Sunday, March 12, 2023

Start spreadin' the news: 'Silent New York' series begins Sunday, 3/12 in Wilton, N.H. with screening of Marion Davies in 'Little Old New York'

Dennis at the Town Hall Theatre's popcorn machine.

This month marks a major milestone: the 50th anniversary of Dennis Markevarich taking over the stewardship of his hometown moviehouse, the Town Hall Theatre of Wilton N.H.

His tenure opened in grand style with a re-release screening of 'Gone with the Wind' (1939). And he's been at it ever since—through ups and downs, the industry's conversation to digital and, more recently, the pandemic.

Movies had been shown on and off in the old town hall since 1912. But it's unlikely that anyone will match Markevarich's record of five decades and counting of continuous service.

Exterior of the Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H. No, that's not a red carpet, just a crosswalk painted for safety.

In honor of this achievement, we're honoring Dennis with a cinematic tribute to the one place he adores just as much as Wilton, N.H.

It's New York City. Starting this weekend, we're running a series of a half-dozen silent pictures set in the Big Apple, a town that blew young Markevarich's mind when he first visited on the local high school senior class trip.

It was 1964, the year of the World's Fair. And if that wasn't enough, there was Radio City Music Hall, and so much else besides.

First up is 'Little Old New York' (1923) starring Marion Davies (at left), one of 1923's top-grossing films that also happens to be celebrating the 100th anniversary of its original release.

And the only reason we can show 'Little Old New York' is because the film's transfer to digital media was accomplished via a Kickstarter campaign to which Town Hall Theatre silent film patrons contributed!

The film screens today (Sunday, March 12) at 2 p.m. Join us for a vintage historical drama set in New York City of the early 19th century. More info about 'Little Old New York' and the rest of the series is in the press release below.

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An original release poster for 'Little Old New York' (1923).

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

'Little Old New York' to open Town Hall Theatre salute to the Big Apple

Top-grossing film of 1923 starring Marion Davies to be shown Sunday, March 12 with live music; first in series of vintage movies set in New York City.

WILTON, N.H.—It's played a starring role in the movies since they were first made.

It's New York City, and the Big Apple is ready for its close-up in the Town Hall Theatre's series of six vintage silent feature films all set in America's largest city, then and now.

First up is 'Little Old New York,' (1923), a historical drama starring Marion Davies that was among the top-grossing films of 1923.

'Little Old New York' will be shown on Sunday, March 12 at 2 p.m. at the Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H.

The film will be shown with live music by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis.

Admission is free; a donation of $10 per person at each screening is suggested to help defray expenses.

In 'Little Old New York,' an Irish girl comes to early 19th century New York disguised as a boy to claim a fortune left to her brother, who has died. 

Marion Davies (at right) masquerades as a young man in 'Little Old New York.'

Lavish production values helped place the film among 1923's highest grossing pictures; the story of an Irish immigrant family makes it a great way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

The movie was a triumph for Marion Davies, and she was named "Queen of the Screen" and the #1 female box-office star of 1923 at the annual theater owners ball.

The rarely screened film was recently transferred from a surviving 35mm print held by the Library of Congress via a Kickstarter campaign supported in part by Town Hall Theatre patrons.

The Town Hall Theatre's 'Silent New York' series will run on selected Sunday afternoons from March through May.

The movies range from 'Regeneration' (1915), a gritty melodrama filmed on location in the slums of the Lower East Side, to 'Speedy' (1928), an uproarious Harold Lloyd comedy filmed throughout New York City, and which includes a cameo by Babe Ruth.

Featured stars range from versatile actress Marion Davies to deadpan comedian Buster Keaton.

All films will be shown with live music by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis.

"Each of these films is a great way to see what life in New York City was like 100 years ago or more," Rapsis said. "Today, in addition to being great entertainment, they're also a vivid window into the past."

Other films in the series include:

• Sunday, March 26, 2023 at 2 p.m.: 'The Regeneration' (1915). A powerful slum melodrama shot on location on New York's lower East Side, with a gaggle of authentic low-life types performing alongside professional actors. Directed by Raoul Walsh; one of the first U.S. feature-length films, released the same year as D.W. Griffith's 'The Birth of a Nation.'

• Sunday, April 23, 2023 at 2 p.m.: 'Lights of Old Broadway' (1925) starring Marion Davies. Set in late 19th century NYC, Davies plays twins orphaned in childhood who grow up unaware of each other but whose lives intertwine much later on, with comic and dramatic results. Lavishly produced MGM release preserved by the Library of Congress. (Originally scheduled for Sunday, April 16 but moved due to conflict.)

• Sunday, April 30, 2023 at 2 p.m.: 'Speedy' (1928) starring Harold Lloyd. Lloyd's final silent feature finds him at the peak of his career playing a baseball-crazed go-getter forced to rescue the business of his girlfriend's father from being destroyed by thugs. Filled with great scenes of 1920s NYC, with notable cameo by baseball's Babe Ruth.

• Sunday, May 14, 2023 at 2 p.m.: 'The Docks of New York' (1928). Set in late 19th century New York, roughneck stoker Bill Roberts gets into unexpected trouble during a brief shore leave when he falls hard for Mae, a wise and weary dance-hall girl. Intense and moving silent drama from legendary director Josef von Sternberg.

• Sunday, May 21, 2023 at 2 p.m.: 'The Cameraman' (1928) starring Buster Keaton. Keaton tries to impress the gal of his dreams by working as a newsreel photographer. Can he get a break and get the girl? Classic visual comedy with Keaton at the peak of his creative powers; set in NYC and includes 1920s shots of Midtown Manhattan and the old Yankee Stadium.

The Town Hall Theatre strives to show silent film as it was intended to be seen—in restored prints, on a large screen, with live music, and with an audience.

"All those elements are important parts of the silent film experience," said Rapsis, who will accompany the films. "Recreate those conditions, and classics of early Hollywood leap back to life in ways that audiences find surprising."

Rapsis performs on a digital synthesizer that reproduces the texture of the full orchestra, creating a traditional "movie score" sound. He improvises the complete score in real time during the screening.

"Creating a movie score on the fly is kind of a high-wire act, but it can often make for more excitement than if everything is planned out in advance," Rapsis said.

Rapsis encouraged people unfamiliar with silent film to give it a try.

"If you haven't seen a silent film the way it was intended to be shown, then you're missing a unique experience," Rapsis said. "At their best, silent films still connect with cinema-goers. They retain the power to cast a spell, engage an audience, tap into elemental emotions, and provoke strong reactions."

'Little Old New York' (1923) will be screened on Sunday, March 12 at 2 p.m. at the Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H.

Admission is free; a donation of $10 per person is suggested to help defray expenses. For more information, call (603) 654-3456.

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