Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Chaplin, Keaton, and maybe von Sternberg...
plus werewolves & topping 200,000 pageviews

Playing for 'The Cameraman' (1928) in an unusual venue: the Arlington Grange Hall in Winchester, N.H.

There's a high-profile festival of silent film going on this week in Pordenone, Italy. (That's "poor-deh-know-nay" for the very few non-native Italian speakers following this blog.)

Held each year in early October, it attracts the best and the brightest silent film restorers, archivists, scholars—and yes, musicians.

I'd like to check it out someday. But until the invitation comes, we'll just continue having our own silent film festival closer to home, with a bunch of great programs coming up that I hope you'll consider attending.

Tranfusion confusion: an injured man receives wolf blood in 'Wolfblood,' with unexpected consequences.

• Tonight (Tuesday, Oct. 6), I'm doing music for a screening of 'Wolfblood' (1925), a low budget lumbercamp melodrama noteworthy as one of the first examples of the "werewolf" theme in cinema. With Halloween coming up, why not? Showtime is 6 p.m. at the Manchester (N.H.) City Library, 405 Pine St. in downtown Manchester, N.H. Admission free, donations encouraged.

• Thursday, Oct. 8 brings 'The Kid' (1921) and Charlie Chaplin short comedies at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center, 39 South Main St., Plymouth, N.H. Co-starring a five-year-old Jackie Coogan, 'The Kid' was Chaplin's breakthrough; a full-length picture that successfully combined comedy and drama. Admission $10 per person.

• Friday, Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. brings a Buster Keaton program at the Arlington Grange Hall, 39 Mechanic St., Winchester, N.H. (Ha! Take that, Pordenone attendees.) Free admission but they're suggesting a donation of $7 per person. Two Keaton comedies, both focusing on movies: 'Sherlock Jr.' (1924) and 'The Cameraman' (1928). Can't get much more meta than that.

• Saturday, Oct. 10 brings a tentative gig at the Brattle Cinema, 40 Brattle St., in Cambridge, Mass. A series about the roots of film noir includes two screenings of Josef von Sternberg's ground-breaking crime drama 'Underworld' (1927) in 35mm at 4 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m. I call it tentative because at at this point, I'm not sure if I'm actually doing accompaniment. As soon as I know yes or no, I'll post an update.

See? Just like Pordenone! Except not in Italy.

After this weekend, we enter the heavy Halloween schedule, which this year features Alfred Hitchcock's early thriller 'The Lodger' (1927) in about a half-dozen different locations around New England.

I haven't scored 'The Lodger' in some time, but it's full of Hitchcock's then-emerging style and a way to get in the right frame of mind for Halloween. I've developed some new musical material to help this title connect, so I'm looking forward to seeing how it evolves over multiple screenings.

But for this week, the focus is on werewolves, comedy, and gangster. If you'd like more info on 'The Kid' this Thursday, I've pasted in the text of the press release below. See you there!

And finally, a tip of the virtual hat to all visitors to this blog, which just topped 200,000 page views.

Blogs are so 2008, I know. But this format seems to work as a way to sometimes get into detail about creating live music for silent film screenings, so I plan to keep it up.

Thanks for visiting and please come again.

* * *

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

Chaplin's 'The Kid' to screen on Thursday, Oct. 8 at Flying Monkey

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

PLYMOUTH, N.H.—Silent film with live music returns to the Flying Monkey with a screening of Charlie Chaplin's classic comedy/drama 'The Kid' (1921) on Thursday, Oct. 8 at 6:30 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.

The Chaplin program continues the monthly series of silent film with live music at the Flying Monkey. 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 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.

But movies of all types 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.

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 silent film series at the Flying Monkey include:

• Thursday, Oct. 22, 6:30 p.m.: 'The Cat and the Canary' (1927). Can a group of strangers survive the night in a haunted house to learn the secret of a madman's will? Find out in the original Gothic thriller from silent film director Paul Leni. Just in time for Halloween, a movie filled with deep shadows, dark secrets, and a surprisingly timeless mix of humor and horror that will keep you guessing.

• Thursday, Nov. 12, 6:30 p.m.: "Really Big Stars: An Elephant Double Feature." A pair silent films starring pachyderms! In 'Soul of the Beast' (1923), Oscar the Elephant accompanies a circus runaway fleeing her mean stepfather, launching a melodramatic plot of love, revenge, and cruelty. In 'Chang' (1927), shot on location in rural Siam (now Thailand), a native family in the back country battles the jungle for survival. Nominated for the Academy Award for Unique and Artistic Production at the first-ever Oscars in 1929.

'The Kid' (1921) starring Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan, will be screened with live music on Thursday, Oct. 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center, 39 South Main St., Plymouth, N.H. Admission $10.

For more info, call (603) 536-2551 or visit www.flyingmonkeynh.com. For more on the music, visit www.jeffrapsis.com.


“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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