Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Up next: William Haines plays polo in 'The Smart Set' (1928) on Wednesday, 2/15 in Plymouth, N.H.

In front of the Jane Pickens Theater last Saturday in Newport, R.I., where I accompanied 'The Temptress' (1926) starring Greta Garbo.

I'm Number 8! I'm Number 8!

Really. I just came across a recent list of the top 25 silent film blogs, and was totally surprised to find that this here blog came in as No. 8.


Yes. I'm positioned right between internationally famous silent film accompanist Ben Model (at #7) and internationally famous silent film location sleuth John Bengtson (#9). 

Wow! Pretty amazing company. Check it out for yourself:

What's going on, of course, is that the list seems to be one of many at this particular site that's assembled by an algorithm, and which then makes the rounds as a sort of clickbait.

Today it's the top 25 silent film blogs. Tomorrow it might be the top 25 blogs about serial killers. 

Wonder what number I'll turn up on that list?

Before we're likely to find out, I'm heading up to the Flying Monkey Moviehouse in Plymouth, N.H., where tonight I'll accompany a silent film set in the high-stakes world of competitive polo.

Yes, polo! The film is 'The Smart Set' (1928), an MGM romantic comedy starring William Haines and Alice Day. I've never done music for it, and I'm curious to see what kind of audience reaction it gets.

And that's where you come in. Join us this evening for a rarely-screened chestnut from the MGM vault that gives you an idea of what the upper class were up to just before the Great Depression.

Showtime is 6:30 p.m. Lots more info in the press release below:

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A vintage lobby card promoting 'The Smart Set' (1928).

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

The lost world of 1920s privilege, ponies and polo captured in MGM's 'The Smart Set'

Romantic comedy featuring silent-era superstar William Haines to be screened with live music on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at Flying Monkey

PLYMOUTH, N.H.—Get ready to ride in a romantic comedy set in the rarefied world of 1920s championship polo.

That's the setting of 'The Smart Set,' a rarely screened film released near the end of Hollywood's silent era—and the end of the Roaring '20s as well.

'The Smart Set,' starring William Haines and Alice Day, will be shown with live music on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center, 39 Main St., Plymouth, N.H.

Admission is $10 per person, general seating. Live musical scoring will be provided by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis.

William Haines (left) stars with other people and horses in 'The Smart Set' (1928).

In 'The Smart Set,' Arrogant aristocrat Tommy Van Buren (William Haines) calls himself "America's gift to polo," while his female fans think he's the most gorgeous creature on four legs.

The one exception is plucky Polly (Alice Day), who first responds to Tommy's amorous advances by using her car to run him off the road.

Polly has yet more reasons to loathe Tommy when he replaces her father on the polo squad—although after an evening's dalliance, even she yields to the champ's charms.

But when Tommy's alcohol-fueled antics get him tossed from the team, he'll have to stop horsing around to win the big match against England—and Polly's heart.

'The Smart Set' was released by MGM in 1928, the final year of full-scale production of silent films in Hollywood. Spurred by the success of Warner Bros.' 'The Jazz Singer,' studios and theaters were rapidly converting to "talking" pictures.

A year after 'The Smart Set' hit theaters, the stock market crash of October 1929 ushered in the Great Depression, wiping out much of the polo-playing wealthy class.

"'The Smart Set' is a real chestnut from a lost age of privilege, ponies, and polo that flourished in the Roaring '20s," said Jeff Rapsis, the silent film musician who will accompany the screening at the Flying Monkey.

"Taking in a silent romantic comedy with live music is a great way to celebrate Valentine's Day," Rapsis said.

For the music, Rapsis improvises in real time, while the film is running, using a digital synthesizer that allow him to recreate the "movie score" texture of a full orchestra.

"Improvising a score live is a bit of a high-wire act, but it allows me to follow and support the film a lot more effectively than if I was buried in sheet music," Rapsis said.

"Instead, I'm free to follow the film right in the moment. Each time it's different, which lends a certain energy and immediacy and excitement to the experience."

'The Smart Set,' a silent romantic comedy starring William Haines and Alice Day, will be screened with live music on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center, 39 Main St., Plymouth, N.H.

Admission is $10 per person. For more info, call (603) 536-2551 or visit

William Haines recuperates from all the excitement in 'The Smart Set' (1928).

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