Monday, January 6, 2020

Dialing up Keaton's 'Seven Chances' on 1/19
for the New Hampshire Telephone Museum

Buster Keaton checks the time in 'Seven Chances (1925).

Later this month, it'll be my pleasure to bring silent film with live music to a brand new venue for me—the New Hampshire Telephone Museum!

Yes, New Hampshire has a telephone museum. And yes, we're screening a telephonic silent film program on Sunday, Jan. 19.

Actually, the screening will take place in nearby Warner (N.H.) Town Hall, as the museum itself (also in Warner) isn't quite the set up to hold a screening.

On the program: Buster Keaton's great comedy 'Seven Chances' (1925), in which the telephone plays a key role in the plot, and which includes scenes of vintage switchboards and phone booths.

Also: Harold Lloyd's phone-heavy short comedy 'Number, Please' (1920).

If reading this has made you realize there is such as thing as a New Hampshire Telephone Museum—well, then we've accomplished our goal already.

Located at 1 Depot Street, the Telephone Museum ("Where History Talks!") is worth a visit. Check them out online at

And our screening? It's Sunday, Jan. 19 at 2 p.m. at Warner Town Hall. More info in the press release below. Hope to see you at the movies!

* * *

A Swedish poster for 'Seven Chances' (1925).

Contact: Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Buster Keaton comedy 'Seven Chances' (1925) on Sunday, Jan. 19 at Warner Town Hall

Silent film presentation by New Hampshire Telephone Museum features classic race-to-the-finish romantic farce with live music

WARNER, 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 Sunday, Jan. 19 at the Warner Town Hall, 5 East Main St., Warner, N.H.

The program starts at 2 p.m. and is open to the public. Admission is $10 per person; $5 for N.H. Telephone Museum members.

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.

Buster surrounded by brides-a-plenty in 'Seven Chances' (1925).

'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.

"Also, a missed telephone call plays a key role in the plot, so 'Seven Chances' was of interest to the Telephone Musuem," Rapsis said. "It also had several scenes showing vintage telephone switchboards and phone booths that were common in that era."

The program also includes 'Number, Please' (1920), a telephone-themed short comedy starring Harold Lloyd.

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,' the Telephone Museum aims to present silent film as it was meant to be seen—using 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 Sunday, Jan. 19 at 2 p.m. at the Warner Town Hall, 5 East Main St., Warner, N.H.

The program is presented by the New Hampshire Telephone Museum and is open to the public. Admission is $10 per person; $5 for N.H. Telephone Museum members. For more information, call the museum at (603) 456-2234.

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