Saturday, September 20, 2014

Swinging with Tarzan on Thursday, Sept. 18
at the Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit, Maine

Wow! My name in lights at the Leavitt Theatre.

When you accompany a silent film, it's important to suppress your ego. It's not about the music, after all, but about supporting the film.

After a show, one of the most-prized compliments I can get is that people forgot I was there, playing live. Good stuff!

But I have to say, it was really gratifying to see my name in lights (or at least on the changeable marquee sign) this week at the Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit, Maine.

As it was for a Tarzan program, I figured it was only appropriate to clamber out the second-floor window and onto the roof to pose with the sign.

Thanks to theater owner Peter Clayton for snapping the pic, and for letting his theater be hijacked for a silent film series all summer long.

The Claytons, who've owned and run the theater since the 1970s, go all out to promote any program at their summer-only theater. Check out this hand-made poster for the Tarzan show, which Peter's wife Maureen colored using magic markers:

I like being described as a "live accompanist," as opposed to the other kind.

And I was pleased to hear Peter tell me that a copy of one of the posters we made up for the Tarzan show (see below) was given to none other than former U.S. Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who found the connection to Joseph P. Kennedy (who produced the film) to be of more than passing interest.

Seeing as the weather is beginning to turn around here, and we're well past the high summer tourism season for Ogunquit, we had a respectable turnout for the showing: about 40 people.

In remarks prior to the show, I encouraged audience members to help out when Tarzan launches into his mighty on-screen jungle yell. Several times, people did!

Two titles made up the program: 'Tarzan of the Apes' (1918), starring Elmo Lincoln in the lead role, and 'Tarzan and the Golden Lion' (1927) with one-time Tarzan James H. Pierce as the ape man.

I actually went with the later film first because I think it's much closer to what a contemporary audience would expect from a Tarzan film.

The story rockets right along from one event to another in fine 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' style. (Or is it the other way around?)

Despite the poor visual quality of existing materials, 'Golden Lion' roused the audience enough to win applause for Tarzan's leap over an underground chasm, on his way to saving a leading lady from a central role in a human sacrifice ritual.

The earlier Tarzan film—the first adaptation ever made—is much more primitive, and so I felt wasn't the best way to open an evening of silent cinema for an audience not familiar with the genre.

Still, it's filled with scenes of Elmo Lincoln (the original movie Tarzan) doing his iconic yell, and I'm pleased to report our audience did its part to fill in. Who says silent film isn't a collaborative experience?

By the way, am I the only one who thinks Elmo Lincoln looks more than a little like Jay Leno? All he needs is one of those 1980s sweatbands, and the resemblance is uncanny.

While the Claytons always promote their shows, I try to do my part, too. So, prior to last night's program, I handed over a stack of posters for the Leavitt's next silent film program:

The "Chiller Theatre" theme, by the way, isn't just a marketing concept. The summer-only theater doesn't have any central heating.

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