Friday, February 8, 2013

'Bardelys the Magnificent' returns
to the big screen in Wilton, N.H.

I have a Kansas Silent Film Festival t-shirt that features this very image!

A film thought lost for decades will once again flicker across the silver screen when 'Bardelys the Magnificent' (1926) is shown on Sunday, Feb. 17 at the Wilton (N.H.) Town Hall Theatre.

I first saw the newly restored picture a few years ago when it was shown at the Kansas Silent Film Festival, accompanied live by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

I had never heard of the novel or the film, but what I saw in Kansas was great cinema.

The print, discovered in a private collection in France and missing Reel 3, was good enough to support a wonderful restoration effort, which was then making the festival rounds.

But it never made it to New England, at least that I know of. So we're screening it in Wilton on Sunday, Feb. 17 to give 'Bardelys' another shot on the big screen.

One interesting thing about 'Bardelys' is that it marked early screen appearances of a young bit player named John Wayne and also future comedian Lou Costello, then working as a stunt double.

I don't know if I could spot them in the picture, but here are some frame captures that supposedly have Wayne in them as one of the soldiers. Can you pick him out?

Well, neither can I. But perhaps we'll have better luck on Sunday, Feb. 17, when we put 'Bardelys the Magnificent' back up on the Wilton Town Hall Theatre's big screen, where it belongs!

See you there. And for more information, check out the text of the press release below...

* * *

Two's company, but three's a crowd, especially when one of them has his head covered by a dark pointy hood thing.

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Newly rediscovered silent film swashbuckler
to 're-premier' in Wilton, N.H. on Sunday, Feb. 17

'Bardelys the Magnificent' (1926), long thought lost until a copy was found in Europe, to be screened with live music

WILTON, N.H.—A major Hollywood feature—oonsidered lost for decades until a copy surfaced in France in 2006—will soon get its New England big screen "re-premier."

'Bardelys the Magnificent' (1926), a big budget MGM release starring John Gilbert and Eleanor Boardman, will be screened on Sunday, Feb. 17 at 4:30 p.m. at the Wilton (N.H.) Town Hall Theatre.

Live music for the movie will be provided by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis. Admission to the screening is free, with donations accepted.

Based on a novel by prolific Italian/English author Rafael Sabatini, 'Bardelys the Magnificent' is a tale of romance, honor, and derring-do set during the reign of King Louis XIII of France.

The story follows the adventures of French nobleman Bardelys, who assumes the identity of a dead man to be close to the woman he loves. The ruse backfires, however, when it turns out the dead man is wanted for treason against the King. This propels Bardelys into a series of swashbuckling adventures as he must avoid being caught and executed, all the while pursuing his beloved.

The title role is played by legendary leading man John Gilbert, then at the height of his 1920s stardom. Gilbert was popular for his good looks, magnetic personality, and athletic stunts. Actress Eleanor Boardman plays Roxalanne, his love interest; the huge cast includes many silent film-era stars and supporting players.

'Bardelys the Magnificent' was directed by King Vidor, who was responsible for several well-known silent-era classics, including 'The Big Parade' (1925), 'The Crowd' (1928), and 'Show People' (1928).

The picture was a solid hit in its original release, making money and enhancing the reputations of everyone involved. Later, MGM's rights to the Sabatini novel expired in 1936, and the studio destroyed all copies per the licensing agreement. It was only later that archivists released that no other copies of the film were known to have survived anywhere. For six decades, the only footage of 'Bardelys the Magnificent' known to exist was in the form of a brief clip included in a movie theater scene in 'Show People,' another Vidor picture. 'Bardelys' was regarded as a major lost feature film from the silent era.

Then, in 2006, researchers in France discovered an almost complete copy of 'Bardelys the Magnificent' in a private collection. The print was missing about 10 minutes of footage, but was otherwise intact and in excellent condition. The missing footage is replaced with still photos taken on the set, written descriptions, and by footage recovered from a 'Coming attractions' trailer for the film. The story is now easily followed.

Restoration was completed in 2008; the film was subsequently released on DVD, and has since been screened at several festivals around the country, but not not in New England until now.

"With it being the weekend after Valentine's Day, we thought it would be a great time to screen a historical romance," Rapsis said.

Silent films were produced until 1929, when talkies arrived. About 80 percent of all movies made during the silent era are now lost due to decomposition, carelessness, fire, or neglect. But copies of "missing" films still occasionally turn up in archives and collections around the world, so researchers and archivists continue to make discoveries.

For 'Bardelys the Magnificent,' Rapsis will improvise a score using original musical material that he creates beforehand. For a movie score to support 'Bardelys,' Rapsis will use a digital synthesizer to recreate the sound and texture of a full orchestra.

"What I try to do," Rapsis said, "is create music that bridges the gap between a film that might be 80 or 90 years old, and the musical expectations of today's audiences."

'Bardelys the Magnificent' is the latest in a monthly series of silent films presented with live music at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre. The series provides local audiences the opportunity to experience silent film as it was intended to be shown: on the big screen, in good-looking prints, with live music, and with an audience.

"If you can put Humpty Dumpty back together again, it's surprising how these films just back to life," Rapsis said. "By showing the films under the right conditions, you can really get a sense of why people first fell in love with the movies."

Upcoming silent film screenings at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre include:

• Sunday, March 31, 2013, 4:30 p.m.: 'The Passion of Joan of Arc' (1928). Landmark drama that chronicles the trial of Jeanne d'Arc on charges of heresy, and the efforts of her ecclesiastical jurists to force Jeanne to recant her claims of holy visions. A film regarded as lost until a pristine compete print was discovered in a closet in Oslo, Norway in 1981.

• Sunday, April 28, 2013, 4:30 p.m.: 'The Winning of Barbara Worth' (1926). Epic Western starring Ronald Coleman, Vilma Banky about the settling and irrigation of California's Imperial Valley, once a wasteland but now an agricultural paradise. With a young Gary Cooper playing a key role. Visually spectacular story filmed largely on location in Nevada's Black Rock desert.

• Sunday, May 26, 2013, 4:30 p.m.: 'Tell It To The Marines' (1926). In honor of Memorial Day: U.S. Marine Sergeant O'Hara (Lon Chaney) has his hands full training raw recruits, one of whom, 'Skeets' Burns, is a particular thorn in his side...especially when it comes to romancing nurse Nora Dale.

'Bardelys the Magnificent' will be shown on Sunday, Feb. 17 at 4:30 p.m. at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H. Admission is free, with donations encouraged to defray expenses. For more information, visit; for more information on the music, visit

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