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 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). 

For more info, contact: Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

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

'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 "Señor 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 For more about the music, visit

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