Monday, June 19, 2023

Heading west to Ogunquit, Maine for 'The Covered Wagon' (1923) on Wednesday, June 21

This Wednesday, it's back out to the Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit, Maine for a screening of 'The Covered Wagon' (1923).

Showtime is 6 p.m. It's the latest in this season's summer silent film series at the Leavitt, where movies have been shown since 1925!

Lots more info in the press release below.

I'm pleased to report nearly 100 people packed the Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H. for yesterday's Father's Day screening.

The event even attracted a Charlie Chaplin impersonator from Newburyport, Mass. who brought along her dog Major, a white Labrador.

This was fortuitous because besides the featured attraction of  Chaplin's 'The Kid' (1921), we also screened his 1918 short 'A Dog's Life.'

And yes, Major bore a passing resemblance to Scraps, the dog in the film.

Had I been better prepared, we would have restaged the above still on the steps of the Town Hall Theatre.

Major attended the screenings, living up to his owner's promise that he would not attack any movie-goers.

He did, however, bark when audience members responded to the films. Good dog!

Okay, now it's time to go Ogunquit? Well, to accompany 'The Covered Wagon' this coming Wednesday night. See you there!

*   *   *

An original release poster for 'The Covered Wagon' (1923).

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Climb aboard 'The Covered Wagon,' Hollywood's first Western blockbuster

Leavitt Theatre's summer silent film/live music series continues on Wednesday, June 21 with top-grossing film of 1923

OGUNQUIT, Maine—It was the first major Hollywood production to establish the Western as a serious and enduring genre.

It was 'The Covered Wagon' (1923), an epic adventure film that would go on to be the year's top box office attraction when released a century ago this summer.

See if for yourself—on the big screen and with live music—on Wednesday, June 21 at 6 p.m. at the historic Leavitt Theater, 259 Main St, Route 1 in Ogunquit, Maine.

(Please note the start time of 6 p.m. is earlier than in prior seasons.)

Admission is $12 per person. Live music will be provided by accompanist Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based performer who specializes in creating music for silent film presentations.

The show is the latest in the Leavitt Theatre's silent film series, which gives audiences the opportunity to experience early cinema as it was intended: on the big screen, with live music, and with an audience.

Ernest Torrence and Alan Hale Sr. in 'The Covered Wagon' (1923).

In 'The Covered Wagon,' two caravans converge in 1848 at what is now Kansas City, and combine for the westward push 2,000 miles to Oregon.

On their quest the pilgrims will experience desert heat, mountain snow, hunger, and attack.

To complicate matters further, a love triangle develops, as pretty Molly Wingate must choose between Sam, a brute, and Will, the dashing captain of the other caravan.

Can Will overcome the skeleton in his closet and win Molly's heart?

The film's ensemble cast includes 1920s stars J. Warren Kerrigan, Ernest Torrence, and Alan Hale Sr., whose son (Alan Hale Jr.) would go on to play the Skiller in the 1960s sitcom 'Gilligan's Island.'

'The Covered Wagon' was directed by James Cruze based on a 1922 novel of the same name by Emerson Hough.

Some of the many original covered wagons rounded up for the film.

The film, produced by Paramount Pictures, required a large cast and film crew and many extras, and was filmed in locations that included Palm Springs, Calif. and several places in Nevada and Utah.

The dramatic buffalo hunt and buffalo stampede scenes were filmed on Antelope Island, Great Salt Lake, Utah.

The covered wagons gathered by Paramount from all over the Southwest were not replicas, but the real wagons that had brought the pioneers west. Many were cherished heirlooms of the families who owned them.

The producers offered the owners $2 a day and feed for their stock if they would bring the wagons for the movie.

Most of the extras seen on film are the families who owned the covered wagons and were perfectly at home driving them and living out of them during the production.

Ernest Torrance menaces J. Warren Kerrigan in 'The Covered Wagon' (1923).
"When 'The Covered Wagon' was filmed, the Old West wasn't that far in the past," said Jeff Rapsis, who will accompany the film. "So what we see today, 100 years after the film's release, has a remarkable authenticity."

This season's Leavitt Theatre silent film schedule features movies all celebrating their 100th anniversaries. Upcoming shows include:

• Wednesday, July 12 at 6 p.m.: 'Our Hospitality' (1923). Silent comic Buster Keaton's tale about a backwoods feud in the 1830s pokes fun at everything from southern customs to early railroad trains.

• Wednesday, July 26 at 6 p.m.: 'Zaza' (1923) starring Gloria Swanson. Romance set in France in which Swanson plays a hot-tempered provincial actress who gets entangled with a married diplomat.

• Wednesday, Aug. 16 at 6 p.m.: 'The Pilgrim' (1923) starring Charlie Chaplin. As a convict on the lam, Chaplin impersonates a man of the cloth, with unexpected results.

• Wednesday, Aug. 23 at 6 p.m.: 'A Woman of Paris' (1923). Chaplin's drama about a kept woman (Edna Purviance) who runs into her former fiancĂ© and finds herself torn between love and comfort.

Accompanist Jeff Rapsis will create musical scores for each film live during its screening, in the manner of theater organists during the height of silent cinema.

"For most silent films, there was never any sheet music and no official score," Rapsis said. "So creating original music on the spot to help the film's impact is all part of the experience."

"That's one of the special qualities of silent cinema," Rapsis said. "Although the films themselves are often over a century old, each screening is a unique experience — a combination of the movie, the music, and the audience reaction."

'The Covered Wagon' (1923) will be screened on Wednesday, June 21 at 6 p.m. at the historic Leavitt Theater, 259 Main St, Route 1 in Ogunquit, Maine.

Admission is $12 per person. For more info, call (207) 646-3123 or visit

No comments:

Post a Comment