Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Fight the French Revolution tonight in 'Scaramouche' (1923) at the Flying Monkey in Plymouth, N.H.

A scene from 'Scaramouche' (1923).

Tonight: Join me for two hours spent fighting the French Revolution! 

That's what you'll get with 'Scaramouche' (1923), a big Rex Ingram-directed swashbuckler that I've never accompanied before, but will this evening.

The show starts at 6:30 p.m. Lots more detail in the press release pasted in below.

Meanwhile, a report from this past weekend: I had a great time accompanying 'The Freshman' (1925) on Saturday night up in Brandon, Vt. (they cheered at the end!), and then 'The Fire Brigade' (1926) on Sunday at the Somerville Theatre in Somerville, Mass.

Top billing on the Somerville Theatre's marquee! 

'The Fire Brigade' was eventful in that to simulate the sound of a large fire bell being struck by a hammer (seen on-screen multiple times during the film), I borrowed a big mounted boxing bell from fellow silent film musician Ken Winokur, who happens to live not far from the Somerville Theatre.

The bell came with a little hammer for hitting it, which was attached to the base by a length of twine to keep the bell and hammer from ever separating. What could go wrong?

Well, during the film, the first time I went to strike the bell, the hammer's metal head flew off the handle (hey, is that where that expression comes from?) and landed out into the darkness somewhere in front of me.

So there went that plan! For the rest of 'The Fire Brigade,' the bell tolled for no one, for lack of a hammer. The now bell-free score, however, went fine, and afterwards I found the hammer head, reattached it to the handle, and packed the whole thing up to return to Ken via a box on his porch.

Well, the next day, Ken pinged me to ask about the hammer's little metal head, which somehow didn't make it back with the bell after all! 

So I checked and found it still in the back of my car. It had apparently fallen off (and out of the bag) during transit. 

 Well, yesterday I mailed the hammer head to Ken—but not before using it to knock some sense into my own head for this whole sorry escapade.

But that's all in the past. Let's now look ahead to the future, in the form of a 1923 film with a story set during the French Revolution. 

Wait—let me rephrase that...

*     *     *

An original lobby card promoting 'Scaramouche' (1923).

Contact: Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Silent swashbuckler 'Scaramouche' with live music at Flying Monkey on Wednesday, Sept. 13

Ramon Novarro stars in big budget adaptation of sprawling novel set during the French Revolution

PLYMOUTH, N.H.— It was a big story filmed on a big scale—a movie with a big budget and featuring a big star.

It was 'Scaramouche' (1923), a swashbuckler set during the French Revolution. Starring heartthrob Ramon Novarro, the picture ran into big problems during production, but went on to be one of the year's box office hits.

See for yourself with a screening of 'Scaramouche' on Wednesday, Sept. 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center, 39 Main St., Plymouth, N.H.

The screening will feature live music for the movie by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis. General admission is $10 per person.

The show is the latest in the Flying Monkey'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.

Alice Terry and Ramon Novarro in 'Scaramouche' (1923).

Based on a 1921 novel by Rafael Sabatini, 'Scaramouche' tells the story of Andre-Louis Moreau (Novarro), a young lawyer whose close friend is killed by a prominent and powerful aristocrat.

Vowing revenge, Moureau disguises himself and joins a theater troupe, where he plays the title role of Scaramouche while working to avenge his friend's untimely death.

Along the way, there are swordfights, plot twists, and scenes of French Revolution rioting staged on a massive scale. The film co-start Alice Terry and Lewis Stone.

Director Rex Ingram pioneered movie adaptations of large-scale stories, creating some of the first true Hollywood epics in the early 1920s while employed by Metro Studios, which later became part of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Prior to 'Scaramouche,' Ingram directed megahits 'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' (1921) starring Rudolph Valentino and 'The Prisoner of Zenda' (1922) which also featured Novarro and Stone.

'Scaramouche' was an elaborate and unwieldy production that suffered from delays and cost overruns.

Ingram had secured the rights to Sabatini's novel in September 1922, and worked on the project for seven months before the cameras rolled.

Extensive outdoor sets, representing 18th-century Paris, were built both on the Metro lot and at a separate site in the San Fernando Valley, and 1,500 extras were used.

An experimental sequence was shot in Technicolor, with the Technicolor company picking up the tab; the sequence proved unsatisfactory and was ultimately discarded.

Despite production problems and cost overruns, 'Scaramouche' went on to rank as one of the top-grossing films of 1923, earning more than $1 million at the box office—a phenomenal sum for the day.

Modern viewers find much to admire about 'Scaramouche.'

"Scaramouche is easily one of Rex Ingram’s best films," wrote reviewer Fritzi Kramer of 'Movies Silently' in 2013.

"It is big, bold and beautiful yet it never loses sight of its characters. Their hopes, dreams and hatreds work in tandem with history to drive the plot steadily onward.

"And, unlike some of Ingram’s works, it is never slow-moving. This is historical spectacle done right. You owe it to yourself to check this film out."

Accompanist Jeff Rapsis will improvise an original musical score for 'Scaramouche' live as the movie is shown, as was done during the silent film era.

"When the score gets made up on the spot, it creates a special energy that's an important part of the silent film experience," said Rapsis, who uses a digital synthesizer to recreate the texture of a full orchestra for the accompaniment.

With the Flying Monkey's screening of 'Scaramouche,' audiences will get a chance to experience silent film as it was meant to be seen—in a high quality print, on a large screen, with live music, and with an audience.

"All those elements are important parts of the silent film experience," Rapsis said. "Recreate those conditions, and the classics of early Hollywood leap back to life in ways that can still move audiences today."

‘Scaramouche’ (1923) starring Ramon Novarro will be shown with live music on Wednesday, Sept. 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center, 39 Main St., Plymouth, N.H.

General admission tickets are $10 at door or in advance by calling the box office at (603) 536-2551 or online at

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