Monday, February 4, 2013

Warm up for Valentine's Day
with Valentino at the Flying Monkey

Rudolph Valentino and his amazing hat in 'The Eagle,' screening on Thursday, Feb. 7 in Plymouth, N.H.

Wow! February! How'd that happen?

Some very cool screenings coming up in the next few weeks, including three first-time films for me: 'Love' (1927) at the Manchester (N.H.) City Library on Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 6 p.m.; 'The Eagle' (1925) at the Flying Monkey in Plymouth (N.H.) on Thursday, Feb. 7 at 6:30 p.m., and then (and now for something completely different), 'Aelita, Queen of Mars' (1924) at Wellesley College on Sunday, Feb. 10 at 3 p.m.

Not really much time to get into detail about these, but all the crucial info (where, when, how much) can be found by clicking 'Upcoming Silent Film Screenings' to the right.

In the meantime, here's the press release for 'The Eagle' at the Flying Monkey later this week. It's a great picture and an excellent way to begin warming things up for Valentine's Day, hence the suggested headline.

* * *

Vilma Banky and Rudolph Valentino get to know one another a little better.

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Warm up for Valentine's Day with Valentino at the Flying Monkey

'The Eagle' (1925), starring silent film icon Rudolph Valentino, to screen on Thursday, Feb. 7 with live music

PLYMOUTH, N.H.—He was the cinema’s first sex symbol, causing hordes of female moviegoers to flock to his pictures throughout the 1920s. He starred in films designed to show off his Latin looks, his smoldering eyes, and his dancer’s body. And his untimely death in 1926 prompted mob scenes at his funeral.

He was Rudolph Valentino, who remains an icon for on-screen passion long after he caused a sensation in the 1920s.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, one of Valentino’s most acclaimed films will be screened with live music on Thursday, Feb. 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center, 39 South Main St., Plymouth, N.H. ‘The Eagle’ (1925), a racy story set in Czarist Russia, proved one of his most popular features and marked a peak in his brief career.

Based on the novel Dubrovsky by Alexander Pushkin, ‘The Eagle’ casts Valentino as a lieutenant and expert horseman in the Russian army who catches the eye of Czarina Catherine II. After he rejects her advances and flees, she puts out a warrant for his arrest, dead or alive. When he learns that his father has been persecuted and killed in his hometown, he dons a black mask and becomes an outlaw, finding unexpected romance along the way.

The screening of ‘The Eagle’ will be accompanied by live music by local composer Jeff Rapsis. Admission is $10 per person.

An Italian immigrant who arrived penniless at Ellis Island in 1913, Valentino rose to superstar status in a series of silent pictures that enflamed the passions of female movie-goers from coast to coast and around the world. But he was more than a pretty face—during his career, critics praised Valentino as a versatile actor capable of playing a variety of roles; his achievements included popularizing the Argentinian tango in the 1921 drama ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.’

‘The Eagle’ was Valentino’s next-to-last film, released the year before his unexpected death at age 31 from complications from peritonitis. Valentino's death in August 1926 occurred at the height of his career, inspiring mourning across the globe and a day-long mob scene at the actor’s New York City funeral.

But Valentino's brief stardom was defined by roles that brought a new level of exotic sexuality to the movies, causing a sensation at the time. In theaters, women openly swooned over Valentino’s on-screen image, especially in pictures such as ‘The Eagle,’ which featured foreign locales and elaborate costumes. At its peak, Valentino's popularity was so immense that it inspired a backlash among many male movie-goers, who decried Valentino’s elegant image and mannerisms as effeminate.

Valentino’s sudden death fueled his status as a legendary romantic icon of the cinema. For years, a mysterious woman dressed in black would visit his grave at the Hollywood Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, leaving only a single red rose.

Valentino was aware of his effect on audiences, saying that “Women are not in love with me, but with the picture of me on the screen. I am merely the canvas upon which the women paint their dreams.”

‘The Eagle’ is the latest in a series of monthly silent film screenings at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center. The series aims to recreate the lost magic of early cinema by bringing together the elements needed for silent film to be seen at its best: superior films in best available prints; projection on the big screen; live musical accompaniment; and a live audience.

“These films are still exciting experiences if you can show them as they were designed to be screened,” said Rapsis, the accompanist for the screenings. “There’s a reason people first fell in love with the movies, and we hope to recreate that spirit. At their best, silent films were communal experiences in which the presence of a large audience intensifies everyone’s reactions.”

Vilma Banky and Valentino in another variation on the theme...

The Flying Monkey originally opened a silent film moviehouse in the 1920s, and showed first-run Hollywood films to generations of area residents until closing several years ago. The theater has since been renovated by Alex Ray, owner of the Common Man restaurants, who created a performance space that hosts a wide variety of music acts.

Movies of all types, however, are still a big part of the Flying Monkey's offerings, and the silent film series is a way for the theater to remain connected to its roots.

Live music is a key element of each silent film screening, Rapsis said. Silent movies were never shown in silence, but were accompanied by live music made right in each theater. Most films were not released with official scores, so it was up to local musicians to provide the soundtrack, which could vary greatly from theater to theater.

"Because there's no set soundtrack for most silent films, musicians are free to create new music as they see fit, even today," Rapsis said. "In bringing a film to life, I try to create original 'movie score' music that sounds like what you might expect in a theater today, which helps bridge the gap between today's audiences and silent films that are in some cases nearly 100 years old."

For each film, Rapsis improvises a music score using original themes he creates beforehand. None of the the music is written down; instead, the score evolves in real time based on audience reaction and the overall mood as the movie is screened.

‘The Eagle’ will be shown on Thursday, Feb. 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center, 39 South Main St., Plymouth, N.H. General admission $10 per person. For more info, visit or call (603) 536-2551.

Other upcoming features in the Flying Monkey's silent film series include:

• Thursday, March 21, 2013, 6:30 p.m.: 'The Ten Commandments' (1923). Long before he directed Charlton Heston as Moses, filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille's original silent version wowed audiences the world over. The film that showed Hollywood how to tell stories from scripture on a grand scale, and a great way to celebrate Easter!

• Thursday, April 11, 2013, 6:30 p.m.: 'Dr. Jack' (1922), starring Harold Lloyd. A sparkling comedy starring Harold Lloyd as a country doctor with unorthodox methods that get results! But now comes his toughest case yet: a poor little rich girl (Mildred Davis), bed-ridden with a mysterious condition. Harold's cure is sure to make you smile!

• Thursday, May 9, 2013, 6:30 p.m.: 'Spies' (1928). Director Fritz Lang's tale of espionage was the forerunner of all movie spy sagas, packed with double agents, hi-tech gadgets, beautiful (and dangerous) women, and an evil genius with a plan to take over the world, mwah-ha-ha-ha! A terrificly paced film that set the stage for James Bond and beyond.

• Thursday, June 13, 2013, 6:30 p.m.: 'The Gaucho' (1927) starring Douglas Fairbanks Sr. The leader of a band of outlaws in Argentina must help save a religious shrine from being taken over and closed by a corrupt general. Entertaining action-adventure film widely regarded as Fairbanks' darkest role; made at the height of his 1920s stardom.

The next installment in the Flying Monkey's silent film series will be ‘The Eagle’ (1925), to be screened with live music by Jeff Rapsis on Thursday, Feb. 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center, 39 South Main St., Plymouth, N.H. Tickets are $10 per person. For more information, call (603) 536-2551 or visit For more information about the music, visit

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