Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Coming up: two chances to see 'Wings' (1927)
on the big screen, in a theater, with live music

Warplanes menace the apparently enormous head of Clara Bow in this vintage movie poster.

'Wings' is all about biplanes, so perhaps it's fitting that in the next two weeks, I'll be accompanying two separate screenings in two different states.

Whaddaya know? A pair of 'Wings!'

First up: the Flying Monkey Theatre in Plymouth, N.H. on Thursday, June 11. Then, a week later, it's the Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit, Maine.

Both venues have movie theater roots dating back to the silent era, so it's possible 'Wings' played at either (or both) in its original release.

But if you missed it in 1927, you have two chances to catch it this month. Hope to see you there!

If you'd like more info, below is the press release that went out for the Flying Monkey show this week. I'll update it with the Leavitt's press release info after the Plymouth show.

Keep 'em flying!

An original poster for 'Wings' (1927).

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

Epic silent film 'Wings' (1927) to be shown on Thursday, June 11 at Flying Monkey

Sprawling story of U.S. aviators in World War I won first-ever 'Best Picture'; to be screened with live musical accompaniment

PLYMOUTH, N.H.—Silent film with live music returns to the Flying Monkey with 'Wings' (1927), an epic adventure set in World War I that won 'Best Picture' honors at the very first Academy Awards ceremony. 'Wings' will be revived for one showing only on Thursday, June 11 at 6:30 p.m.

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

'Wings,' a blockbuster hit in its original release, recounts the 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.

The screening of 'Wings' will feature live accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, a New England-based composer who specializes in creating music for silent film presentations. Admission is $10 per person.

Buddy Rogers and Clara Bow in 'Wings' (1927).

'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.

'Wings' is notable as one of the first Hollywood films to take audiences directly into battlefield trenches and vividly depict combat action. Aviation buffs will also enjoy 'Wings' as the film is filled with scenes of vintage aircraft from the early days of flight.

Seen today, the film also allows contemporary audiences a window into the era of World War I, which was underway in Europe a century ago. The U.S. entered the war in 1917.

" 'Wings' is not only a terrific movie, but seeing it on the big screen is also a great chance to appreciate what earlier generations of servicemen and women endured," accompanist Jeff Rapsis said. "It's a war that has faded somewhat 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 detail what it was like to serve one's country a century ago."

Rapsis, a composer who specializes in film music, will create a score for 'Wings' on the spot, improvising the music as the movie unfolds to enhance the on-screen action as well as respond to audience reactions. Rapsis performs 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. "At the time, most films weren't released with sheet music or scores. Studios relied on local musicians to come up with an effective score that was different in every theater. 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 with an 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 Flying Monkey originally opened as 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 range 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.

The Flying Monkey's silent film series will continue in 2015 with these upcoming titles:

• Thursday, July 9, 2015, 6:30 p.m.: 'A Dog Double Feature' spotlighting silent-era canine stars Peter the Great and Rin Tin Tin. In 'The Sign of the Claw,' a police dog helps solve a crime wave. The only surviving film of Peter the Great, a popular German shepherd performer. 'The Night Cry' (1926) finds iconic dog superstar Rin Tin Tin accused of killing sheep. Can he find the real bandit and clear his name?

• Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, 6:30 p.m.: 'Grandma's Boy' (1922) starring Harold Lloyd. A ccowardly young man must learn to conquer his fears before dealing with a larger menace to his community. Riotous small town comedy that helped propel Harold Lloyd into the most popular movie comedian of the 1920s.

‘Wings’ will be shown on Thursday, June 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performing Arts Center, 39 Main St., Plymouth, N.H. Admission $10 per person. For more info, call (603) 536-2551 or visit www.flyingmonkeynh.com.

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