Saturday, June 14, 2014

Silent screen animal magnetism:
'Rin Tin Tin' in Wilton, N.H. on Sunday, June 15

Rin Tin Tin is accused of killing sheep in 'The Night Cry' (1926).

I'm in the midst of a four-day silent film accompaniment mini-marathon, with screenings each day in four different locations.

The climax comes on Sunday, June 15, when we launch our 'All-Star Animal Summer Silent Film Extravaganza' at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre.

This three-month series of pictures starring animals open with a pair of crackerjack Rin Tin Tin features: 'Where the North Begins' (1923) and 'The Night Cry' (1926).

These are great films for audience reaction. I've just looked at 'The Night Cry,' which I wasn't familiar with, and you can see why these films were so popular.

So I encourage everyone to attend, with one caution.

Many of these pictures (including the two we're showing on Sunday) contain scenes of violence, gun play, and more. So parents with very young or sensitive children should be aware.

I think most kids (and adults, too) who might be bothered by such things should be fine if they're told in advance, and if they're reminded it's only a movie.

More info about the series and the Rin Tin Tin films is below.

Tonight I make the trek to Brandon, Vt., where we're doing a program of Harold Lloyd films.

And then it's back to New Hampshire, where I'm hiking up Mount Monadnock on Sunday prior to the animal films in Wilton. I figger that'll help get me in the mood.

* * *

Rin Tin Tin in a quiet moment on set with frequent co-star June Marlowe.

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Wilton (N.H.) Town Hall Theatre to run classic animal movie series this summer

Opening program on Sunday, June 15 features
'Rin Tin Tin' double feature with live music

WILTON, N.H. — They couldn't speak, but that was no handicap in the silent film era.

They were the great animal stars of early Hollywood: amazing dogs, horses, and monkeys who became as popular as any human performer when the movies were young.

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 from June through August and encompasses a total of 13 silent feature films with animals of all types in the lead roles.

The series launches on Sunday, June 15 with a double feature of action films starring Rin Tin Tin, the German Shepherd who became the most popular animal star of the silent film era.

Often known as "Rinty," the dog starred in more than a dozen feature films in the 1920s, playing a large part in building the Warner Bros. studio into the powerhouse that it remains today.

'Where the North Begins' (1923), Rinty's first starring vehicle, finds our canine hero raised by a pack of wolves, befriending a fur trapper, and accused of killing a baby before all is made right.

In 'The Night Cry' (1926), a giant condor is killing sheep and Rinty is unjustly accused. Can he clear his name and save the farm at the same time?

"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 June 15 opening and all subsequent screenings will be performed by Jeff Rapsis of Bedford, N.H., one of the nation's leading silent film accompanists.

All shows will be free and open to the public, with a suggested donation of $5 per person to help defray expenses.

Besides well-known stars such as Rin Tin Tin, 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 star 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," Rapsis 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 films will be shown during June, July, and August. Upcoming programs include:

• Sunday, June 29, 4:30 p.m.: 'Ride with Rex the Wonder Horse.' Two action-packed equine adventures starring Rex the Wonder Horse. In 'Wild Beauty' (1926), 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.

• 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" begins with a double feature of movies featuring canine superstar Rin Tin Tin on Sunday, June 15 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 For more info on the music, visit

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