'Spite Marriage,' Buster Keaton's last silent feature, is often looked at as his 'transition' film.
It came after the brilliance of 'The Cameraman' (1928), and led directly to the alleged mediocrity of his MGM talkies, which in turn led to his career unraveling.
For me as a teenager, this was reinforced by a book on Keaton I found in the public library of my hometown of Nashua, N.H.
David Robinson's 'The Films of Buster Keaton' was an eye-opener. It introduced me to the basic plots and settings of all of Keaton's feature films, none of which I had seen.
(At age 13, I was just beginning to order 8mm prints of Keaton's short films such as 'Cops,' which in 1977 was the only way you could see them.)
Keaton signed with MGM after that, and for some reason Robinson glossed over Keaton's two MGM silents, 'The Cameraman' and 'Spite Marriage.'
Of the two, at least 'The Cameraman' got some analysis and commentary. But 'Spite Marriage' merited barely a mention, with Robinson admitting it wasn't available for viewing and that he'd never seen it.
So this planted on my impressionable mind the idea that 'Spite Marriage' was somehow a lame horse, a misfire, a mistake that wasn't up to Keaton's standards and perhaps not even a real "Keaton" film at all.
And this didn't change until many years later, when I finally, actually saw the picture. And I was surprised to find it quite polished (it was MGM, after all) and with no shortage of what seemed to be great Keaton sequences and gags. It was like discovering Beethoven had written a symphony that no one knew about.
This was confirmed when I ran the picture with an audience a few years ago. People roared!
Pretty good for Buster's "transition," film, I thought. But I've accompanied it several times since, and it always kills. Maybe I'd been selling 'Spite Marriage' short all this time.
Well, I'm now delighted to accompany Buster's last silent feature whenever and wherever. And that means tomorrow night (Thursday, July 14) at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center in downtown Plymouth, N.H.
Hope you can join us! More info in the press release below.
TUESDAY, JULY 5, 2016 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For more info, contact: Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • firstname.lastname@example.org
Classic Buster Keaton farce 'Spite Marriage' at Flying Monkey on Thursday, July 14
Pioneering comedian's final silent feature film to be screened with live musical accompaniment
PLYMOUTH, N.H.—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.
Acclaimed for their originality and timeless visual humor, Keaton's films remain popular crowd-pleasers today.
See for yourself with a screening of 'Spite Marriage' (1929), Keaton's last silent feature film, on Thursday, July 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center, 39 South Main St., Plymouth, N.H.
Admission is $10 per person.
The program will be accompanied by live music performed by silent film composer Jeff Rapsis.
'Spite Marriage' finds the poker-faced comic smitten by stage actress Trilby Drew (Dorothy Sebastian)—so much so that he joins the cast of her current production, a Civil War melodrama.
The fun begins when she unexpectedly asks Buster to marry her, but only to get even with an old flame. Complications with gangsters lead to a climax at sea, making for a classic Keaton comedy full of memorable routines.
The program opens with short comedy films Keaton made earlier in his career.
Keaton, along with Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, stands as one of the three great comics of the silent screen. Many critics regard Keaton as the best of all; Roger Ebert wrote in 2002 that "in an extraordinary period from 1920 to 1929, (Keaton) worked without interruption on a series of films that make him, arguably, the greatest actor-director in the history of the movies."
"Buster Keaton was the stone-faced comic who never smiled on camera, so he's sometimes thought of as the most silent of the silent clowns," Rapsis said.
"But seen today, his films are remarkable for their effective story construction, their innovative cinematography, and their ability to still produce gales of laughter," Rapsis said. "A chance to see a Keaton film as originally presented—in a theater, with live music and an audience—is not to be missed."
'Spite Marriage' is the latest in a monthly series of silent films presented with live music at the Flying Monkey. 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.
Rapsis said it's currently a new golden age for silent film because so many titles have been restored, and are now available to watch at home or via online streaming.
However, the Flying Monkey series enables film fans to really understand the power of early cinema, which was intended to be shown on a big screen, with live music, and with an audience.
"Put those elements together like we do at the Flying Monkey, and films from the silent era spring right back to life in a way that helps you understand why people first fell in love with the movies," Rapsis said.
Upcoming programs in the Flying Monkey's silent film series include:
• Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, 6:30 p.m.: Rudolph Valentino Double Feature! On the 90th anniversary of the heartthrob's shocking and untimely death, we pay tribute with 'The Sheik' (1921) and 'Son of the Sheik' (1926). Bring tissues!
Buster Keaton's comedy 'Spite Marriage' will be shown on Thursday, July 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center, 39 South Main St., Plymouth, N.H. Admission is $10 per person. For more info, call (603) 536-2551 or visit www.flyingmonkeynh.com. For more info on the music, visit www.jeffrapsis.com.