Saturday, August 6, 2022

Up to Vermont to score Keaton's 'Battling Butler,' but first a note of thanks to Guitar Center

Buster in training: a scene from Battling Butler (1926).

Today it's up to Brandon, Vt. for a screening of Buster Keaton's 'Battling Butler' (1926).

But first, a note of thanks to the staff at the Guitar Center in North Attleboro, Mass.

I wasn't planning a visit there yesterday until I was about a half-hour from Newport, R.I. 

That was when I realized (during a raging electrical storm dumping pellet-sized hail) that I did not have the two Roland speakers I use for venues without house sound. 

And the Jane Pickens Theatre in Newport, R.I., where I was to accompany Harold Lloyd's 'Safety Last' (1923) at 7 p.m., does not have house sound.

What to do? I figured there had to be a Guitar Center somewhere (they've become kind of like a public utility) and there was, but in North Attleboro, Mass.—not exactly on my way, but beggars can't be choosers.

So I set a course for North Attleboro, then called the venue, saying I was running late but would try to make the start time of 7 p.m.

To my great relief, Guitar Center fixed me up with a powered speaker. And then the fastest way to Newport was a big loop around Providence and over the Claiborne Pell suspension bridge—the longest in New England.

The way I drove to get there on time—well, 'Safety Last' could not have been a more appropriate title. 

So I pulled up to the theater at 6:55 p.m. and get the parking space right in front (a minor miracle), and then see the marquee promoting SAFETY LAST 7:30 P.M.

Well, better early than later. But there would not have been a show at all without Guitar Center renting me a speaker, which turned out to be perfect for the job. 

One weird note: loading out after the show, a ghost tour in progress in a park across the street. They were excited about something, which turned out to be a rabbit that had unexpectedly turned up.

A ghost tour and bunny wrangling on the streets of Newport, R.I.

I'll take that as a sign of good luck, as the drive home was uneventful—no electrical storms, anyway.

Now it's up to Brandon, Vt., for 'Battling Butler,' Buster's boxing comedy. The bell rings at 7 p.m. (NOT 7:30 p.m.) See you there! Press release with more info is below.

*      *      *

Buster geared up for pugilism in 'Battling Butler.'

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Buster Keaton's 'Battling Butler' at Brandon Town Hall on Saturday, Aug. 6

Silent film program postponed from July 23 due to excessive heat; film to be screened with live musical accompaniment

BRANDON, Vt.—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.

Acclaimed for their originality, clever visual gags, and amazing stunts, Keaton's films remain popular crowd-pleasers today.

See for yourself with a screening of 'Battling Butler' (1926), one of Keaton's landmark feature films, on Saturday, Aug. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Brandon Town Hall and Community Center, 1 Conant Square, Route 7 in Brandon, Vt.

The program was originally planned for Saturday, July 23, but was postponed to Saturday, Aug. 6 due to excessive heat.

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

Live music for the 'Battling Butler' and a companion Keaton feature, 'Sherlock Jr.' (1924) will be provided by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based performer and composer who specializes in scoring and presenting silent films.

'Battling Butler' tells the story of pampered millionaire Alfred Butler (Keaton) who tries to impress the girl of his dreams (Sally O'Neil) by pretending to be a championship boxer with the same name.

The masquerade leads to knockout comedy both in and outside the ring, giving Keaton ample opportunity to display his gifts for physical and visual comedy.

In the 1920s, boxing rivaled baseball as the nation's most popular sport. Neighborhoods, communities, and ethnic groups all rooted for their favorite fighters, and heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey ranked as an international celebrity.

Because of this, boxing stories were popular with early movie audiences as well.

"As an elemental contest between two opponents, boxing inspired early filmmakers to do some great work," Rapsis said. "It's a visual sport that doesn't require a lot of dialogue or commentary to understand, and so was perfect for silent movies."

Keaton, along with Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, stands as one of the silent screen's three great clowns.

Many 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." But while making films, Keaton never thought he was an artist, but an entertainer trying to use the then-new art of motion pictures to tell stories and create laughter.

All those talents are on display in 'Battling Butler,' which holds the distinction of being the top-grossing title of Keaton's silent features.

The program will open with another Keaton comedy, 'Sherlock Jr.' (1924), in which Keaton plays a movie projectionist who dreams of being a detective.

The screening of 'Battling Butler' and 'Sherlock Jr.' is sponsored by Kathy and Bill Mathis in memory of Maxine Thurston.

Buster is shown the ropes in 'Battling Butler' (1926). (Showing someone the ropes is actually a phrase taken from the world of sailing ships, not boxing, which I didn't realize for a long time.)

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

• Saturday, Aug. 13, 7 p.m.: 'Blood and Sand' (1922) starring Rudolph Valentino in his first starring role, as a sexy bullfighter in this romantic thriller. Celebrating its 100th anniversary! Sponsored by Edward Loedding and Dorothy Leysath, the Hanson Family in memory of Pat Hanson, and Sally Wood.

• 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.

'Battling Butler' (1926) and 'Sherlock Jr.' starring Buster Keaton will be screened with live music on Saturday, Aug. 6 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.

No comments:

Post a Comment