Coming up next: can Harold Lloyd make it to the church on time?
Find out by joining us for 'Girl Shy' (1924), his spectacular race-to-the-finish romantic comedy, screening (with live music by me) on Saturday, June 19 in Brandon, Vt. More details in the press release below.
Update from the present: this past week saw no less than three post-pandemic milestones.
Last Saturday saw the return of silent films to Brandon with a screening of 'The Mark of Zorro' (1920) originally scheduled for May 2020 to honor the film's centenary but postponed until now.
Then on Sunday, we launched a summertime series of silent Westerns at the Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H., which was also dark last year at this time due to the pandemic.
The double feature included a real rarity, 'The Lady of the Dugout' (1918), an Al Jennings "I used to be an outlaw" drama that more than held the screen.
Then we ran William S. Hart's 'Hell's Hinges' (also 1918), which left everyone stunned. People can't believe how intense an early feature can be, but 'Hinges' is all of that and more.
And then Wednesday marked the restart of silent films at the historic Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit, Maine, where we ran Chaplin's 'The Kid' (1921) to an appreciative crowd.
(Also on Wednesday, I had a nice phone conversation with Mike Gebert of www.nitrateville.com, which will be turned into an upcoming podcast. Thanks Mike, and stay tuned!)
All three of the screenings had the snap and crackle of silent films that were really connecting with a contemporary audience. You can tell.
Maybe there's a real hunger for any kind of shared experience now that the pandemic is subsiding.
Well, for whatever reason, all three programs were successful. Perhaps it was most gratifying to hear audience comments after 'Hell's Hinges,' which served as a good reminder of how strong a film's impact can be to first-time viewers.
I think it's important to keep this in mind: even though a film may be a century old and I've seen it many times, it's still brand new to most people today.
Well, if you haven't seen Harold Lloyd's 'Girl Shy' (1924), then you're in for a treat. Get thee to Brandon, Vt. next Saturday. And it looks good for us getting an audience, as the screening was featured in this week's 'Seven Days,' the weekly arts paper based in Burlington.
To wet your whistle, here's the press release with more info:
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MONDAY, JUNE 7, 2021 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • firstname.lastname@example.org
First-ever rom-com! Harold Lloyd comedy 'Girl Shy' at Brandon Town Hall on Saturday, 6/19
Live music to accompany uproarious silent film classic; to be shown on big screen using restored edition
BRANDON, Vt.—It's a candidate for Hollywood's first-ever "rom-com": a silent film comedy that inadvertently pioneered an enduring cinematic genre.
It's 'Girl Shy,' a frenetic, kinetic, get-me-to-the-church-on-time Harold Lloyd silent comedy classic, to be screened on Saturday, June 19 at 7 p.m. at Brandon Town Hall, 1 Conant Square, Route 7, Brandon, Vt.
Admission is free; donations are encouraged, with all proceeds supporting ongoing restoration of the Town Hall.
A live musical score for the movie will be performed by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based silent film accompanist. The screening is sponsored by local residents Peter and Louise Kelley, and Harold and Jean Somerset.
Harold's dilemma prompts a climactic race to the altar that stands as one of the great chases in all of cinema. The sequence was so successful that MGM used it as a model for the famous chariot race in the original silent film version of 'Ben Hur' (1925).
The film is bursting with visual comedy typical of the silent era, but the romantic storyline was strong enough to act as a counterweight, creating a new hybrid genre now known as the romantic comedy, or "rom-com."
Co-starring in 'Girl Shy' is actress Jobyna Ralston, who often played Lloyd's leading lady, including in later Lloyd masterpieces 'The Freshman' (1925) and 'The Kid Brother' (1927).
'Girl Shy,' directed by Lloyd's colleagues Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor, was among the 10 top-grossing films of 1924.
Harold Lloyd, along with Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, stands today as one of the three masters of silent comedy. Throughout the 1920s, Lloyd's films enjoyed immense popularity, ranking regularly among the highest-grossing of the era.
"Seeing a Harold Lloyd film in a theater with live music and an audience is one of the great experiences of the cinema of any era," said Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based silent film musician and the Town Hall's resident accompanist.
Rapsis emphasized the value of seeing early cinema as it was originally intended to be shown.
"These films were designed for the big screen, live music, and large audiences. If you can put those conditions together again, you get a sense of why people first fell in love with the movies," Rapsis said.
It's the 10th year of the Brandon's popular silent film series, which gives residents and visitors a chance to see great movies from the pioneering days of cinema as they were meant to be shown—on the big screen, with an audience, and accompanied by live music.
Upcoming programs include:
• Saturday, July 17, 7 p.m.: Planes, Trains and Monty Banks. Rediscover forgotten silent comedian Monty Banks, born "Mario Bianchi" in Italy and who emigrated to America to become a popular 1920s Hollywood star; sponsored by Peter and Louise Kelley, Heritage Family Credit Union, John and Lynn Wilson.
• Saturday, Aug. 7, 7 p.m.: 'Wild Orchids' (1928) starring Greta Garbo. Steamy romantic thriller just in time for the humid doldrums of summer; sponsored by Tracy Holden and Kirk Thomas.
• Saturday, Sept. 18, 7 p.m.: 'Tramp, Tramp, Tramp' (1926) starring Harry Langdon. Rediscover forgotten comedian Harry Langdon in riotous visual comedy about a cross-country foot race; sponsored by Bill and Kathy Mathis in memory of Maxine Thurston.
• Saturday, Oct. 23, 7 p.m.: 'Hunchback of Notre Dame' (1923) starring Lon Chaney. Victor Hugo's classic novel about a deformed bellringer in medieval Paris, filled with classic scenes and capped with a thrilling climax; sponsored by Harold and Jean Somerset, Kathy and Wayne Rausenberger, Pat Hanson, and Brian and Stephanie Jerome.
• Saturday, Nov. 13, 7 p.m.: 'College' (1927) starring Buster Keaton. Head back to school with Buster, a bumbling freshman who discovers sports is the only sure-fire route to popularity; sponsored by Lucy and Dick Rouse, Edward Loedding and Dorothy Leysath, Sam and Sharon Glaser, Peter and Louise Kelley, Bar Harbor Bank and Trust.
'Girl Shy' starring Harold Lloyd will be screened with live music on Saturday, June 19 at 7 p.m. at the Brandon Town Hall and Community Center, Route 7, in Brandon, Vt. All are welcome to this family-friendly event. Admission is free, with free will donations accepted in support of ongoing Town Hall renovations.
For more information and the latest updates on Covid-19 safety protocols at the Town Hall, visit www.brandontownhall.com.