Thursday, August 11, 2022

Six days, five screenings, three states: a busy stretch of silent film accompaniment beckons

I guess if you're going to show a silent film to open a new festival, 'Sherlock Jr.' (1924) is a better choice than most.

Well, at least I get Monday off. 

Starting tomorrow (Friday, Aug. 12), I embark on a mini-marathon of silent film accompaniment that will take me to five venues in three states, including three former town halls.

All in a week's work of actively practicing the craft of creating live music for silent film screenings. The way I do it—mostly improv and without significant advance preparation—means iteration is most important.

Thus do I traipse about the landscape of my native northern New England, and sometimes farther afield, to maintain the fluency needed to perform at what I consider an acceptable level. 

I'm not a naturally gifted performer. So I have to work at it, which I'm willing to do, when opportunities present themselves.

The next opportunity comes tomorrow afternoon, where I am, improbably, the opening act in the first annual Manchester (N.H.) International Film Festival. I get to say a few words, and then do music for Buster Keaton's 'Sherlock Jr.' (1924) for my home city's most recent attempt to cultivate a cinema culture. 

Then it's Valentino's 'Blood and Sand' (1922) on Saturday, Aug. 13 in Brandon, Vt.; Marion Davies in 'Beverly of Graustark' (1926) on Sunday, Aug. 14 in Wilton, N.H.; Buster again in 'Steamboat Bill Jr.' (1928) on Tuesday, Aug. 16 in Alton, N.H.; and then 'Blood and Sand' again on Wednesday, Aug. 17 in Ogunquit, Maine.

If you're Somewhere North of Boston (capitalized because it's the name of another local film festival that is no longer active), please join me for one or two or all. 

I didn't do a separate press release for the Manchester International Film Festival, but here's a link to all the action.

Below, I'm pasting in the release for 'Blood and Sand' on Saturday night up in Brandon, Vt., which also works for the screening on Wednesday, Aug. 17 in Ogunquit, Maine except it's at the Leavitt Theatre and admission is $12 per person.

See you in a darkened theater—at least before the lights go down...

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Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Valentino's bullfighting epic  'Blood and Sand' to screen at Brandon Town Hall

Top-grossing silent film to be shown with live music on Saturday, Aug. 13 to celebrate 100th anniversary of box office hit

BRANDON, Vt.—It's an intense romantic drama that helped catapult actor Rudolph Valentino to worldwide fame.

It's 'Blood and Sand' (1922), a bullfighting epic to be screened on Saturday, Aug. 8 at 7 p.m. at the Brandon Town Hall and Community Center, 1 Conant Square, Route 7 in Brandon, Vt.

Admission is free; donations are welcome to help support ongoing Town Hall renovation efforts.

The classic drama will be shown with live music by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based performer and composer who specializes in scoring and presenting silent films.

The No. 3 box office hit of 1922, 'Blood and Sand' combined exotic Spanish locales with Valentino's iconic performance as a bullfighter.

The film tells the story of Juan Gallardo (Valentino), a village boy born into poverty who grows up to become one of Spain's greatest matadors.

Gallardo marries a friend from his childhood, the beautiful and virtuous Carmen. But after achieving fame and fortune, he finds himself drawn to Doña Sol (Naldi), a wealthy, seductive widow.

They embark on a torrid affair. But then Gallardo, feeling guilty over his betrayal of Carmen, tries to free himself of Doña Sol.

Gallardo's troubles spill over to the bullfighting arena, where he becomes reckless.

Can he cope with the gravest challenges of his young life—both in romance, and in the arena?

The movie's immense popularity helped establish Valentino as one of the megastars of the silent film era.

Directed for Paramount Pictures by Fred Niblo, the cast includes leading ladies Lila Lee as Carmen and Nita Naldi as Doña Sol.

'Blood and Sand' was based on the 1909 Spanish novel "Sangre y arena" (Blood and Sand) by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez and the play version of the book by Thomas Cushing.

Unusual for Hollywood at the time, women played key roles in the production of 'Blood and Sand.'

The story was adapted by June Mathis, the screenwriter credited with first recognizing Valentino's appeal, and edited by future director Dorothy Arzner.

The film inspired the 'Blood and Sand' cocktail, a Prohibition-era mixed drink.

The screening is part of the Brandon Town Hall's ongoing silent film series.

"Putting 'Blood and Sand' back on the big screen is a great way to celebrate this classic movie's 100th anniversary," said Rapsis, the silent film accompanist who creates live music for all screenings.

The screening of 'Blood and Sand' is sponsored by Edward Loedding and Dorothy Leysath, the Hanson Family in memory of Pat Hanson, and Sally Wood.

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

• Saturday, Sept. 10, 7 p.m.: 'The Flying Ace' (1926), rare example of movies produced for black-only theaters in segregated parts of the nation; added to the National Film Registry in 2021. Sponsored by Nancy and Gary Meffe.

• Saturday, Oct. 22, 7 p.m.: 'Nosferatu' (1922) Just in time for Halloween! Celebrate the 100th anniversary of F.W. Murnau's original adaptation of Bram Stoker's 'Dracula' story. Sponsored by Bar Harbor Bank and Trust.

• Saturday, Nov. 19, 7 p.m.: 'Her Sister from Paris' (1925) starring Constance Talmadge, Ronald Colman. The scene: Europe. The cast: Rich people. Effervescent battle-of-the-sexes comedy. Sponsored by Harold & Jean Somerset.

"These are the films that set the standard for Hollywood, and still retain their power to entertain, especially when shown in a theater with live music and an audience," Rapsis said.

'Blood and Sand' starring Rudolph Valentino will be screened with live music on Saturday, Aug. 13 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.

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