Thursday, April 6, 2017

Keaton's 'Steamboat Bill Jr.' launches new silent series at Capitol Theatre, plus 'The Wind' on Sunday, April 9 at Somerville Theatre

Buster and Ernest Torrence in 'Steamboat Bill, Jr.'

Starting tonight, there's a new venue in the Boston area for enjoying silent films with live music and an audience.

It's the Capitol Theatre in Arlington, Mass., which is launching a new monthly series tonight (Thursday, April 6) with a screening of Buster Keaton's comedy 'Steamboat Bill, Jr.' (1928).

Showtime is 8 p.m. (and not 7:30 p.m., as I had listed earlier), the Capitol is at 204 Massachusetts Ave. in Arlington, Mass. Check it out online at Admission is $12 per person; $10 students/seniors.

This is the one that finds Buster caught up in a cyclone. Fittingly, the forecast this evening calls for heavy rain!

The Capitol's exterior on Mass. Ave. in Arlington.

The Capitol is sister theatre to the venerable Somerville Theatre, not far away in Davis Square in neighboring Somerville.

While the Somerville runs a monthly "Silents, Please!" program using 35mm prints, not all great silents are available in this format.

So Ian Judge, who manages the theaters, felt it would be worth starting a separate series at the Capitol for silents on other media—meaning mostly DVD transfers.

We tried a dry run at the Capitol last Halloween, when I accompanied Lon Chaney in 'The Unholy Three' (1925), a film that just isn't available in 35mm.

I'm not sure "dry" run is the right term, as it was pouring rain that evening as well.

But it was successful enough for management to greenlight a monthly mini-series of silents at the Capitol, starting this month with Keaton's 'Steamboat Bill' and running through the summer.

Here's what's also on the bill:

Thursday, May 11, 2017, 8 p.m.: "The Winning of Barbara Worth" (1926) starring Gary Cooper, Ronald Coleman, Vilma Banky. Epic Western 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.

Thursday, June 22, 2017, 8 p.m.: "The Kid" (1921) starring Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Coogan. Chaplin's landmark comedy/drama about a man who raises an infant against all odds. As the film tells us: "A story with a smile, and perhaps a tear." Highlighted by amazing performance of four-year-old Coogan, who matches Chaplin pratfall for pratfall. Bonus Chaplin comedy: "A Dog's Life" (1918).

Thursday, July 6, 2017, 8 p.m.: "The Lost World" (1925) starring Wallace Beery, Bessie Love. First-ever movie adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary tale of British explorers who discover pre-historic creatures still thriving atop a remote South American plateau. Great entertainment; ground-breaking special effects by the same team that later created 'King Kong' mesmerized early movie audiences and remain impressive today.

Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017, 8 p.m.: "Grandma's Boy" (1922) starring Harold Lloyd, Mildred Davis. A cowardly young man must learn to conquer his fears before dealing with a larger menace to his community. Riotous small town comedy that helped propel Harold Lloyd into the most popular movie comedian of the 1920s. Bonus Lloyd short comedy: "Never Weaken" (1921).

One bonus for me: the family-oriented Capitol (which even has baby-friendly matinees) has its own in-house ice cream shop, the Capitol Creamery, in the theater lobby.

Can you guess where you'll find me before the show?

Speaking of the Somerville Theatre: after a few months of, well, silence, the 'Silents, Please!' series restarts on Sunday, April 9 with Lillian Gish in 'The Wind' (1928).

Showtime is 2 p.m. The theater is in Davis Square in Somerville, Mass.; admission is $15 per person, $12 students/seniors.

A chance to see this legendary film in 35mm with an audience in a theater is an experience not to be missed.

It's especially worth seeing because for some reason, MGM hasn't released 'The Wind' in any format for home viewing since a version came out on laser disc back in the late 1980s!

So other than firing up the laser disc player, the only way to experience 'The Wind' is just like when the film was released in 1928: by going to the theater.

For more details on 'The Wind' and other upcoming 'Silents, Please!' screenings, here's the press release that went out about the screening:

* * *

Lillian Gish in 'The Wind.'

For more info, contact: Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Somerville Theatre announces 2017 'Silents, Please!' series

Starting with 'The Wind' (1928) on Sunday, April 9; monthly screenings of silent film masterworks shown in 35mm with live music scoring

SOMERVILLE, Mass.—Great films that caused early audiences to first fall in love with the movies will once again grace the big screen in this year's 'Silents, Please!' series at the Somerville Theatre.

The series features monthly screenings of legendary titles shown as originally intended: in 35mm on the big screen, in a real movie theatre with an audience, and with live musical scoring.

Upcoming titles in the 2017 season include Eric von Stroheim's epic drama 'Greed' (1924); Harold Lloyd in 'Safety Last' (1923); and the recently rediscovered original big screen adaptation of 'Sherlock Holmes' (1916).

"With silent film, if you put all the pieces back together again, you can really understand why people found early movies so entertaining," said Ian Judge, the Somerville's general manager.

All films in the series are shown via archival 35mm prints—the original format for theatrical movies. Today, 35mm prints of films are often very difficult to obtain and screen properly.

Live music for each program is provided by New Hampshire-based silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis.

First up in the series is Lillian Gish in 'The Wind' (1928), an intense MGM drama often rated as one of the best films from any era.

In 'The Wind,' Gish plays a frail young woman from the east moves in with her cousin in the west, where she causes tension within the family and is slowly driven mad while in an isolated cabin.

'The Wind,' directed by Victor Seastrom, will be screened on Sunday, April 9 at 2 p.m. General admission is $15 per person/$12 student and seniors.

Additional titles in the Somerville's 2017 'Silents, Please!' series include:

Sunday, May 14, 2017, 2 p.m.: 'Greed' (1924), directed by Erich von Stroheim. Legendary director Von Stroheim's great masterpiece brought silent film drama to new heights of intensity, and also inspired huge behind-the-scenes battle over control of final cut. Rare chance to see this film in 35mm on the big screen with live music.

Sunday, June 18, 2017, 2 p.m.: 'So This Is Paris' (1926). If you like your 1920s sex comedies light and frothy, then director Ernst Lubitsch is your guy. This madcap romp, set among the sophisticated elite in the City of Light, buzzes with energy on the dance floor and elsewhere. Plus it helped popularize the Charleston!

Sunday, July 9, 2017, 2 p.m.: 'Safety Last' (1923). Ambitious young Harold Lloyd heads from small town to big city to make his fortune, with unexpected results. The iconic image of Lloyd dangling from the hands of a downtown clock is only one small piece of a remarkable thrill comedy that has lost none of its power over audiences.

Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, 2 p.m.: 'Get Your Man' (1927) starring Clara Bow, Buddy Rogers. Long-lost Clara Bow feature only recently rescued and restored by the Library of Congress. Bow is Nancy Worthington, a liberated (of course) American in Paris who meets cute with French nobleman Robert Albin (Rogers) while on vacation by herself. Robert and Nancy fall hard for each other, but an arranged, politically motivated marriage stands in their way. Nancy scams her way onto the family estate, and complications ensue.

Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, 2 p.m.: 'Sherlock Holmes' (1916) starring William Gillette. Recently discovered in France after being lost for nearly a century, see this original 1916 adaptation of Sherlock Holmes stories as performed by William Gillette, the actor who created the role on stage. Holmes does battle with arch-rival Prof. Moriarty in an amalgam of several stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

All screenings will be via 35mm prints and with live musical scoring created by New Hampshire silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis. Rapsis achieves a traditional "movie score" sound for silent film screenings by using a digital synthesizer to reproduce the texture of the full orchestra.

'The Wind' will be screened in 35mm with live music on Sunday, April 9 at 2 p.m. at the Somerville Theater, 55 Davis Square, Somerville, Mass. Admission is $15 adults, $12 students/seniors; general admission seating. For more information, call (617) 625-5700 or visit For more info on the music, visit

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