Saturday, August 13, 2011

Preparing for Mirthquake Aug. 18-20

Looking ahead, the next scoring project is our annual Mirthquake, a three-day festival of silent and early sound film comedy that'll run from Thursday, Aug. 18 to Saturday, Aug. 20. The screenings take place in various venues around southern New Hampshire, our corner of the world. We bill it as "New England's Largest Vintage Festival" because I think it's New England's only vintage film festival.

So come join us for what should be an interesting three days of comedy films you're not likely to see screened anywhere else. In earlier years, I used to fret that the programming didn't contain enough "mainstream" silent classics such as the Chaplin, Keaton, or Lloyd features, but I'm over that, as I schedule those films often enough on my own.

For Mirthquake, the programming is now entirely in the hands of Dave Stevenson and his cohorts Mark and Cole Johnson. The theme this year is, I believe, a salute to film comedy pioneer Mack Sennett, whose Keystone Studio was established nearly a century ago. Still, the films are a varied lot, with a good mix of silent and sound comedies.

For me, the big programs are the silent features. There are four of them: an Eddie Cantor comedy, 'Speedy Delivery' (1927); the comedy adventure buddy flick 'Two Arabian Knights' (1927); 'Exit Smiling' (also 1927), the only silent film of stage star Beatrice Lillie; and something called 'The Curse of the Jasper B' (finally a different date: 1926!) starring Rod LaRocque. (With a name like that, he had no choice but to go into silent film.)

All these features are new to me, and I'm looking forward to scoring them. Not sure how much preview time I'll have with them (real life will likely intervene in the next few days) but I don't mind playing them cold if it comes to that. Hope to see you there. Below is the press release, which contains the complete schedule. For more info, check

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Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Classic early screen comedies highlight 'Mirthquake' festival Aug. 18-20

New England's largest vintage film event to include three days of obscure comedy features, short subjects

MANCHESTER, N.H.—The great and not-so-great comedians who showed early movie audiences how to laugh will return to the big screen for Mirthquake, a three-day festival devoted to celebrating vintage film comedy in local theaters in Manchester, Wilton, and Concord, N.H.

The festival, which runs from Thursday, Aug. 18 to Saturday, Aug. 20, includes screenings of great silent comedies starring pioneer funnymen Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Fatty Arbuckle, and many other lesser-known comics. Programs will include silent and early sound comedies from the earliest days of the movies through 1940. Shows are planned for several southern New Hampshire venues, with all silent films accompanied by live music.

"We invite the public to see these great comedies, which helped audiences first fall in love with the movies," said Jeff Rapsis, musical accompanist for the silent films. "These films come to life when shown in the environment for which they were designed: on the big screen, in a real theater, with live music, and with an audience."

In addition to dozens of short films presented on 16mm film and DVD, organizers plan several feature film screenings as part of this year's Mirthquake. Highlights include a scarce Eddie Cantor feature comedy called 'Special Delivery' (1927) and also 'Two Arabian Knights' (1927) starring William Boyd and Louis Wolheim, a box office hit that won the Oscar for best comedy at the first-ever Academy Awards.

This year's festival pays special tribute to comedy pioneer Mack Sennett's Keystone Studios, with many comedies featuring performers and directors who learned their trade at Keystone.

It's the fifth year that Mirthquake has presented early movie comedies in southern New Hampshire for local residents and visiting film buffs alike. It's the largest vintage film event in New England.

All events at this year's Mirthquake are open to the public. Most screenings are free; only the screening of 'Two Arabian Knights' on Friday, Aug. 19 at Red River Theatres in Concord carries an admission charge.

The complete schedule of screenings of all films is online at Highlights of this year's Mirthquake line-up include:


• 9 a.m. to noon, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., Silent and Early Sound Comedy Shorts. Manchester Public Library, Carpenter Auditorium, 405 Pine St., Manchester. Free! Extensive line-up of dozens of early comedies on film and DVD starring Buster Keaton, Mickey Rooney, Charley Chase, and "Snookey the Human-zee," among others.
• 7 p.m. 'Exit Smiling' (1926) starring Beatrice Lillie and Jack Pickford. UNH-Manchester third floor auditorium, 400 Commercial St., Manchester. Free! Stage icon Beatrice Lillie, in her only silent film role, stars as a travelling theatre troupe's worst actress who dreams of all she could be if she only had the right opportunities. Jack Pickford co-stars as a runaway bank clerk who joins the troupe as a lead actor. Screened with a Ben Turpin silent comedy short and a Felix the Cat cartoon.


• 9 a.m. to noon, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., Silent and Early Sound Comedy Shorts. Manchester Public Library, Carpenter Auditorium, 405 Pine St., Manchester. Free! Dizzying array of short comedies featuring obscure performers such as Joe Penner, Edgar Dearing, Harry Gribbon, Clark & McCollough, and more.
• 7 p.m., 'Two Arabian Knights' (1927) starring William Boyd and Louis Wolheim. Red River Theatres, 11 S. Main St., Concord; $10 admission. One of Hollywood's original "buddy" movies in which two World War I soldiers escape from a German prison camp, only to find themselves launched on a far-ranging odyssey that takes them to the Mideast. Program includes three early silent film comedies starring Charlie Chaplin and Ford Sterling.


A full day of comedy at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre, Main Street, Wilton, N.H. All films free!
• 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Silent Comedy Shorts starring Lloyd Hamilton, Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle, Al St. John, and others.
• 2 to 4:30 p.m., 'Special Delivery' (1927) starring Eddie Cantor, Jobyna Ralston, and William Powell. Program includes added attraction, 'The Curse of the Jasper B' (1926) starring Rod La Rocque.
• Saturday, Aug. 20, 8 p.m. to whenever, Obscure and Unusual Vintage Film. The Red Barn Diner, 61 Elm St., Manchester, N.H. Free!

Mirthquake is a not-for-profit festival; most screenings are free but donations are accepted. Any proceeds are used to cover expenses of screening the films. For complete details about the 2011 Mirthquake, visit

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