Monday, July 18, 2022

Next up: Buster Keaton's 'The General' on Wednesday, July 20 in Manchester, N.H.

Well, so much for the "one dominant image" school of poster design...

It's the one everyone wants to see!

It's Buster Keaton's 'The General' (1926), the silent film comic's Civil War epic.

I'll create live music for a screening on Wednesday, July 20 at the Rex Theatre, 20 Amherst St. in downtown Manchester, N.H.

Showtime is 7 p.m. Press release is below with all the details. Hope to see you there!

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Buster with his co-star in 'The General' (1926).

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Buster Keaton's 'The General' with live music at Rex Theatre on Wednesday, July 20

Civil War railroading comedy/adventure film lauded as stone-faced comic moviemaker's masterpiece

MANCHESTER, N.H.— He never smiled on camera, earning him the nickname of "the Great Stone Face." But Buster Keaton's comedies rocked Hollywood's silent era with laughter throughout the 1920s.

See for yourself with a screening of 'The General' (1926), one of Keaton's landmark feature films, on Wednesday, July 20 at 7 p.m. at the Rex Theatre, 20 Amherst St., Manchester, N.H.

The screening will feature live music for the movie by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis. General admission is $10 per person.

The show is the latest in the Rex Theatre's silent film series, which gives audiences the opportunity to experience early cinema as it was intended: on the big screen, with live music, and with an audience.

'The General,' set during the U.S. Civil War, tells the story of a southern locomotive engineer (Keaton) whose engine (named 'The General') is hijacked by Northern spies with his girlfriend on board.

Keaton, commandeering another train, races north in pursuit behind enemy lines. Can he rescue his girl? And can he recapture his locomotive and make it back to warn of a coming Northern attack?

Keaton perches on the moving locomotive's cow-catcher. Don't try this at home!

Critics call 'The General' Keaton's masterpiece, praising its authentic period detail, ambitious action and battle sequences, and its overall integration of story, drama, and comedy.

It's also regarded as one of Hollywood's great railroad films, with much of the action occurring on or around moving steam locomotives.

Accompanist Jeff Rapsis will improvise an original musical score for 'The General' live as the movie is shown, as was typically done during the silent film era.

"When the score gets made up on the spot, it creates a special energy that's an important part of the silent film experience," said Rapsis, who uses a digital synthesizer to recreate the texture of a full orchestra for the accompaniment.

Still life with steam locomotive: Buster Keaton in 'The General' (1926).

With the Rex Theatre's screening of 'The General,' audiences will get a chance to experience silent film as it was meant to be seen—in a high quality print, on a large screen, with live music, and with an audience.

"All those elements are important parts of the silent film experience," Rapsis said. "Recreate those conditions, and the classics of early Hollywood leap back to life in ways that can still move audiences today."

Keaton, along with Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, stands today as one of the silent screen's three great clowns. Some critics regard Keaton as the best of all; Roger Ebert wrote in 2002 that "in an extraordinary period from 1920 to 1929, (Keaton) worked without interruption on a series of films that make him, arguably, the greatest actor-director in the history of the movies."

A remarkable pantomime artist, Keaton naturally used his whole body to communicate emotions from sadness to surprise. And in an era with no post-production special effects, Keaton's acrobatic talents enabled him to perform all his own stunts.

Critics review 'The General':

"The most insistently moving picture ever made, its climax is the most stunning visual event ever arranged for a film comedy."
—Walter Kerr, author of 'The Silent Clowns'

"An almost perfect entertainment!"
—Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

"What makes the film so special is the way the timing, audacity and elegant choreography of its sight gags, acrobatics, pratfalls and dramatic incidents is matched by Buster's directorial artistry, his acute observational skills working alongside the physical élan and sweet subtlety of his own performance."
—Time Out (London)

The Keaton films are a great introduction to silent films for modern audiences, accompanist Rapsis said.

"Keaton's comedy is as fresh today as it was a hundred years ago — maybe more so, because his kind of visual humor is a lost art," Rapsis said.

Upcoming silent film screenings at the Rex Theatre include:

• Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022, 7:30 p.m.: 'The Cat and the Canary' (1927) directed by Paul Leni. Perfect for Halloween! Can a group of distant relatives survive the night in a haunted house to learn the secret of a madman's will? Find out in the original Gothic thriller from silent film director Paul Leni.

• Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023, 7:30 p.m.: 'Safety Last' (1923) starring Harold Lloyd. The iconic image of Harold Lloyd dangling from the hands of a downtown clock is just one highlight of a remarkable thrill comedy that has lost none of its power over audiences.

• Wednesday, April 5, 2023, 7:30 p.m.: 'Metropolis' (1927) directed by Fritz Lang. The eye-popping silent film sci-fi masterpiece of German filmmaker Fritz Lang is a vintage look at things to come. Restored version includes nearly a half-hour of lost footage that was rediscovered in Argentina in 2008.

‘The General’ (1926) starring Buster Keaton will be shown with live music on Wednesday, July 20 at 7 p.m. at the Rex Theatre, 20 Amherst St., Manchester, N.H. Admission is $10 per person. For more information and to buy tickets, visit or call (603) 668-5588

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