Friday, September 1, 2023

Cap Labor Day weekend with Buster Keaton's 'Our Hospitality' on Monday, 9/4 in Greenfield, Mass.

Buster Keaton and friend in 'Our Hospitality' (1923).

Well, I see by the calendar we've slid into September, with Labor Day weekend once again upon us.

For many years, the weekend played host to the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon.

Remember that? To a television-obsessed kid growing up in early 1970s, when the telethon was at its peak, the mix of show biz veterans and wee-hours schmaltz was powerful stuff indeed.

Where else could you see Norm Crosby and Julius LaRosa and Sammy Davis Jr. all in one place, with the possibility always looming of a reunion of Jerry with his long-estranged partner, Dean Martin? (This finally took place in 1976, brokered by none other than Frank Sinatra. I remember a lot of hugging.)

Add to that the ever-present toteboard with updates accompanied by drum rolls, and with exhortations from longtime co-host Ed McMahon, and you had a recipe for mesmerizing viewing.

"Jeffrey, it's the first day of school! You wouldn't feel so tired if you hadn't spent the whole night watching the Jerry Lewis Telethon!"

Well, Jerry is no longer with us to sing "You'll Never Walk Alone," the perennial closing number. But Labor Day weekend soldiers on. 

How about a new tradition—one that doesn't last all night?

Come join us for a Labor Day screening of a great silent comedy: Buster Keaton's 'Our Hospitality' (1923), with live music by me. 

The film, celebrating the 100th anniversary of its original release, will be screened on Monday, Sept. 4 at 6:30 p.m. 

It's a terrific movie, and this is a chance to experience the film the way Buster intended: on the big screen, with live music, in a theater with a big audience.

And that's where you come in! Everything you need to know is below in the press release.

So join us. I promise you won't be tired the next day when it's time to go to school or work.

*    *    *

Buster and Natalie try to make some beautiful music together.

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Buster Keaton stars in 'Our Hospitality' on Monday, Sept. 4 at Garden Cinemas

Classic feature-length silent comedy to be screened on the big screen with live music

GREENFIELD, Mass.—He never smiled on camera, earning him the nickname of "the Great Stone Face."

But Buster Keaton's comedies rocked Hollywood's silent era with laughter throughout the 1920s, and remain popular crowd-pleasers today.

See for yourself with a screening of 'Our Hospitality' (1923), one of Keaton's landmark features, on Monday, Sept. 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the Greenfield Garden Cinemas, 361 Main St., Greenfield.

The screening will feature live accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based composer who specializes in creating music for silent films.

Admission is $10.50 adults, $8:50 for children, seniors, and students. Tickets are available online or at the door.

Set in the 1830s, 'Our Hospitality,' tells the tale of a young man (Keaton) raised in New York City but unknowingly at the center of a long-running backwoods family feud.

Resolving to return and claim his family homestead, he sets in motion a perilous cat-and-mouse game in which every move could be his last.

Highlights of the picture include Keaton's extended journey on a vintage train of the era, as well as a climatic river rescue scene.

The film stars Keaton's then-wife, Natalie Talmadge, as his on-screen love interest; their first child, newborn James Talmadge Keaton, makes a cameo appearance, playing Buster as an infant. Keaton's father also plays a role in the film.

'Our Hospitality' is part of the Garden Cinema's silent film series, which aims to show early movies as they were meant to be seen—in high quality 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 improvise a musical score for 'Our Hospitality.'

"Recreate those conditions, and the classics of early Hollywood leap back to life," he said.

Keaton entered films in 1917 and was quickly fascinated with the then-new medium. After apprenticing with popular comedian Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, Keaton set up his own studio in 1920, making short comedies that established him as one of the era's leading talents.

A remarkable pantomime artist, Keaton naturally used his entire body to communicate emotions from sadness to surprise. And in an era without special effects, Keaton's acrobatic talents enabled him to perform all his own stunts.

In 1923, Keaton made the leap into full-length films with 'Our Hospitality,' which proved popular enough for him to continue making features for the rest of the silent era.

Although not all of Keaton's films were box office successes, critics later expressed astonishment at the sudden leap Keaton made from short comedies to the complex story and technical demands required for full-length features.

The Garden Theatre's silent film schedule features vintage Hollywood dramas, thrillers, and adventure flicks, all with live music. Upcoming shows include:

• Monday, Oct. 2 at 6:30 p.m.: 'Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde' (1920). John Barrymore plays both title characters in this spooky adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale.

• Monday, Nov. 6 at 6:30 p.m.: 'The Scarlet Letter' (1926). Lillian Gish stars in this early adaptation of the Nathaniel Hawthorne story set in Massachusetts during the Puritan era.

• Monday, Dec. 4 at 6:30 p.m.: 'Robin Hood' (1922). Douglas Fairbanks Sr. stars in the original big screen adaptation of 'Robin Hood,' one of the biggest box office hits of the silent era.

Accompanist Jeff Rapsis will create musical scores for each film live during its screening, in the manner of theater organists during silent cinema's peak years in the 1920s.

"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."

‘Our Hospitality’ will be shown with live music on Monday, Sept. 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the Greenfield Garden Cinemas, 361 Main St., Greenfield.

Admission is $10.50 adults, $8:50 for children, seniors, and students. Tickets are available online at or at the door. For more information, call the box office at (413) 774-4881.

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