Monday, April 5, 2010

Preparing for 'The Seahawk' (1924)

Here's some info on tonight's screening of 'The Seahawk' at the historic Palace Theatre in Manchester, N.H. The program will include two short silent films recently reissued on DVD by my colleague Dave Stevenson.

First up, in honor of everyone's favorite looming April 15 deadline, is a short animated cartoon from 1920 called 'A Tax From The Rear,' directed by Walter Lantz, who later went on to create Woody Woodpecker. This short was among about two dozen animated films from the silent era that Dave collected in reissued on a DVD called 'The Animators,' for which I had the pleasure of improvising musical scores.

Next, in honor of our seafaring theme, is 'Shanghaied Lovers,' a Harry Langdon two-reeler from 1924 which Dave included on another recent DVD, this one focusing on hard-to-find films from the baby-faced comedian. (I also got the chance to do music for this one.)

'Shanghaied Lovers' is interesting because until now, all circulated prints were incomplete, consisting of only the film's second reel. But Dave came across the long-missing first reel in, of all places, a kinescope recording of an early Howdy Doody television broadcast. Like many early kids' shows, liberal use of old comedy films was used to fill time, and on broadcast the film happened to be Langdon's 'Shanghaied Lovers.' The image quality leaves a bit to be desired, I think, but we're fortunate to have the complete film in any form after all these years. Congratulations to Dave for bringing this together. If you'd like to see more, visit his Web site at

And for the main attraction, we have 'The Sea Hawk' (1924), one of the great adventure films of the 1920s. I've been reading about this film for years but never had a chance to see it complete until preparing the music for this screening. It's a fun picture—one that lends itself to a dramatic approach for the score, so I've concocted a couple of "on the high seas" melodies to use in weaving it together during the performance. It also has exotic locales that range from Elizabethan England to Algiers, and I hope to bring out this atmosphere as well. In my opinion, it doesn't have quite the 'snap' of Douglas Fairbanks' 'The Black Pirate,' which came out a few years later and seems to be the quintessential silent-era pirate film, at least in terms of having all the cliches. We screened the Fairbanks film last January in Wilton, N.H. as part of a double-bill and it got a thunderous reaction, so I'm interested to see how 'The Seahawk' fares with an audience.

Hope to see you at 'The Seahawk.' Screening is Monday, April 5 at 7 p.m. at the Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester, N.H. (603) 668-5588.

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