Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Animal series continues on Sunday, June 29
with 'Rex the Wonder Horse' in Wilton, N.H.

Any show involving animals is bound to contain surprises. And our 'Rex the Wonder Horse' double feature will be no exception.

The program, set for Sunday, June 29 at 4:30 p.m. at the Wilton (N.H.) Town Hall Theatre, won't consist solely of horsing around.

No indeed—we have time for a few extra added attractions, as both features are pretty compact. So there's room for a few cinematic treats that I hope audiences will find worthwhile.

Speaking of audiences: our part of the world (New England) has been in the grip of a stretch of absolutely beautiful weather: day after day of sunny skies, warm air, and low humidity. It's like California without—well, California!

And from the forecast, it looks as if this great run will continue at least through the weekend.

Ordinarily, beautiful weather would cut into attendance. But around here, the weather has been just so gosh-darned nice that by showtime next Sunday, people might be coming down with the opposite of cabin fever.

I don't know if such a condition exists. But if it does, I would be the first to prescribe an afternoon in a darkened theater as just the place to recuperate from this overdose of terrific weather.

If you'd like more info about the show, Rex the Wonder Horse, or this summer's "All-Star Animal Summer Silent Film Extravaganza," the text of the press release is pasted in below.

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Rex the Wonder Horse and master of multiple media platforms, too.

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Wilton (N.H.) Town Hall Theatre
continues classic animal film series

Next program on Sunday, June 29 features 'Rex the Wonder Horse' double feature, live music

WILTON, N.H. — Rex the Wonder Horse gallops across the silver screen once again in the next installment of the Wilton Town Hall Theatre's summer series of films starring animals.

On Sunday, June 29 at 4:30 p.m., the amazing horse appears in two action-packed equine adventures. In 'Wild Beauty' (1927), Rex plays an untamed horse used by the villains (humans, of course) to foil a high-stakes derby, with unexpected results. In 'The Devil Horse' (1926), Rex aids pioneers on the Great Plains in battling a fierce tribe of Native Americans.

The double feature is free and open to the public. A donation of $5 per person is suggested to help defray costs.

See for yourself this summer how animal stars helped establish the popularity of motion pictures with the Wilton Town Hall Theatre's summer-long retrospective of the great non-human performers of early cinema.

Dubbed "The All-Star Animal Summer Silent Film Extravaganza," the series runs through August and encompasses a total of 13 silent feature films with animals of all types in the lead roles.

"These animal pictures were hugely popular during the silent era, and it's easy to see why," said Dennis Markaverich, owner/operator at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre. "They're full of action and adventure, and it's going to be a real thrill to see them back on the big screen this summer."

Live music for the screenings will be performed by Jeff Rapsis of Bedford, N.H., one of the nation's leading silent film accompanists.

Spotlighted in the June 29 program, Rex the Wonder Horse (also known as "King of the Horses" during his long career) was a 16 hands (64 in; 1.63 m) Morgan stallion who starred in films and film serials in the 1920s and '30s.

His trainer was Jack "Swede" Lindell, who found him in a boys' school in Golden, Colo. He discovered that Rex had the unusual behavior of trying to bite a whip when it was cracked. Lindell encouraged this and would often stand behind the camera to get a dramatic shot on film. Lindell never left Rex alone on set unless he was locked in his own trailer.

Besides well-known stars such as Rex the Wonder Horse, the series will include the work of more obscure performers such as Thunder the Dog, Strongheart (another German Shepherd), and the only surviving film featuring pachyderm Oscar the Elephant. Other pictures feature monkeys, lions, and even dinosaurs.

"At their heart, these pictures capitalized on people's love of animals to produce great entertainment," Markaverich said. "They still work, and really do come to life when shown in a theater with live music and an audience. Also, because of the passage of time, they're perhaps even more interesting today than they were when first released."

The series runs now through August. Upcoming programs include:

• Sunday, July 6, 4:30 p.m.: 'Lions & Dinosaurs Double Feature.' Two classic animal-centric features from the silent era, both inspired by British literature. 'Tarzan and the Golden Lion' (1927), an early screen adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, finds Tarzan adopting an orphaned lion cub, with unexpected results. And Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's epic 'The Lost World' (1925), about an expedition to a plateau still inhabited pre-historic creatures, paved the way for all dinosaur pictures to come.

• Sunday, July 20, 4:30 p.m.: 'A Dynamic Doggie Duo.' Explore the action-packed work of two popular canine stars from Hollywood's silent era. 'Phantom of the Forest' (1926) finds Thunder the Dog in California's wild Redwood country, where he thwarts a crook planning to steal oil-rich land from its owner and saves a baby from a forest fire. In 'The Return of Boston Blackie' (1927), Strongheart the German Shepherd plays sidekick to the famous jewel thief, freshly out of jail and trying to turn over a new leaf.

• Sunday, Aug. 17, 4:30 p.m.: 'A Pair of Pachyderms in Big Roles.' A double feature of films with elephants! 'Soul of the Beast' (1923) stars Oscar the Elephant, who accompanies a circus runaway fleeing a mean stepfather. In 'Chang' (1927), shot on location in rural Siam (now Thailand), a native family in the back country battles the jungle for survival. Chang was nominated for the Academy Award for Unique and Artistic Production at the first Academy Awards in 1929, the only year when that award was presented.

• Sunday, Aug. 31, 4:30 p.m.: 'A Triple Feature Finale.' His Master's Voice' (1925) finds Thunder the Dog helping human co-star George Hackathorne overcome his cowardice on the battlefield; in 'The Return of the Grey Wolf' (1923), Leader the Dog comes to the aid of his master, a fur trapper blinded in an accident; and in 'Guardians of the Wild' (1928), Rex the Wonder Horse returns to help the good guys fight the bad guys over the fate of a pristine patch of wilderness that he calls home.

The "All-Star Animal Summer Silent Film Extravaganza" continues with a double feature of movies featuring equine superstar Rex the Wonder Horse on Sunday, June 29 at 4:30 p.m at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H. Admission is free, with a donation of $5 per person suggested to help defray expenses.

For more info, call (603) 654-3456 or visit www.wiltontownhalltheatre.com. For more info on the music, visit www.jeffrapsis.com.

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