Saturday, November 9, 2019

Tonight: Harold Lloyd way up on that building and me way up in Maine paper mill country

The paper mill in Rumford, Maine.

If you happen to be in the vicinity of Rumford, Maine tonight, then come join us for a screening of 'Safety Last' (1923).

Rumford, home of the biggest paper mill I've ever seen, is just up the road from Dixfield, Maine, home of the Tuscan Opera House, site of tonight's show.

It's not the first time the Tuscan Opera House has served the community as a makeshift cinema.

Years ago, before television, the grand multi-story structure doubled as the town's moviehouse, showing features and newsreels to keep backwoods Maine connected to the world.

But that was then. The movies stopped a long time ago, and for many years the place was a restaurant.

In more recent years, I've come there do silent film programs with live music.

This has been at the behest of Dirigo High School teacher Kurt Rowley and his students, who hold an annual silent film night to raise funds for the local historical society.

Tonight's show is Harold Lloyd's great comedy 'Safety Last,' which is best seen with an audience.

So a good time will be had by all, including you, if you're within shouting distance of Rumford, Maine. So get in the car. It's only an eight-hour drive from New York!

Here's the press release with more info:

* * *

Harold Lloyd in 'Safety Last' (1923).

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Silent film classic 'Safety Last' on Saturday, Nov. 9 at Tuscan Opera House

Thrill comedy climaxed by Harold Lloyd's iconic building climb; with live music

DIXFIELD, Maine—It's an image so powerful, people who've never seen the movie still instantly recognize it.

The vision of Harold Lloyd hanging from the hands of a huge clock, from the climax of his silent comedy 'Safety Last,' (1923), has emerged as a symbol of the "anything goes" spirit of early Hollywood and the magic of the movies.

See how Harold gets into his high-altitude predicament in a screening of 'Safety Last,' one of Lloyd's most popular comedies, on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. at the Tuscan Opera House, 11 Main St., Dixfield, Maine.

The program, organized by Dirigo High School students as a fund-raiser for the local historical society, is open to the public. Admission is $10 per person.

The screening will feature live music by New Hampshire-based silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis, a New England based composer who specializes in creating music for silent film presentations.

The show will allow audiences to experience silent film the way its makers originally intended: on the big screen, with live music, and with an audience.

The story of 'Safety Last' follows young go-getter Lloyd to the big city, where he hopes to make his mark in business and send for his small town sweetheart. His career at a downtown department store stalls, however, until he gets a chance to pitch a surefire publicity idea—hire a human fly to climb the building's exterior.

However, when the human fly has a last-minute run-in with the law, Harold is forced to make the climb himself, floor by floor, with his sweetheart looking on. The result is an extended sequence blending comedy and terror that holds viewers spellbound.

Lloyd, along with Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, is regarded as one of the silent screen's three great clowns. Lloyd's character, a young go-getter ready to struggle to win the day, proved hugely popular in the 1920s. While Chaplin and Keaton were always favored by the critics, Lloyd's films reigned as the top-grossing comedies throughout the period.

The screening in the historic Tuscan Opera House gives today's audiences the chance to experience early cinema as it was intended: on the big screen, with live music, and with an audience.

The Tuscan Opera House dates from 1905, when it replaced an earlier hall that burned in 1901. The building's first two floors housed a movie theater for many years until the advent of television in the 1950s. It later housed the Opera House Restaurant and now hosts occasional shows and programs.

"Put the whole experience back together, and you can see why people first fell in love with the movies," said Rapsis, who practices the nearly lost art of silent film accompaniment.

Rapsis performs on a digital synthesizer that reproduces the texture of the full orchestra, creating a traditional "movie score" sound.

"Seeing 'Safety Last' with an audience is one of the great thrill rides of the cinema of any era, silent or sound," Rapsis said. "Harold's iconic building climb, filmed without trick photography, continues to provoke audience responses nearly 100 years after film was first released."

Harold Lloyd in 'Safety Last' (1923).

Tributes to the clock-hanging scene have appeared in several contemporary films, most recently in Martin Scorsese's 'Hugo' (2011), which includes clips from 'Safety Last.'

See Harold Lloyd's iconic thrill comedy 'Safety Last' (1923) on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. at the Tuscan Opera House, 11 Main St., Dixfield, Maine.

Admission is $10 per person; tickets and concessions will be available at the door.

For more information and advance tickets, please contact Dirigo High School teacher Kurt Rowley at (207) 680-0113.


"Impossible to watch without undergoing visitations of vertigo, Safety Last's climactic sequence is all it's reputed to be.”
—TV Guide

"Harold Lloyd manages to make the characters sympathetic enough to carry the audience's concern on his journey of crazy stunts and mishaps. One of the best of this era."
—David Parkinson, Empire Magazine

"The climb has both comic and dramatic weight because it is both a thrilling exercise in physical humor and a thematically rich evocation of the pressures men feel to succeed, lest they be viewed as less than a man."
—James Kendrick, Q Network Film Desk

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