Monday, August 3, 2015

Coming up on Thursday, Aug. 6:
Chaplin's 'The Kid' in Ogunquit, Maine

A story with a smile, and perhaps a tear—especially if I reinjure my left pinkie.

A recent trip to Cambodia and Vietnam meant several weeks away from the keyboard, and the layoff took its toll.

The day after I returned, I was playing a program at the Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit, Maine, and somehow managed to tear off the skin from the tip of the pinkie on my left hand. Youch!

I've never had this happen before, so I have to believe it was the result of not playing for awhile, and then coming back to it too suddenly.

Whatever the cause, it sure stung! But I made it through the show.

And I thought it had healed in time for a Harold Lloyd double bill I accompanied this past Sunday at the Somerville Theatre, but no—it broke open, forcing me to rethink or change all my usual instincts for playing.

Again, I got through the show, but it was somewhat less than fun!

So for a little while, any upcoming shows will feature more treble than bass as I take time for the pinkie to truly heal up for good. A screening of 'Open All Night' (1924) tomorrow night at the Manchester (N.H.) City Library will be my first experiment with one less finger than usual, so we'll see.

And then it's back to the Leavitt on Thursday, Aug. 6 for a screening of Chaplin's breakthrough feature, 'The Kid' (1921) as well as a few of Chaplin's earlier short comedies.

Say what you want about other silent film comedians—Chaplin's iconic tramp figure has endured as a symbol of the whole art form, and he still draws bigger crowds than any other performer from the era.

And for those of us deep into exploring the odd neglected corners of silent film (where occasionally a gem is discovered, but usually not), it's worth remembering that Chaplin was the "gateway drug" for many silent film people. His films are often the reason people first get interested in the art form.

It was that way with me. I remember the first Chaplin two-reeler I saw: 'One A.M.,' a Mutual two-reeler from 1916. Our junior high music teacher screened it during study hall to give us something to do, and I recall being captivated by the idea that Chaplin was the only person in the movie. (With the exception of Albert Austin as a taxi driver right at the beginning.)

So I'm looking forward to Thursday night, and possibly having some folks get intrigued enough by Chaplin to want to learn more. That's how it starts!

Newbie or oldbie (Is 'oldbie even a word?), I hope to see you on Thursday night out in Ogunquit. More info is in the press release below.

* * *

A still that still works: Chaplin and Coogan watch out for the law, which is watching them.

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Chaplin's 'The Kid' (1921) to screen on Thursday, Aug. 6 at Leavitt Theatre

Landmark silent film comedy/drama to be presented with live music at historic Ogunquit venue

QGUNQUIT, Maine—Silent film with live music returns to the Leavitt Theatre with a screening of Charlie Chaplin's classic comedy/drama 'The Kid' (1921) on Thursday, Aug. 6 at 8 p.m.

The special program, which also includes several of Chaplin's short comedies, with be presented with live music by Jeff Rapsis, one of the nation's leading silent film accompanists. Admission is $10 per person.

Chaplin was already the world's most popular comedian and filmmaker when he produced 'The Kid,' his first feature-length project. The movie, with its daring mix of intense drama and slapstick comedy, proved an instant sensation and marked one of the high points of Chaplin's long career.

'The Kid' follows the story of a tramp (Chaplin) who attempts to raise an orphaned boy on his own. It includes several classic scenes, and is highlighted by a sequence in which Chaplin battles authorities attempting to return the child to an orphanage.

Co-starring with Chaplin in 'The Kid' is five-year-old Jackie Coogan, who turned in what many critics rank as the best child performance of the entire silent film era. Chaplin himself worked closely with the young Coogan for more than a year to develop the youngster's acting abilities.

Coogan went on to a long career that much later included the role of "Uncle Fester" in the popular 1960s Addams Family television show. (That's him on the right.)

The Chaplin program continues another season of silent films presented with live music at the Leavitt. The series provides local audiences the opportunity to experience silent film as it was intended to be shown: on the big screen, in restored prints, with live music, and with an audience.

"If you can put pieces of the experience back together again, it's surprising how these films snap back to life," Rapsis said. "By showing the films under the right conditions, you can really get a sense of why people first fell in love with the movies."

The Leavitt, a summer-only moviehouse, opened in 1923 at the height of the silent film era, and has been showing movies to summertime visitors for nine decades.

The silent film series honors the theater's long service as a moviehouse that has entertained generations of Seacoast residents and visitors, in good times and in bad.

Another iconic image from 'The Kid' (1921).

In creating music for silent films, Rapsis performs on a digital synthesizer that reproduces the texture of the full orchestra and creates a traditional "movie score" sound.

'The Kid' will be preceded by several short Chaplin comedies made earlier in his career that helped establish his worldwide popularity.

Upcoming shows in this year's series include:

• Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015, 8 p.m.: 'Ben Hur' (1925) starring Ramon Navarro. In the Holy Land, a Jewish prince is enslaved by the occupying Romans; inspired by encounters with Jesus, he lives to seek justice. One of the great religious epics of Hollywood's silent film era, including a legendary chariot race that's lost none of its power to thrill.

• Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015, 8 p.m.: 'Silent Comedy with Harry Langdon' Silent comedy featuring the unique style of Harry Langdon, whose innocent baby-faced character rocketed to fame late in the silent era on the strength of films directed by a very young Frank Capra. Rediscover Harry's quiet genius the way it was intended to be seen: on the big screen and with a live audience.

• Saturday, Oct 31, 2015, 8 p.m.: 'The Lodger' (1927). A serial killer is on the loose in fog-bound London. Will the murderer be caught before yet another victim is claimed? Just in time for Halloween, suspenseful British thriller directed by a very young Alfred Hitchcock. The program is subtitled 'Chiller Theater' due to the theater's lack of central heating.

'The Kid' (1921) starring Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks, will be screened with live music on Thurday, Aug. 6 at 8 p.m. at the Leavitt Theater, 259 Main St., Route 1, Ogunquit, Maine. Admission $10. For more information, call (207) 646-3123 or visit

For more info on the music, visit


“Chaplin's first real feature mixes slapstick and sentiment in a winning combination, as the Tramp raises a streetwise orphan. Wonderful film launched Coogan as a major child star, and it's easy to see why.”
– Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide

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