Tuesday, August 11, 2020

"It's got Joan Crawford in it? Does she play the tramp?" Plus thoughts about Harry Langdon

Can you tell? Guess who plays the clown in this picture.

Silent Comedy Week continues tonight, with a screening of Harry Langdon's 'Tramp Tramp Tramp' (1926) accompanied by live music at the Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H. 

Show time is 7:30 p.m. Admission is $10 per person, which is a difference from the silent films we've run on Sunday afternoons for years. 

On Sunday, the screenings have always been free, just like the Kansas Silent Film Festival, so as to encourage the largest possible attendance, because the audience is an important part of the silent film experience. 

Yes, donations are accepted. But we've always felt that keeping it open to everyone regardless of ability to pay has improved the experience, and also helped us build and audience over time. 

But Silent Comedy Week is intended to help pay the bills at the Town Hall Theatre, which was closed from mid-March to July because of Covid-19, and is now closed again due to a lack of first-run movies to program. 

An independent movie theater isn't a public utility. It won't be there if it's not supported, which is something Hollywood doesn't seem to get now that it's sending all the good stuff directly to streaming.

So Silent Film Comedy Week is a way to keep people coming to the theater, and the $10 admission charge is a way to help the Town Hall Theatre pay its bills, which include utilities. 

Our first night out, we had 39 people attend Buster Keaton's 'The General.' Pretty good for a Monday night! But then again, Keaton's Civil War masterpiece always attracts an audience.

Alas, I forgot to make my joke about the theater charging 'General' admission. Or that the picture was suitable for 'General' audiences. Double har!

Tonight is the real test: Harry Langdon is a name few recognize. And 'Tramp Tramp Tramp' is a title that's not exactly 'When Harry Met Sally.' I get more flashes of interest when I mention that Harry's love interest in the film happens to be a very young Joan Crawford.


It's true! Harry Langdon and...Joan Crawford?!

(Last night, this prompted a woman to ask Town Hall Theatre manager Dennis Markevarich: "It's got Joan Crawford in it? Does she play tramp?")

 It also helps that the creative team behind 'Tramp Tramp Tramp' included a very young Frank Capra, who would soon be promoted to director on Langdon's next picture, 'The Strong Man.'

So you may not be just wild about Harry, but I hope 'Tramp Tramp Tramp' has enough of interest to convince you to come out of your Covid-19 shell and join us for tonight's screening. 

And if you'd like more info, I didn't put out a press release for this specific show, but here's one anyway, just for you, as the Ad Council describes all the things the forest provides in those public service announcements on the radio.

See you tonight! You'll recognize me by the keyboard in front of me. 

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Original promotional art for Harry Langdon's 'Tramp Tramp Tramp.'

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

Silent film comedy 'Tramp Tramp Tramp' on Tuesday, Aug. 11 at Town Hall Theatre

With live music: Harry Langdon, Joan Crawford star in cross-country comedy created by a young Frank Capra

WILTON, N.H.—Relive the golden age of screen comedy with a silent film program, complete with live music, on Tuesday, Aug. 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H.

Featured attraction is 'Tramp Tramp Tramp' (1926), a full-length comedy starring Harry Langdon and written by a very young Frank Capra, who would later direct the classic Christmas film 'It's a Wonderful Life.'

Joan Crawford, at the very beginning of her career, co-stars with Langdon, a comedian whose popularity rivaled that of Charlie Chaplin for a brief period in the 1920s.

Admission is $10 per person, with proceeds to support the Town Hall Theatre during its temporary closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Live music will be provided by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based silent film accompanist who performs regularly at screenings around the nation.

In 'Tramp Tramp Tramp,' Langdon plays a young man determined to rescue the family shoe business from a much larger manufacturer.

To win money, he enters a cross-country walking race, but things get complicated when be develops a hopeless crash on the daughter of the rival factory's owner, whom he only knows through her picture on billboards.

Can Harry beat the odds, win the race, get the girl, and save the family business?

'Tramp Tramp Tramp,' filmed outdoors and on location, takes viewers on a cross-country journey that pits Harry again competitors, convicts, police officers, and even Mother Nature.

Langdon, a vaudeville performer and late-comer to silent film comedy, rocketed to sudden stardom in the late 1920s on the strength of 'Tramp Tramp Tramp' and other popular movies.

His character was that of an innocent child-like man constantly bewildered by the complexity of modern life.

Unlike many comedians of the era, Langdon earned laughs not by overreacting, but instead by his extreme slowness to respond.

"It was a whole different way of doing comedy at the time, and was a breath of fresh air in the frenetic world of film comedy," said Jeff Rapsis, who will perform a live score to the movie during the screening.

Langdon's popularity fizzled as the movie business abruptly switched to talkies in the late 1920s, but he remains of interest to film buffs today.

Seeing 'Tramp Tramp Tramp' at the Town Hall Theatre will give local audiences a chance to experience silent film as it was meant to be seen—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 improvises a movie's musical score live during the screening.

"Recreate those conditions, and the classics of early Hollywood leap back to life in ways that can still move audiences today," he said.

Rapsis performs on a digital keyboard that reproduces the texture of the full orchestra and creates a traditional "movie score" sound.

The silent film series honors the Town Hall Theatre's long service as a cinema for generations of movie-goers.

'Tramp Tramp Tramp' (1926), a silent film comedy starring Harry Langdon and Joan Crawford, will be shown with live music on Tuesday, Aug. 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H. Tickets $10 per person. For more info, call (603) 654-3456 or visit www.wiltontownhalltheatre.com.

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