Friday, June 11, 2021

Emerging from the pandemic: 'Girl Shy' starring Harold Lloyd on Saturday, 6/19 in Brandon, Vt.

Harold Lloyd is shy around girls in the aptly named 'Girl Shy' (1924).

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:

*   *   *

Harold Lloyd and friends, both human and furry, in 'Girl Shy' (1924).

MONDAY, JUNE 7, 2021 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

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.

'Girl Shy' (1924) stars Harold Lloyd as a timid young man from a small town who pens a book about imaginary female conquests. Trouble begins when bashful Harold falls in love for real, and then must rescue his beloved from marrying the wrong man in the big city.

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.

Though Lloyd's reputation later faded due to unavailability of his movies, the recent re-release of most of his major films on DVD and other media has spurred a reawakening of interest in his work and has led to more screenings of his work in moviehouses, where it was designed to be shown.

"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.

Harold plays rough in the silent romantic comedy 'Girl Shy' (1924).
 

Friday, June 4, 2021

Back in Brandon, Vt. (finally!) with 'Zorro' on Saturday, June 5—and with new seats!

An original promotional poster for 'The Mark of Zorro' (1920). Can you tell who's the star?

Cue music. One year later...

This weekend not only marks the return of Zorro to the big screen, but the return of silent films with live music at Brandon Town Hall in Brandon, Vt.

Yes, we're running the pioneering 1920 action/adventure flick 'The Mark of Zorro' (with music by me) on Saturday, June 5 at Brandon Town Hall. 

Showtime is 7 p.m. More info is available in the press release pasted in below. 

The film was supposed to be the opening night attraction of last year's silent film series, when our intention was to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Zorro's original release.

But a year ago, the pandemic had caused the world to come down with a prolonged case of "silent filmus interruptus," so the screening (and the entire 2020 season) never happened.

Well, now we'll try again. And the return of silent film to Brandon Town Hall is not only a welcome development, it's apparently big news.

Check out this feature on the town's silent film series that aired recently on WCAX-TV out of Burlington, Vt.

One newsworthy aspect of this year's season that didn't make the TV segment is...new chairs!

Yes, the Town Hall is sporting nice new seats for this season, which I'm sure are at least a little more comfortable that the metal folder chairs used previously.

Thanks to everyone at the town hall for all the efforts to keep things going during the past year's prolonged intermission. It'll be great to be back. 

Although Covid-19 is loosening its grip, precautions will still be taken to minimize the risk of those still vulnerable. 

I know they're setting up the new seats in small groups instead of rows to help people keep their distance. Not sure about other things but just want people to be aware.

Here's the press release for 'The Mark of Zorro,' and hope to see you for a full season of silent cinema in Brandon, Vt.!

*  *  *

Douglas Fairbanks Sr. (left) makes with the swordplay in 'The Mark of Zorro' (1920). 

MONDAY, MAY 17, 2021 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For more info, contact: Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Brandon Town Hall silent film series reboots with 'Zorro' on Saturday, June 5 

Swashbuckling adventure classic starring Douglas Fairbanks to be screened with live music

BRANDON, Vt.— It was the original swashbuckling blockbuster—the film that first brought 'Zorro' to the big screen, and also turned actor Douglas Fairbanks into Hollywood's first-ever action hero.

'The Mark of Zorro' (1920) will once again fill the silver screen, accompanied by live music, on Saturday, June 5 at 7 p.m. at the Brandon Town Hall and Community Center on Main Street in Brandon, Vt.

The screening — the first in this year's Brandon Town Hall silent film series — will feature live accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based composer who specializes in creating scores for silent films.

Admission is free and open to the public. Donations are gladly accepted, with all proceeds to support ongoing town hall renovations.

The Brandon Town Hall will follow all Covid-19 safety recommendations. Face coverings will be required, social distancing will be followed, and capacity limits will be observed.

For more details on safety precautions, visit www.brandontownhall.com.

'The Mark of Zorro,' a major hit when first released, tells the story of young Don Diego Vega, the son of a wealthy ranch owner in Spanish California of the early 19th century.

Witnessing the mistreatment of the poor by rich landowners and the oppressive colonial government, Don Diego assumes the identity of "SeƱor Zorro," a masked figure of great cunning and skill, and vows to bring justice to the region.
 
The film stars Douglas Fairbanks Sr., who until 'Zorro' had focused on playing traditional all-American leading roles in romantic comedies.

The success of 'Zorro' launched Fairbanks on a series of historical adventure films that went on to rank among the most popular spectacles of the silent era, including 'The Three Musketeers' (1921) and 'Robin Hood' (1922).

The original 'Zorro' film was so popular it inspired one of Hollywood's first big-budget sequels, 'Don Q, Son of Zorro' (1925), also starring Fairbanks.

Critics have praised 'The Mark of Zorro' for its tight story, fast pace, and exciting action sequences, which include many stunts performed by Fairbanks himself. Steven D. Greydanus of the Decent Films Guide wrote that the silent Zorro "...contains some of the most jaw-dropping stunts I’ve ever seen this side of Jackie Chan."

Film writer Leonard Maltin described 'Zorro' as a "silent classic with Fairbanks as the masked hero...perhaps Doug's best film...nonstop fun!"

This genre-defining swashbuckler was the first movie version of the Zorro legend. The story has since been remade and adapted many times, most recently in 1998 as 'The Mask of Zorro' starring Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas.

'The Mark of Zorro' was the first film released by the newly formed United Artists studio, formed in 1920 by Fairbanks with fellow silent film superstars Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, and director D.W. Griffith.

The silent version of 'Zorro' also played a key role in the formation of the DC Comics Batman character; in the original 1939 story, a young Bruce Wayne sees 'Zorro' on the same night that his parents are later murdered, which leads him to adopt Zorro's mask and cape as a basis for his own transformation into 'Batman.'

The screening of 'Zorro' is sponsored by local residents Gary and Nancy Meffe.

The screening will be accompanied by improvisation-based musical score created live by New Hampshire silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis. Rapsis achieves a traditional "movie score" sound for silent film screenings by using a digital synthesizer to reproduce the texture of the full orchestra.

Originally set to open in May, this year's silent film series is now starting June for the 2021 season after being cancelled entirely last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The May start was pushed back one month out of an abundance of caution regarding Covid-19, said Dennis Marden of Brandon Town Hall.

The opening presentation of 'The Mark of Zorro' (1920) has been moved to Saturday, June 5, while the June screening of Harold Lloyd's classic comedy 'Girl Shy' (1924) is now on Saturday, June 19.

It's the 10th year of the town hall'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.

"It's a real treat to return to Brandon for another season of great silent film," said accompanist Rapsis. "If you've never seen one of these movies in a theater, take a chance and check it out. You might be surprised."

Other films in this year's Brandon Town Hall silent film series include:

• Saturday, June 19, 7 p.m.: 'Girl Shy' (1924) starring Harold Lloyd. Celebrate spring with the original rom-com, a Harold Lloyd gem starring one of the masters of silent comedy and featuring an unforgettable race-to-the-church finish; sponsored by Peter and Louise Kelley, Harold and Jean Somerset.

• 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.

See Douglas Fairbanks in the groundbreaking action/adventure 'The Mark of Zorro' (1920), to be shown on Saturday, June 5 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. For more about the music, visit www.jeffrapsis.com.