Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Press release for 'The Seahawk' on April 5

Tuesday, March 30, 2010 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Swashbuckler ‘The Seahawk’ (1924) in Manchester, N.H. on Monday, Apr. 5

Classic silent adventure film to be screened with live music at Palace Theatre

MANCHESTER, N.H.—It was among the first feature films to take movie audiences both out to sea and back in time. ‘The Seahawk,’ a picture brimming over with vintage sailing ships, pirates, action, and romance, set the stage for generations of swashbuckling adventure films to come, including a well-known sound remake starring Errol Flynn that used extensive battle footage from the original silent version.

The 1924 silent version of ‘The Sea Hawk,’ based on a 1915 novel by Rafael Sabatini, follows the 1580s adventures of English nobleman Oliver Tressilian, forced by fate and honor from his upper class life and sold into slavery as a galley oarsman. After escaping, Tressilian gets revenge by assuming control of ‘The Sea Hawk,’ a pirate ship that terrorizes the Spanish armada, all the while trying to regain his lady love.

Cast in the lead role of Oliver Tressilian is Milton Sills, a popular actor of the silent film era who is relatively unknown today; the ‘Seahawk’ is ranked among Sills’ finest performances. Also in the cast is longtime Hollywood character actor Wallace Beery, who plays the role of Captain Jasper Leigh.

The movie is considered a landmark of realism due to producer/director Frank Lloyd’s decision to not use models or miniatures, but to stage all ocean-going scenes on recreated sailing ships off the California coast. This enabled Lloyd to line the decks with cutlass-waving actors and to convincingly depict the oaring of a slave-powered galleon, scenes which thrilled audiences of the time.

Recapture this film’s original magic with a screening of ‘The Seahawk’ at the historic Palace Theatre in Manchester, N.H. on Monday, April 5 at 7 p.m. The program, part of the Palace Theatre’s “Silent Film Rediscoveries” series, will also include several short subjects. The program will be accompanied by live music by local composer Jeff Rapsis. General admission is $8 per person.

All movies included in the “Silent Film Rediscoveries” series were major successes when first seen by audiences in the 1920s, but are rarely screened today in a way that allows them to be seen at their best. They were not intended to be shown on television; to revive them, organizers aim to show the films at the Palace as they were meant to be seen—in good prints, on a large screen, with live music, and with a live audience.

“All those elements are important parts of the silent film experience,” said Jeff Rapsis of Bedford, N.H., who composes and performs original music for all the screenings. “Recreate those conditions, and the classics of early Hollywood leap back to life in ways that still move audiences today. They all featured great stories with compelling characters and universal appeal, so it’s no surprise that they hold up and we still respond to them.”

It’s the second year that the Palace has offered a schedule of silent films. The new program follows the success of the inaugural season, which included seven films and attracted audience members from as far away as Boston.

“We often get comments from people who had no idea that these films still retain such power, and be so entertaining,” Rapsis said. “It’s really a different experience than going to a modern movie.”

Screenings in the “Silent Film Rediscoveries” series take place on Mondays at 7 p.m. at the Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester, N.H. Admission is $8 per person, general admission seating. Tickets available at the door or in advance by calling the Palace Theatre box office, (603) 668-5588 or on line at www.palacetheatre.org.

‘The Seahawk’ will be shown on Monday, April 5 at 7 p.m. the Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester, N.H. Admission is $8 per person, general admission seating. Tickets available at the door or in advance by calling the Palace Theatre box office, (603) 668-5588 or on line at www.palacetheatre.org.

Upcoming films in the Palace’s ”Silent Films Rediscovered” series include:

• Monday, May 10 at 7 p.m.: ‘Greed’ (1924), the 140-minute restored version of director Erich von Stroheim’s drama about a dentist whose wife wins a lottery ticket, only to become obsessed with money. When her former lover betrays the dentist as a fraud, all of their lives are destroyed. Legendary film that was originally 10 hours long, prompting massive studio battle over control and final cut. (Note: rescheduled from Monday, March 8.)

The Palace Theatre’s silent film series is sponsored by HippoPress and Looser Than Loose Vintage Entertainment of Manchester.

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For more info, contact:
Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com
Images attached.
More high-resolution digital images available upon request.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Welcome to the blog!


Just a few words from Jeff Rapsis to mark the birth of a blog about the ongoing adventure of providing live music for silent film screenings. Local film archivist Dave Stevenson of Manchester, N.H. and I have been doing live screenings in southern New Hampshire (and occasionally elsewhere) for the past several years now, and it's about time we ramped up our communication efforts to include a blog. We'll use it to post notes about upcoming screenings, take your comments and suggestions, and discuss the process of reviving silent cinema.

About us: Dave is a long-time film collector and scholar of early cinema. He and his wife Ali re-issue a wide range of films through their company, Looser Than Loose vintage entertainment. Check out their offerings at www.looserthanloose.com. And me (Jeff Rapsis), I'm a long-time silent film fan who began doing live music for screenings several years ago, using piano or a Korg digital workstation that can reproduce a full orchestral texture and a lot of other sounds, too. (Still working on my theater organ skills.)

For Palm Sunday (March 28), we staged a screening of Cecil B. DeMille's great cast-of-thousands" epic "King of Kings" (1927) at the Wilton (N.H.) Town Hall Theatre, where we run a monthly silent film series. Turnout was good: the house was about half-filled—pretty good for a drama on a fairly nice Sunday afternoon. This was a great film for music, as it lends itself to big gestures and has a number of sequences that are fun to build by starting small and then layering on the intensity. The themes included a stepped fanfare that s keys unexpectedly, allowing me to cycle through three keys before hitting "home" again; and a six-note up-and-down melody that came in handy to signify something evil going on. Surprisingly, a little snatch of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus (the rising octaves on the words 'King of Kings and Lord of Lords') kept coming up unexpectedly, and turned into a great way to punctuate some phrases. Sometimes that happens.

I was also able to use what I call my "Jesus" fanfare, which I came up with several months ago in anticipation of possibly using brass players for this screening (didn't happen), but which has since already shown up in other performances, including being used as an overture at the Kansas Silent Film Festival in Topeka, Kansas this past February.

All for now. Still working on getting a Web site posted at www.jeffrapsis.com and other things are planned, too. As they say in the organ business, stay tuned!