Thursday, May 9, 2019

Warmer weather, a busier silent film schedule:
four days, three screenings, three states

Tonight! 'Sherlock Holmes' (1916) starring William Gillette at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse in Plymouth, N.H.

April showers bring May flowers, and also a fresh bouquet of silent film screenings here in my home area of northern New England.

Consider: after a quiet month, suddenly the calendar is blooming with three separate shows in three states over the next four days.

First up: it's the original (and recently rediscovered) 'Sherlock Holmes' (1916) starring stage actor William Gillette, which I'm accompanying tonight (Thursday, May 9) at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse in Plymouth, N.H.

More details about this screening is found in the press release, which I've pasted in at the bottom of this post.

But then Saturday, May 11 is opening night of another season of silent film screenings in Brandon, Vt.

We'll run Harold Lloyd's great thrill comedy 'Safety Last' (1923) to launch the monthly series, which runs through October. All screenings are at the Brandon Town Hall and Community Center. Showtime is 7 p.m.

Then on Sunday, May 12, it's another big silent comedy, but this time in Massachusetts: Buster Keaton's 'The General' (1926) at the Natick Center of the Arts in Natick, Mass.

Showtime is 4 p.m., and I'm hoping for inclement weather to make a comedy about the Civil War more of an appealing 'Mother's Day' draw. We'll see.

With this weekend, the pace of silent film screenings picks up as we head into summer. I'll keep hopping through Halloween, mostly in my home turf, but with upcoming adventures in San Francisco, Cleveland, Buffalo, and possibly other places.

As the title cards on Johnny Carson's 'Tonight Show' used to say: More to come!

But for now, here's the press release with details about tonight's 'Sherlock Holmes' screening. Hope you'll deduce that it's worth seeing!

* * *

Stage actor William Gillette in the original 'Sherlock Holmes' (1916).

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

It's elementary! Rediscovered 'Sherlock Holmes' movie at Flying Monkey on Thursday, May 9

Original film adaptation, missing for nearly a century, on the big screen with live musical accompaniment

PLYMOUTH, N.H.—The first-ever movie adaptation of 'Sherlock Holmes,' a silent film released in 1916 and recently rediscovered, will screen this month at the Flying Monkey in Plymouth.

The original 'Sherlock Holmes' will be shown with live music on Thursday, May 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center, 39 South Main St., Plymouth, N.H.

General admission is $10 per person.

Like many films from the silent era, the 'Sherlock Holmes' movie was long considered lost until a nearly complete copy was discovered in 2014 at the Cinémathèque Française in Paris.

The film has since been restored, allowing movie-goers to again see the only screen appearance of stage actor William Gillette.

Gillette originated the role of Sherlock Holmes in a popular stage adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's tales of the legendary British detective.

Stage actor William Gillette in 'Sherlock Holmes.'

Gillette performed as the brilliant Holmes more than 1,300 times over three decades, touring the nation and popularizing Conan Doyle's sleuth.

A popular stage actor, Gillette made no other known movie appearances. But his interpretation of the Holmes character laid the groundwork for all actors who would later play the role, including Basil Rathbone and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Set in Victorian-era London, the original 'Sherlock Holmes' is an episodic crime drama that incorporates the plots of several Conan Doyle tales.

Running about 90 minutes, it features all major characters of the Holmes stories, including companion Dr. Watson and nemesis/rival Prof. Moriarty.

It was filmed in 1915 in the Chicago studios of the Essanay Film Co., with exterior shots of the Windy City doubling for Victorian London.

The restoration was premiered several years ago at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

A scene from 'Sherlock Holmes' (1916).

The film will be shown with live musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based performer regarded as one of the nation's leading silent film musicians.

Rapsis improvises live scores for silent films using a digital synthesizer to recreate the texture of the full orchestra.

"It's kind of a high wire act," Rapsis said. "But for me, the energy of live performance is an essential part of the silent film experience."

Upcoming titles in the Flying Monkey's silent film series include:

• Thursday, June 20, 6:30 p.m.: 'Safety Last' (1923) starring Harold Lloyd. The iconic image of comedian Harold Lloyd dangling from the hands of a downtown clock is only one small piece of a remarkable thrill comedy that has lost none of its power over audiences. See it for yourself on the big screen and with an audience.

The original ‘Sherlock Holmes' (1916), starring William Gillette in the title role, will be shown with live music on Thursday, May 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center, 39 South Main St., Plymouth, N.H. General admission is $10; for more info, call (603) 536-2551 or visit

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