Monday, January 27, 2020

Dinner with a movie, N.H.-style: pot luck supper and silent film on Feb. 8 in Campton

The Town Hall Theatre really IS in Wilton's Town Hall.

First, an update from the present: Great screening of Harold Lloyd's 'Girl Shy' (1924) yesterday at Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H.

About 100 people went along for the wild ride as Harold raced to get to the church on time, and response was phenomenal!

So it was a great way to kick off our 13th year of monthly silent film programs at this terrific venue, named New England's best movie theatre by none other than Yankee Magazine.

As a silent film accompanist, in the next two months I will be privileged to ply my trade in such glamorous locations as Utica, N.Y., Topeka, Kansas, and Columbus Ohio.

But for me, humble Wilton, N.H. will always be considered home base.

So as we start another year, many thanks go out to the theatre's owner-operator Dennis Markevarich, a genuine movie-lover, for allowing this series to continue and flourish!

Looking ahead: if the Town Hall Theatre sounds quirky, then how about a gig that's become one of my favorites: the annual pot-luck-and-silent-movie-screening organized by the Campton (N.H.) Historical Society.

Talk about dinner and a movie, New Hampshire style!

Arrive at the quaint white clapboard Campton Town Hall at about 5 p.m., and you'll find people bringing in steamer trays of pasta, various meatloafs, potato dishes, heaping bowls of salad, and so much more.

We all sit cafeteria-style at long tables in a back room, with everyone trying hard to leave room for the smorgasbord of desserts that are always on hand.

And after all that, we waddle out to the main hall for a silent film program that's free and open to the public.

It's not the largest building, so the place is always packed. The historical society is actually closed from December to April, so this is a big mid-winter gathering that everyone attends.

And with the N.H. Presidential Primary coming just a few days later (on Tuesday, Feb. 11), heck, maybe this year Amy Klobuchar will drop by!

If you think you'll be hungry on Saturday, Feb. 8 (for food or silent film, or both), consider joining in the fun. More details in the press release below:

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Harry Langdon over a barrel, or several barrels, in 'The Strong Man.' (1926).

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

See Frank Capra's first-ever film at Campton Historical Society on Saturday, Feb. 8

Harry Langdon's classic silent comedy 'The Strong Man,' directed by a very young Capra, to be shown with live music, plus pot luck dinner!

CAMPTON, N.H. — It's dinner with a movie, New Hampshire style: a pot luck dinner followed by a silent film program.

Silent film with live music returns to the big screen at the Campton Historical Society next month with a showing of an uproarious comedy starring Harry Langdon.

The screening, on Saturday, Feb. 8, will feature Langdon's classic picture 'The Strong Man' (1926).

The event, which is free and open to all, takes place at Campton Town Hall, Route 175, Campton, N.H.

It starts with a pot luck dinner at 5 p.m., with the film program to begin at 6 p.m.

Those attending the pot luck dinner are asked to bring one of the following: soup, bread, salad, main dish, dessert or beverage.

Live music for the silent film program will be provided by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis.

Helming 'The Strong Man' was young first-time director Frank Capra (at right), who would later go on to create such Hollywood classics as 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' (1939) and 'It's a Wonderful Life' (1946).

'The Strong Man' tells the story of a World War I soldier (Langdon) who, following his discharge, finds work as assistant to a circus strong man. As the act travels the United States, Langdon hopes to find a girl he corresponded with while stationed overseas in the military.

The search leads to a town controlled by Prohibition-era gangsters, which forces Harry to test the limits of his own inner strength even as he looks for his beloved. Can Happy triumph over the bad guys? And is love more powerful than brute strength?

The feature-length film showcases the unique child-like personality of Langdon, a comedian who is largely forgotten today. For a brief time in the 1920s, however, he rivaled Charlie Chaplin as Hollywood's top movie clown.

Langdon's popularity, which grew quickly in the last years of the silent era, fizzled as the movie business abruptly switched to talkies starting in 1929.

'The Strong Man,' a family-friendly comedy, was was selected in 2007 for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

In recent years, 'The Strong Man' has been recognized as a major achievement of the silent film era—a satisfying and timeless balance of emotion and comedy.

"A little tragedy and a lot of laughs can be seen in 1926's The Strong Man," wrote critic Richard von Busack in 2007. "Director Frank Capra's energy and sturdy plot sense counterpoint Langdon's wonderful strangeness."

Original promotional art for 'The Strong Man.'

'The Strong Man' will be accompanied by live music by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based silent film accompanist who performs at venues across the region and beyond.

"These films were created to be shown on the big screen as a sort of communal experience," Rapsis said. "With an audience and live music, they still come to life in the way their makers intended them to.

"So the Campton Historical Society's program is a great chance for people to experience films that first caused people to first fall in love with the movies," he said.

In creating music for silent films, Rapsis performs on a digital synthesizer that reproduces the texture of the full orchestra and creates a traditional "movie score" sound.

'The Strong Man' (1926) will be screened with live music on Saturday, Feb. 8 at at Campton Town Hall, Route 175, Campton, N.H. The program, which is free and open to all, starts with a pot luck dinner at 5 p.m., followed by the film program at 6 p.m.

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