Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Thursday, 8/23: 'The General' in Concord, N.H.; Harold Lloyd on Sunday 8/26 in Wilton, N.H., then screenings in Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo

Buster Keaton co-stars with his locomotive in 'The General' (1926), to be shown with live music on Thursday, Aug. 23 in Concord, N.H.

Very excited about a busy slate of screenings between now and Labor Day! The action includes a road trip that takes me to venues in Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo.

But first, we end the local summer season with a pair of spectacular silent comedy screenings close to home.

Here's a run-down on what's coming up.

A somewhat busy, jokey original poster for 'The General.'

Thursday, Aug. 23: Buster Keaton's 'The General' (1926), 7 p.m. at Red River Theatres in Concord, N.H.

Lots of requests for this title, and promises to be a good turn-out due to some last-minute press we expect in the Concord Monitor, the local daily. (Thanks for the interview! You can read the story online here.

Also, some of my relatives from Georgia will be in the area, and plan to attend. So it'll add to the South vs. North atmosphere.

For more details, a press release for the screening is pasted in below.

But first, here's a heads-up about where I'll be doing music for other silent film programs between now and Labor Day.

Harold in 'Never Weaken' (1921), one of the comedies on Sunday's program.

Sunday, Aug. 26: Harold Lloyd Laugh Therapy, 4:30 p.m.; at the Town Hall Theatre, 60 Main St., Wilton, N.H.; (603) 654-3456; Free admission, donation of $5 per person suggested.

Take it from my personal experience: no one is better at inciting an audience to laugh than Harold Lloyd. There's a reason he was THE most popular performer (by ticket sales) in the 1920s, and it was how he made people laugh: out loud, big, and together.

And he still does, which is good, because these days we need laughter more than ever.

So as a public service, we present a selection of Harold Lloyd's best laugh-getting comedies from when he was establishing his popular "glasses" character.

Throw away that Tylenol, and cure yourself the natural way. As Reader's Digest has been telling us for years; Laughter is the Best Medicine.

A rather flowery lobby card for 'When Knighthood Was In Flower' (1922).

Wednesday, Aug. 29: Marion Davies in 'When Knighthood Was In Flower' (1922), 7:30 p.m. at Cinema Detroit, 4126 3rd Ave., Detroit, Mich.; (313) 482-9028; Admission $12 per person.

Marion Davies stars in this big-budget historical costume drama produced and financed by William Randolph Hearst and recently resurrected for screening by silent film accompanist/historian Ben Model. Thanks, Ben! We'll plug the DVD at the show!)

This is the first time I've appeared at Cinema Detroit, billed as the city's independent movie theater and located downtown in a former furniture store! Many thanks to Paula Guthat and her staff for bringing me in and programming silent film with live music.

A is NOT for Apple: original artwork promoting 'The Scarlet Letter' (1926).

Thursday, Aug. 30: 'The Scarlet Letter' (1926) at 7 p.m.; starring Lillian Gish, at the Cleveland Cinematheque at the Cleveland Institute of Art, 11610 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, Ohio; (216) 421-7450. Online: Admission $15.

Splashy MGM adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic tale of old New England, with Lillian Gish in the leading role as Hester Prynne. After having a child out of wedlock, a young Puritan woman is pressured to reveal the name of her lover. Ah, the good old days!

Silent film with live music (plus a Charley Chase short, 'Mighty Like a Moose') at Cleveland's premier venue for great movies. Many thanks to John Ewing and his staff at the Cinematheque for inviting me back, and continuing to program silent film with live music.

A caricature of Eddie Cantor with alarming eye sockets on this promotional lobby card for 'Special Delivery' (1927), a spritely comedy I'll accompany at the Western N.Y. Film Expo.

Friday, Aug. 31 through Sunday, Sept. 2: 'The Western NY Film Expo,' Adams Mark Hotel in downtown Buffalo, N.Y. Four-day successor to Cinefest, annual vintage film festival in Syracuse, N.Y. that ended in 2015.

Screenings include: Friday, Aug. 31: 'Sunshine Dad' (1916) starring DeWolf Hopper and Fay Tincher. Saturday, Sept. 1: 'Sadie Thompson' starring Gloria Swanson, Lionel Barrymore; 'Special Delivery' (1927) starring Eddie Cantor; 'Braveheart' (1925) starring Rod LaRocque; 'Battling Butler' (1926) starring Buster Keaton; 'The Nickel Hopper' (1926) starring Mabel Normand. Sunday, Sept. 2: 'The Coming of Amos' (1925) starring Rod LaRocque; 'The Kid Brother' (1927) starring Harold Lloyd. Plus plenty of short comedies and curiosities!

For more information, admission charges, and a complete schedule, visit

Okay, now to circle back to the beginning (kinda like Buster's 'The General'), here's the press release for tomorrow night's screening at Red River Theatres in Concord, N.H. Hope to see you there!

* * *

Keaton's insistence on period authenticity for 'The General' extended to growing his hair long, common in the Civil War era.

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Buster Keaton's 'The General' with live music at Red River on Thursday, Aug. 23

Civil War railroading adventure film lauded as comic moviemaker's masterpiece

CONCORD, N.H.—He never smiled on camera, earning him the nickname of "the Great Stone Face." But Buster Keaton's comedies rocked Hollywood's silent era with laughter throughout the 1920s.

Acclaimed for their originality and timeless visual humor, Keaton's films remain popular crowd-pleasers today.

See for yourself with a screening of 'The General' (1926), one of Keaton's landmark feature films, on Thursday, Aug. 23 at Red River Theatres, 11 South Main St., Concord, N.H.

Showtime is 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 per person, general admission.

The screening, the latest in Red River's silent film series, will feature live accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based composer who specializes in creating music for silent films.

'The General,' set during the U.S. Civil War, tells the story of a southern locomotive engineer (Keaton) whose engine (named 'The General') is hijacked by Northern spies with his girlfriend onboard.

Keaton, commandeering another train, races north in pursuit behind enemy lines. Can he rescue his girl? And can he recapture his locomotive and make it back to warn of a coming Northern attack?

Critics call 'The General' Keaton's masterpiece, praising its authentic period detail, ambitious action and battle sequences, and its overall integration of story, drama, and comedy.

It's also regarded as one of Hollywood's great railroad films, with much of the action occurring on or around moving steam locomotives.

Accompanist Jeff Rapsis will improvise an original musical score for 'The General' live as the film is shown.

"When the score gets made up on the spot, it creates a special energy that's an important part of the silent film experience," said Rapsis, who uses a digital synthesizer to recreate the texture of a full orchestra for the accompaniment.

With Red River's screening of 'The General,' audiences will get a chance to experience silent film as it was meant to be seen—in a high quality print, on a large screen, with live music, and with an audience.

"All those elements are important parts of the silent film experience," Rapsis said. "Recreate those conditions, and the classics of early Hollywood leap back to life in ways that can still move audiences today."

Rapsis performs on a digital keyboard that reproduces the texture of the full orchestra and creates a traditional "movie score" sound.

Buster on location in Cottage Grove, Ore., during the summer of 1926.

Keaton, along with Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, stands today as one of the silent screen's three great clowns. Some critics regard Keaton as the best of all; Roger Ebert wrote in 2002 that "in an extraordinary period from 1920 to 1929, (Keaton) worked without interruption on a series of films that make him, arguably, the greatest actor-director in the history of the movies."

As a performer, Keaton was uniquely suited to the demands of silent comedy. Born in 1895, he made his stage debut as a toddler, joining his family's knockabout vaudeville act and learning to take falls and do acrobatic stunts at an early age.

A remarkable pantomime artist, Keaton naturally used his whole body to communicate emotions from sadness to surprise. And in an era with no post-production special effects, Keaton's acrobatic talents enabled him to perform all his own stunts.

Critics review 'The General':

"The most insistently moving picture ever made, its climax is the most stunning visual event ever arranged for a film comedy."
—Walter Kerr

"An almost perfect entertainment!"
—Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

"What makes the film so special is the way the timing, audacity and elegant choreography of its sight gags, acrobatics, pratfalls and dramatic incidents is matched by Buster's directorial artistry, his acute observational skills working alongside the physical élan and sweet subtlety of his own performance."
—Time Out (London)

Upcoming titles in Red River's silent film series include:

• Wednesday, Nov. 7: 'Wings' (1927) starring Clara Bow, Buddy Rogers, Richard Arlen. Commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day with a screening of this epic picture about American pilots in World War I. Winner of 'Best Picture' at the first-ever Academy Awards, 'Wings' remains a stunning and timeless drama.

‘The General’ (1926) starring Buster Keaton will be shown with live music on Thursday, Aug. 23 at 7 p.m. at Red River Theatres, 11 South Main St., Concord, N.H. Tickets $12 adults, general admission. For more info, visit or call (603) 224-4600.

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