Friday, April 17, 2015

Coming 4/24: Langdon's 'The Strong Man'
...but first, my Library of Congress debut!

An original poster for Harry Langdon's 'The Strong Man' (1926), which I'm accompanying on Friday, April 24.

Here's some news: Today I head down to Washington, D.C., where this weekend I'll make my silent film accompaniment debut at the Library of Congress.

The screening is actually at the Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation out in Culpeper, Va., where Saturday night I'll do music for 'Zaza' (1923), a romance starring Gloria Swanson and H.B. Warner.

Many thanks to Rob Stone of the Packard Center for offering me a turn on the bench as guest accompanist for a screening at their theater.

Here's a picture of the Packard Center:

It didn't always look like this. Prior to its current role as a center for film preservation, the Packard Center was quite a different place. Built during the Cold War, its original purpose was to serve as a secret storage bunker for the currency stockpiles of the U.S. Bureau of Printing and Engraving!

Later, it turned out that storage vaults for paper money could be repurposed for nitrate film. And here we are!

I'm looking forward to visiting the Packard and seeing the conservation labs and vaults, which I'll report about when I return.

Unless I find a few spare bags of leftover currency, in which case I'll never return.

For now, here's a press release about an unusual screening coming up on Friday, April 24.

It's 'The Strong Man' (1926) starring Harry Langdon, and directed by a very young Frank Capra.

Harry Langdon in 'The Strong Man' (1926).

What's unusual about the screening is that it takes place on the campus of Northeast Catholic College, a small school in rural New Hampshire. (Until this year, the school was named The College of Saint Mary Magdalen.)

I've done shows there in the past, and it's proven to be a great environment for the silent film experience. Student turnout is strong and enthusiastic. We project the films on a huge blank wall in the multi-purpose room, so the image is really, really big.

The screening is open to the public, so I encourage anyone in need of a good laugh to trek on up through the back roads of Warner, N.H. (just off Interstate 89, so it's not that remote) and take in this screening.

It'll also be interesting because the story of 'The Strong Man' involves themes of religion and faith, which ought to resonate on a Catholic college campus. We'll see.

If you'd like to join in, below is the press release. Hope to see you there!

* * *

Harry Langdon in 'The Strong Man' (1926).

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Frank Capra's first movie highlights silent film program at Northeast Catholic College on Friday, April 24

Harry Langdon's classic silent comedy 'The Strong Man' to be shown with live music; screening open to the general public

WARNER, N.H. — Silent film with live music returns to the big screen at Northeast Catholic College this month with a showing of an acclaimed comedy starring Harry Langdon.

The screening, on Friday, April 24 at 8 p.m., will feature Langdon's classic comedy 'The Strong Man' (1926).

Helming 'The Strong Man' was young first-time director 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 to students with a college ID; general public is $5 per person.

'The Strong Man' tells the story of a World War I soldier (Langdon) who, following his discharge in Europe, comes to America as assistant to a circus strong man. As the act travels the United States, 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.

Harry Langdon enjoys attention from 'Mary Brown' in 'The Strong Man' (1926).

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,' a family-friendly comedy, was 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 England-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 screening at Northeast Catholic College is a great chance to experience films that first caused people to first fall in love with the movies," he said.

Established as a residential, Catholic liberal arts college in 1973 and located in Warner, N.H., the Northeast Catholic College (formerly the College of Saint Mary Magdalen) seeks to call students to the life-long pursuit of intellectual and moral virtue through the rigorous study and discussion of primary texts and through its vibrantly Catholic student life.

Frank Capra's 'The Strong Man' will be screened with live music on Friday, April 24 at 8 p.m. at Northeast Catholic College (formerly Magdalen College), 511 Kearsarge Mountain Road, Warner, N.H. Admission is free to students with a college ID; general public is $5 per person.

For more information about Northeast Catholic College, visit For more info on the music, visit

No comments:

Post a Comment