Tuesday, October 9, 2018

You always remember your first time: The comedy calm before the Halloween avalanche

A Swedish poster for Keaton's 'Seven Chances.'

So I'm doing music for Buster Keaton's great comedy 'Seven Chances' (1925) on Wednesday night.

And it's fitting that the comedy includes an avalanche, as it will be followed by an avalanche of Halloween-themed screenings starting this weekend.

But before we can get to 'Nosferatu' and 'Phantom' and 'Hunchback' and 'Faust' (all of which I'm doing before the month is out), we first must see if Buster can find a bride no later than 7 p.m.—today!

It's a first-time screening for the nice folks up in Grantham, N.H., and for this situation I've found 'Seven Chances' is a dependable and crowd-pleasing intro into the world of silent film.

One of the first rules of show biz is to always leave 'em wanting more. And I've yet to encounter an audience that, after experiencing 'Seven Chances,' wants less of Buster.

The screening is free and open to the public. So if you happen to find yourself in Grafton County, N.H. tomorrow night and are looking for something to do, please join us!

Details in the press release below...

* * *

Buster checks the waning moments of his bachelorhood in 'Seven Chances' (1925).

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

Buster Keaton comedy 'Seven Chances' (1925) on Wednesday, Oct. 10 at Center at Eastman

Silent film presentation features classic race-to-the-finish romantic farce with live music

GRANTHAM, 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 clever visual gags, Keaton's films remain popular crowd-pleasers today.

See for yourself with a screening of 'Seven Chances' (1925), one of Keaton's landmark feature films, on Wednesday, Oct. 10 in the Draper Room at the Center at Eastman, 1 Clubhouse Lane, Grantham, N.H.

The program starts at 7:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public. Live music for the movie will be provided by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis.

Adapted from a stage play, the story finds Buster learning that he'll inherit $7 million if he's married by 7 p.m. on his 27th birthday—that very day!

Buster's hurried attempts to tie the knot on his own go awry, but then a newspaper story changes the game, creating an avalanche of would-be brides who relentlessly pursue Buster as he searches for his one true love before the deadline.

Here come the brides...

'Seven Chances' was the first screen adaptation of the now-familiar story, since used in movies ranging from the Three Stooges in 'Brideless Groom' (1947) to Gary Sinyor's 'The Bachelor' (1999), a romantic comedy starring Chris O'Donnell and Renee Zellwinger.

The program will open with a short Keaton comedy as a warm-up to the main feature.

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, including some spectacular examples in 'Seven Chances.'

In reviving Keaton's 'Seven Chances,' organizers of the Music Department's concert series aim to show silent film as it was meant to be seen—in restored prints, on a large screen, with live music, and with an audience.

"All those elements are important parts of the silent film experience," said Rapsis, who will accompany the film. "Recreate those conditions, and classics of early Hollywood such as 'Seven Chances' leap back to life in ways that audiences still find entertaining."

Rapsis performs on a digital synthesizer that reproduces the texture of the full orchestra, creating a traditional "movie score" sound. He improvises the complete score in real time during the screening.

"Creating a movie score on the fly is kind of a high-wire act, but it can often make for more excitement than if everything is planned out in advance," Rapsis said.

Buster Keaton's 'Seven Chances' (1925) will be screened on Wednesday, Oct. 10 in the Draper Room at the Center at Eastman, 1 Clubhouse Lane, Grantham, N.H.

The program starts at 7:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

And now, notes on a curiosity.

This still below from 'Seven Chances'...

...reminded me of this still from 'Wings' (1927)...

Was there a thing in the 1920s for despondent poses, or what?

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