Friday, August 5, 2011

'Steamboat Bill Jr.' on Aug. 7: Ain't no secret!

Really looking forward to this weekend's screening of Buster Keaton's 'Steamboat Bill Jr.' (1928) on Sunday, Aug. 7 at the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square in Somerville, Mass. It's one of the great silent comedy features, and we're showing it in 35mm along with two Keaton shorts, also in 35mm: 'The High Sign' (1921) and 'Cops' (1922). Admission is $12 adults, $8 students/seniors.

One thing that's been on my mind as I prepare music for this show is that we hope to pull enough of an audience for the monthly series of silent films there to continue, and in the past few days we've lucked out with some good press, both mainstream and in what I fondly think of as the "film nerd" blogosphere. (I include this effort in that category.)

First, yesterday (Thursday, Aug. 4) I was the subject of an interview posted on "From Out of the Past," a highly regarded blog about vintage cinema that's maintained by a very knowledgeable film buff in the Boston area. She did a great job and I very much appreciated the questions as well as the chance to explain a little about what I try to do. Here's a direct link to the interview.

Then, this morning I found that our screening was included in this weekend's picks by Boston Globe movie critic Ty Burr, as posted on I'm especially thrilled that he described me using the word "estimable," which I've never been called before. I can't wait to go home and look it up. :) In meantime, you can check out the estimable Ty Burr's post.

Finally, Boston radio station WBUR-FM 90.9 (one of the city's two public radio stations) this afternoon broadcast an 11-minute piece about me and film music as part of their "Radio Boston" program. The segment turned out wonderfully, I thought, and I was amazed at how they could edit me into coherence without any seams showing. The whole interview, in the form of a Web page and link to the sound file, is here.

For me, the unexpected thrill about this (besides how easy it was to park in downtown Boston) was that the interview was conducted mid-day this past Wednesday, and it so happens that's exactly the time that National Public Radio's weekly 'Car Talk' program is taped in the same studios. So, when heading down to the parking garage to get some more of my gear, who should I run into in the elevator but Tom Magliozzi, one of the two Click and Clack brothers!

Tom (he's on the left) was heading to the same garage where I was parked, so we had a nice chat. (He's kind of looking like the Commander in the old "Schweppes" ads lately.) At the time, I didn't have have the presence of mind to link cars and silent film, but then he didn't want to talk shop and was probably more interested in getting away from this lunatic anyway and going on his way. Then, going up, the doors opened to find his younger brother Ray standing there waiting to go down, and so I got to speak to him as well. When I mentioned I'm a silent film accompanist, his response was "Hey, silent films are coming back!" Nice! I'll take all the encouragement I can get.

Even if I didn't recognize the brothers by sight, all doubt would have been removed when either one of them opened their mouths. In fact, it was hearing Tom's unmistakable cackle down the hall that made me first realize he was, well, down the hall. I already knew what they looked like, so it wasn't a case of "Hey, you look different than I imagined you on the radio." But the one thing that struck me was how small they both appeared in person compared to what I would have expected. Really -- they were both shorter than me, and I'm 5-foot-8, and that made them seem tiny.

So I guess radio magnifies size. Either that, or enjoying their program over the years had me expecting larger-than-life characters. Maybe there is a silent film connection, in that this is related to what Gloria Swanson's character said in 'Sunset Boulevard' when told she used to be big. "I am big," she replied. "It's the pictures that got small."

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