Sunday, February 19, 2023

A few words about films I've never accompanied before, including 'My Best Girl,' today at 2 p.m.

Beneath the marquee this week of the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center in Plymouth, N.H.

The above photo marks probably the first time the William Haines film 'The Smart Set' has been on a marquee since its 1928 release.

And that's kinda too bad, because it turns out 'The Smart Set' is a really fun picture—a slickly made late MGM silent set in the rarefied world of competitive polo.

Yes, polo—the sport where the players ride horses and use oversized mallets to knock balls around. 

Last Wednesday's audience of about 50 people thoroughly enjoyed this light-hearted romp, with star William Haines winning special plaudits for his energetic performance as a conceited-but-redeemable polo player. 

So put that one in the "win" column!

In selecting films to accompany, I make it a point to seek out titles that sound promising but which never get screened. It's worth giving them a chance. You can never tell if a silent film works until you run it in its natural environment: in front of an audience.

Some are duds. But more often than not (such as with 'The Smart Set'), the pictures come to life in a way that continues to surprise me. 

Looking at a film at home by myself, I'll think, "There's no way an audience will buy this." But shown on the big screen with live music and in front of an audience, the movie snaps back to life.

They knew what they were doing. And by and large, these are the films that caused people to first fall in love with the movies. And people wouldn't fall in love with junk.

And this searching-out-rarely-screened titles helps stretch my instincts as a silent film accompanist. I've been doing this for more than 15 years now, and it wouldn't be nearly as interesting if there weren't "new" films to continue to discover. 

I actually keep track of how many different feature films I've scored on this blog. Check it out. I'm getting close to 400, and there's no end in sight of old movies that are new to me—and most of you, too.

Well, there's another first-timer (for me, anyway) coming up this afternoon: Mary Pickford's 'My Best Girl' (1927), a romantic comedy that co-stars Charles 'Buddy' Rogers, who would later become Mr. Mary Pickford after her marriage with Douglas Fairbanks Sr. broke up.

(I can't explain why, but I have always been captivated by Pickford's nickname for Doug: "Duber.")

I have high hopes for this one, of course, as Mary Pickford was pretty much the gold standard for successful film production throughout the silent era. 

We'll see. I encourage you to join in the fun, which starts today at 2 p.m. at the Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St. in Wilton, N.H. Admission is free; a donation of $10 per person is suggested to help defray expenses.

I don't have a press release for this one. Instead, how about this quote from Pickford biographer Jeffrey Vance?

"What makes My Best Girl special is that it captures the miracle of two people falling in love with each other as their characters do. It is challenging to capture genuine emotion on a cold piece of celluloid, but falling in love is beautifully immortalized in My Best Girl."

So that makes it two Jeffs in a row urging you to check out "My Best Girl." So see you this afternoon in a darkened theater!

Charles 'Buddy' Rogers and Mary Pickford in 'My Best Girl' (1927).

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