Monday, June 12, 2023

Time again for 'Safety Last' (1923), this time on Wednesday, June 14 at 6 p.m. in Ogunquit, Maine

Harold Lloyd still has his hat, but not for long, in 'Safety Last' (1923).

This summer we're going to party like it's 1923! 

Yes—for this season's silent film series at the historic Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit, Maine, every title was released in 1923.

There's a reason for that, which I'll get to in a moment.

But first, time to plug opening night, which is coming up on Wednesday, June 14.

To get things started with a bang, or at least a gasp, we're screening Harold Lloyd's iconic thrill comedy 'Safety Last' (1923).

Show time is 6 p.m. Admission is $12 per person. More details in the press release pasted in below.

'Safety Last' is the first of this season's nine-film line-up, which extends all the way to the Saturday before Halloween.

And yes, every film was released 100 years ago, in 1923. 

The reason for this is that last fall, when we planned out the season, the aim was to celebrate a long-awaited milestone: the Leavitt's 100th birthday!

And what better way to pay tribute to a seasonal moviehouse that's endured for a full century than to show movies that were on screen during its first summer? (The photo of the Leavitt's exterior is from Cinema Treasures.)

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the centennial.

Max Clayton, whose family has owned and operated the Leavitt since the 1970s, last year began looking into local historical records to see if he could unearth photos or other ephemera from the Leavitt's early years.

What he found instead was a surprise: the Leavitt didn't actually start showing movies until 1925!

It turned out the long-assumed 1923 opening date was apparently the year that plans were first announced for a new-fangled moviehouse in Ogunquit, a popular beach resort then as now.

But the sprawling wood-frame building housing the theater wasn't completed and actually showing movies until two years later.

Oops! Well, what to do?

Max decided to hold off on all the 100th-birthday celebration plans until 2025, and rightly so. It'll be quite a season when it finally arrives.

But as for the silent film schedule: I'd already put together a solid all-1923 line-up, including several titles requested by audience members. And if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

What's the line-up? Something for everyone, as you'll see in the press release below. 

And here's the flyer promoting it.

And we'll start things out this Wednesday night (June 14) with 'Safety Last' at 6 p.m. 

If you're in the vicinity, why not come to Ogunquit for some Harold Lloyd—and maybe some gelato at Caffé Prego!

 If my fingers are sticking to the keys (like Harold sticks to the building he's climbing), you'll know why.

*   *   *

Harold Lloyd co-stars with downtown Los Angeles in 'Safety Last' (1923).

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Hang on! Leavitt Theatre to celebrate 100th anniversary of silent film classic 'Safety Last'

Thrill comedy climaxed by Harold Lloyd's iconic building climb; screening with live music on Wednesday, June 14

OGUNQUIT, Maine—It's a cinematic image so powerful, people who've never seen the movie instantly recognize it.

The vision of Harold Lloyd hanging from the hands of a huge clock, from the climax of his silent comedy 'Safety Last,' (1923), has emerged as a symbol of early Hollywood and movie magic.

Celebrate the 100th anniversary of the film's original release with a screening of 'Safety Last' on Wednesday, June 14 at 6 p.m. at the historic Leavitt Theatre, 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.

'Safety Last' follows young go-getter Lloyd to the big city, where he hopes to make his mark in business, then send for his small town sweetheart.

His career at a downtown department store stalls, however, until he gets a chance to pitch a surefire publicity idea—hire a human fly to climb the building's exterior.

But when the human fly has a last-minute run-in with the law, Harold is forced to make the climb himself, floor by floor, with his sweetheart looking on.

The result is an extended sequence filmed without trick photography that blends comedy and terror, holding viewers spellbound.

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

Lloyd's character, an ambitious young man ready to struggle to win the day, proved hugely popular in the 1920s.

While Chaplin and Keaton were always favored by the critics, Lloyd's films reigned as the top-grossing comedies throughout the period.

Silent film at the Leavitt Theatre gives today's audiences the chance to experience early cinema as it was intended: on the big screen, with live music, and with an audience.

"Put the whole experience back together, and you can see why people first fell in love with the movies," said Rapsis, who practices the nearly lost art of live silent film accompaniment.

Rapsis performs on a digital synthesizer that reproduces the texture of the full orchestra, creating a traditional "movie score" sound.

"Seeing 'Safety Last' with an audience is one of the great thrill rides of the cinema of any era, silent or sound," Rapsis said. "Harold's iconic building climb, filmed without trick photography, continues to provoke audience responses nearly 100 years after film was first released."

Tributes to the clock-hanging scene have appeared in several contemporary films, most recently in Martin Scorsese's 'Hugo' (2011), which includes clips from 'Safety Last.'

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

• Wednesday, June 21 at 6 p.m.: 'The Covered Wagon' (1923). A pioneering epic of the old West! Two wagon caravans converge at what is now Kansas City, and combine for the push to Oregon.

• 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 fiancé and finds herself torn between love and comfort.

Celebrate the 100th anniversary of Harold Lloyd's iconic thrill comedy 'Safety Last' (1923) with a screening on Wednesday, June 14 at 6 p.m. at the historic Leavitt Theatre, 259 Main St, Route 1 in Ogunquit, Maine.

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


"Impossible to watch without undergoing visitations of vertigo, Safety Last's climactic sequence is all it's reputed to be.”
—TV Guide

"Harold Lloyd manages to make the characters sympathetic enough to carry the audience's concern on his journey of crazy stunts and mishaps. One of the best of this era."
—David Parkinson, Empire Magazine

"The climb has both comic and dramatic weight because it is both a thrilling exercise in physical humor and a thematically rich evocation of the pressures men feel to succeed, lest they be viewed as less than a man."
—James Kendrick, Q Network Film Desk

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