Saturday, June 9, 2012

'Metropolis' mows 'em down in Ogunquit,
but will 'Wings' wow 'em in Plymouth?

About 60 people turned out for last night's screening of 'Metropolis' (1927), which went really well overall: good energy, good response. The highlight for me, however, was the theater itself: the Leavitt Theatre of Ogunquit, Maine opened as a summer-only moviehouse in 1923, and hasn't really changed ever since. (Other than updated projection and sound.)

It's a marvelous place to screen silent film with live music, I think, and I have to tip my hat to Peter and Maureen Clayton, who've run the facility for nearly the past 40 years. They're part of a vanishing breed of local theater of owner/operators that could be facing the final fade-out, what with all the changes in the recent movie business.

So, to give you an idea of what the Leavitt looks like as it gears up for its brief 2012 summer season, a few snapshots of the place prior to 'Metropolis.'

Above, Peter Clayton dons his jacket to man the ticket booth prior to the screening. Like all owner/operators, Clayton does it all: earlier, he spent most of the day working on installing vinyl siding on the building's immense north side, which is about the size of a soccer field turned on end.

The Leavitt's exterior, seen from Route 1. The complete lack of parking is only clue that the facility dates from another era.

Peter Clayton, ever the showman, managed to score a theatrical poster for 'Metropolis' on eBay, which was put to good use in the theater's timeless oversized standing sidewalk sandwich board.

A close-up of the handwritten sign above the box office. With my name on it! Big time.

And finally, a full view of the ticket booth, which is almost comically small, perched in front of the Leavitt's entrance lobby.

What better venue to show yesterday's vision of tomorrow than yesterday's version of a moviehouse? And so we did, and what was nice was that prior to the screening, I asked how many people had never been inside the Leavitt before. Almost everyone raised his or her hand! So it felt good to have introduced people not only to one of the great silent films, but also a terrific theater!

As for the music, it really did fall together in a way that surprised even me! I just was in the zone right from the start. I've done the film several times already this year, so I'm sure that helped. At the end, I was treated to a standing ovation by a handful of attendees, but I'll take whatever I can get!

Next up is 'Wings' (1927) in Plymouth, N.H. in a screening that coincides with Flag Day. Here's the press release:

Charles 'Buddy' Rogers, Clara Bow, and Richard Arlen in a scene from 'Wings' (1927), the silent World War I drama that won Best Picture at the first-ever Academy Awards.

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

WWI epic film 'Wings' (1927) to be shown Thursday, June 14

First-ever 'Best Picture' to be screened with live music at Flying Monkey in Plymouth. N.H.

PLYMOUTH, N.H.—Silent film with live music returns to the Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center in Plymouth, N.H. on Thursday, June 14, bringing to life classic films made before Hollywood learned to talk. 'Wings' (1927), a World War I epic that won 'Best Picture' honors at the very first Academy Awards, will be revived for one showing only on Thursday, June 14 in honor of Flag Day.

The film, a blockbuster hit in its original release, recounts adventures of U.S. pilots flying combat missions behind enemy lines at the height of World War I in Europe. 'Wings' stunned audiences with its aerial dogfight footage, vivid and realistic battle scenes, and dramatic love-triangle plot.

'Wings' stars Clara Bow, Charles 'Buddy' Rogers, and Richard Arlen. The rarely-seen film also marked one of the first screen appearances of Gary Cooper, who plays a supporting role. Directed by William Wellman, 'Wings' was lauded by critics for its gripping story, superb photography, and technical innovations.

In honor of Flag Day, 'Wings' will be screened with live music on Thursday, June 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center, 39 South Main St., Plymouth, N.H. Admission is $10 per person. For more information, call (603) 536-2551 or visit

"Seeing 'Wings' on the big screen is a great chance for everyone to appreciate what our servicemen and women endured in World War I," said Jeff Rapsis, who will perform original music to accompany the film. "It's a war that has faded from our collective consciousness, but it defined life in the United States for a big chunk of the 20th century. This film captures how World War I affected the nation, and also shows in graphic detail what it was like to serve one's country a century ago."

Aviation buffs will also enjoy 'Wings' as the film is loaded with scenes of vintage aircraft from the early days of flight.

The Flying Monkey, recently restored by new owner Alex Ray, began showing silent film with live music in 2010 as a regular part of its offerings. This summer's schedule includes 'Wings' (1927) on Flag Day, Thursday, June 14; the romantic comedy 'It' (1927) starring Clara Bow on Thursday, July 12; and Buster Keaton's uproarious comedy 'The Cameraman' (1928) on Thursday, Aug. 9.

The screenings allow audiences to experience silent film artistry in the way its makers originally intended: on the big screen, with live music, and with an audience.

Rapsis, a New Hampshire composer who specializes in film music, will create the score for 'Wings' on the spot, making up the music as the movie unfolds to enhance the action on the screen as well respond to audience reactions. He will perform the music on a digital synthesizer, which is capable of producing a wide range of theatre organ and orchestral textures.

"Live music was an integral part of the silent film experience," Rapsis said. "But most films at the time weren't released with sheet music or scores. Studios left it up to local musicians to come up with an effective score on short notice. The results could vary, but at its best this approach created an energy and a connection that added a great deal to a film's impact. That's what I try to recreate," Rapsis said.

'Wings' is about 2½ hours long and will be shown without intermission. The film is a family-friendly drama but not suitable for very young children due to its length and intense wartime battle scenes. The public is welcome—especially all veterans!

'Wings' will be screened on Thursday, June 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center, 39 South Main St., Plymouth, N.H. Admission is $10 per person. For more information, call (603) 536-2551 or visit

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