt Fine Arts Theatre, 259 Main St. Route 1, Ogunquit, Maine; (207) 646-3123; admission is $10 per person, general seating. For more information, visit www.leavittheatre.com.