Sunday, November 12, 2023

Coming up: Chaplin's 'The Gold Rush' on Thanksgiving weekend, then a reduced performing schedule starting in 2024

A poster for 'The Gold Rush' (1925) starring Charlie Chaplin.

Just finished a busy weekend of accompanying four shows in three days, including two separate screenings of 'The Big Parade' (1925) and also 'Wings' (1927)—both big gulps.

With Halloween and now Veterans Day in the rear-view mirror, the performance schedule quiets down, with just a few screenings between now and New Year's Day.

And it's likely to stay quiet in 2024, as I cut back on my live performance commitments in order to focus on my day job and other creative pursuits. More on that as things take shape.

In the meantime, next up is Charlie Chaplin's 'The Gold Rush' (1925), which I'm accompanying on Thanksgiving weekend (on Sunday, Nov. 26 at 2 p.m.) at the Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H.

More on that screening in the press release below.

And now, a few notes on this past weekend's shows.

'Wings' was screened Friday night at the Epsilon Spires venue in Brattleboro, Vt., where I got to play their Etsey pipe organ. (It's a former Baptist church and the organ came with it.) Small turnout but attentive movie-goers, judging from the reactions throughout.

Afterwards, a couple told me they attended only because the husband likes vintage planes, and didn't expect to stay more than a half-hour because, you know, those "silent movies."

But the experience was nothing like what they expected, and they ended up staying for the whole thing. So, small audience, but at least one small victory for the form.

Saturday found me navigating unexpectedly closed roads over mountain passes to get to the Residences at Otter Creek, a retirement and assisted living community in Middlebury, Vt.

I made it just in time to present a 2 p.m. Veterans Day program of silent film comedies: 'A Sailor-Made Man' (1921) starring Harold Lloyd and Chaplin's 'Shoulder Arms' (1918). 

Alas, another small turnout. Interestingly, although the average age of those in the room was well above 80, nobody had heard of Harold Lloyd. Nobody! 

I guess not everyone has attended Pordenone or the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. (Neither have I, for that matter.)

The screenings were enjoyed by all, it seems, including the gentleman who decided to get up and walk right in front of the keyboard during the Lloyd film, getting his shoes caught up in my cables and nearly falling down before I stopped playing to help untangle him. 

I'm guessing this doesn't happen too often at Pordenone or the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. But it's the world I work in—all part of bringing silent film to life for people outside the big venues.

Speaking of which: I then drove down Route 7 to Brandon (birthplace of Stephen Douglas, the "Little Giant," who debated Abraham Lincoln), where we ended the 2023 Brandon Town Hall Silent Film Series with a Veterans Day screening of 'The Big Parade' (1925).

The screening almost didn't happen because yours truly didn't realize 'The Big Parade' was on a Blu-ray disc, and I hadn't put the Blu-ray player in the traveling crate. Ooops!

But a call to Dennis Marsden of the town hall produced a work-around (using their own disc player and projector) kept me from having to haul ass down to Rutland in hopes of finding a Blu-ray player with RCA connectors to use for the show. 

Knowing that I would accompany a 35mm print of the 'The Big Parade' in Boston the next day, I thought of the Brandon screening as my opportunity to reacquaint myself with the film, which I hadn't accompanied in some time.

A whimsical moment from 'The Big Parade' (1925).

Funny thing, though—despite a complete lack of preparation, music for the Brandon screening fell together just perfectly, I thought. I had good stuff for almost every scene and sequence, and material I used early was enough to hold the score together for the remainder of the movie. 

And the audience (about 60 people) was into it! Laughs at all the right places; open-mouthed silence at other moments. 

By the time we finished our 2½-hour journey together, everyone was spent, including me. The film received a huge ovation. Afterwards, more than one person told me they couldn't believe the movie was 2½ hours long.

Neither could I. When accompanying, once you get into "the zone," time seems to be suspended, or something happens to you perception of it passing.

So that got me ready for 'The Big Parade' on Sunday, Nov. 12 at the Somerville Theatre in Somerville, Mass. Right?

Well, wrong. As sometimes happens, for whatever reason, this time the score didn't fall together naturally. It went okay, yes, but not like the night before, when I felt I was hitting every moment just right.

Maybe it was fatigue. You don't play 10 hours of film in three days and not start to get—well, a little fuzzy sometimes, especially in hours 9 and 10.

And, unlike in Brandon, the audience was very quiet. Of the nearly 100 people who attended, utterly no laughs in places where there should be, and little reaction of any kind evident.

Example: there's that incredible sustained take (about five minutes, I think) in which John Gilbert shows Renée Adorée how to chew gum. In Brandon, it produced an increasing amount of laughter as it progressed. In Somerville, nothing.

Why? Beats me. 

It wasn't because I was overplaying or stepping on the film. In both cases, I kept the underscoring as light as a feather, frequently using actual silence to punctuate moments when either character registered confusion or incomprehension. 

(That's what I hear accompanists do at places like Pordenone or San Francisco. For us folks working the provinces, it's in our tool kit, too.)

Well, that's that. 

And now, details on 'The Gold Rush' (1925), coming on Sunday, Nov. 26 at 2 p.m. to a theater near you, if you happen to live near the Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H....

*   *   *

Thanksgiving Dinner, anyone? Charlie Chaplin in 'The Gold Rush' (1925).

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Charlie Chaplin's 'The Gold Rush' in Wilton, N.H. on Sunday, Nov. 26

Family fun on Thanksgiving weekend: Little Tramp's silent film comedy classic set in the frozen Arctic to be screened with live music

WILTON, N.H. — Classic silent film comedy returns to the big screen this month in Wilton with 'The Gold Rush' (1925), a classic comedy starring Charlie Chaplin.

The screening will take place on Sunday, Nov. 26 at 2 p.m. at the Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H.

Admission is free; donations are accepted, with $10 per person suggested to defray expenses.

The screening, the latest in the venue's silent film series, will feature live accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based composer who specializes in creating music for silent films.

'The Gold Rush,' a landmark comedy and one of the top-grossing films of the silent era, finds Chaplin's iconic 'Little Tramp' character journeying to the frozen wastelands of the Yukon. There as a prospector, the Tramp's search for gold turns into a pursuit of romance, but with plenty of laughs along the way.

The film contains several famous scenes, both comic and dramatic, including a starving Chaplin forced to eat his shoe for Thanksgiving dinner and a heart-breaking New Year's Eve celebration.

As a comedian, Chaplin emerged as the first superstar in the early days of cinema. From humble beginnings as a musical hall entertainer in England, he came to Hollywood and used his talents to quickly rise to the pinnacle of stardom in the then-new medium of motion pictures. His popularity never waned, and his image remains recognized around the world to this day.

Chaplin warms up his feet in 'The Gold Rush' (1925).

'The Gold Rush,' regarded by many critics as Chaplin's best film, is a prime example of his unique talent for combining slapstick comedy and intense dramatic emotion.

" 'The Gold Rush' is still an effective tear-jerker," wrote critic Eric Kohn of indieWIRE. "In the YouTube era, audiences — myself included — often anoint the latest sneezing panda phenomenon as comedic gold. Unless I’m missing something, however, nothing online has come close to matching the mixture of affectionate fragility and seamless comedic inspiration perfected by the Tramp."

Rapsis, who uses original themes to improvise silent film scores, said the best silent film comedies often used visual humor to create laughter out of simple situations. Because of this, audiences continue to respond to them in the 21st century, especially if they're presented as intended — with an audience and live music.

"These comedies were created to be shown on the big screen as a communal experience," Rapsis said. "With an audience and live music, they still come to life as their creators intended them to. So this screening is a great chance to experience films that first caused people to fall in love with the movies," he said.

Rapsis achieves a traditional movie score sound for silent film screenings by using a digital synthesizer that reproduces the texture of the full orchestra.

'The Gold Rush' will be screened on Sunday, Nov. 26 at 2 p.m. at the Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H.

Admission is free; donations are accepted, with $10 per person suggested to defray expenses. For more information, call the theater at (603) 654-3456.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Slow news day! Boston's WBUR-FM runs piece on my silent film accompaniment work; plus: 'Wings' in Brattleboro, Vt. on Friday, Nov. 10

Accompanying 'The Gold Rush' at the Jane Pickens Theater in Newport, R.I. Photo by Robin Lubbock /WBUR 90.9 FM.

I want to thank Amelia Mason of WBUR 90.0 FM in Boston for all the effort that went into putting together a story about me that aired today during Morning Edition.

Amelia took the trouble to come all the way down to Newport for a recent screening of 'Phantom of the Opera' (1925) that I accompanied there. 

We talked a great deal, and she was somehow able to edit my rambling into a coherent story. 

She also got me talking about my larger life journey—about how I chose not to pursue music in college, but then came back to it decades later via silent film accompaniment.

Two weeks later, WBUR photographer Robin Lubbock came down to the same venue to photograph me doing music for the 1925 version of Chaplin's 'The Gold Rush.'

It's not easy to get usable images from inside a darkened theatre. Photo by Robin Lubbock /WBUR 90.9 FM. 

The result was a piece that went beyond the usual "live music for old movies" angle and instead explored how a person (me!) unexpectedly discovered a mid-life outlet for creative energy. 

So thanks to Amelia and Robin and all their colleagues at WBUR for taking time to put together a wonderful piece. Although the focus was on me, I hope it helps raise awareness for vintage cinema and all the people and venues that keep it before the public.

Here's a link to the audio file:

And here's a link to the online piece, which has significant differences from the radio story:

And as an added bonus, they spelled my name right! You'd be surprised how often that doesn't happen.

Me at the Jane Pickens Theater in Newport, R.I. Photo by Robin Lubbock /WBUR 90.9 FM

Today is a "day off" from silent film accompaniment, which I need because starting tomorrow it's four shows in three days—mostly screenings designed to salute Veterans Day, which is Saturday, Nov. 11.

After I do 'Wings' (1927) on Friday night in Brattleboro, Vt., then it's a 'two-fer' on Saturday: at 2 p.m., program of comedies at the Residence at Otter Creek, a retirement community in Middlebury, Vt., then at 7 p.m. it's 'The Big Parade' (1925) at 7 p.m. at Brandon (Vt.) Town Hall.

The weekend concludes with another 'Big Parade,' this one on Sunday, Nov. 12 at 2 p.m. at the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square, Somerville.

 The Somerville screening will be via a 35mm print from the Library of Congress. I've accompanied this print before and it's truly gorgeous. 

But next up: 'Wings' (1927) on Friday, Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m. at Epsilon Spires, Brattleboro, Vt.

More info and details in the press release below. See you at the movies!

*     *     *

An original poster for Paramount's 'Wings' (1927).

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Epic silent film 'Wings' (1927) on Friday, Nov. 10 at Brattleboro's Epsilon Spires

Story of U.S. aviators in World War I won first-ever 'Best Picture'; screening to feature live organ accompaniment

BRATTLEBORO, Vt.—It won 'Best Picture' at the very first Academy Awards, with spectacular midair flying sequences and a dramatic story that still mesmerizes audiences today.

'Wings' (1927), a drama about U.S. pilots in the skies over Europe during World War I, will be shown with live music on Friday, Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m. at Epsilon Spires, 190 Main St., Brattleboro, Vt.

Admission is $20 per person, with all veterans admitted free in honor of Veterans Day. Tickets may be purchased in advance at or at the door. Doors open at 7 p.m.

The screening will feature live accompaniment on the venue's Estey pipe organ by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based silent film musician.

The show will allow audiences to experience 'Wings' the way its makers originally intended: on the big screen, with live music, and with an audience.

'Wings,' a blockbuster hit in its original release, recounts the adventures of U.S. pilots flying combat missions behind enemy lines at the height of World War I in Europe. 'Wings' stunned audiences with aerial dogfight footage, vivid and realistic battle scenes, and dramatic love-triangle plot.

'Wings' stars Clara Bow, Charles 'Buddy' Rogers, and Richard Arlen. The rarely-seen film also marked one of the first screen appearances of Gary Cooper, who plays a supporting role. 
Buddy Rogers, Gary Cooper, and Richard Arlen in 'Wings' (1927).

Directed by William Wellman, 'Wings' was lauded by critics for its gripping story, superb photography, and technical innovations.

'Wings' is notable as one of the first Hollywood films to take audiences directly into battlefield trenches and vividly depict combat action. Aviation buffs will also enjoy 'Wings' as the film is filled with scenes of vintage aircraft from the early days of flight.

Seen today, the film also allows contemporary audiences a window into the era of World War I, which was fought in Europe from 1914 to 1918.

" 'Wings' is not only a terrific movie, but seeing it on the big screen is also a great chance to appreciate what earlier generations of servicemen and women endured," accompanist Jeff Rapsis said.

"It's a war that has faded somewhat from our collective consciousness, but it defined life in the United States for a big chunk of the 20th century. This film captures how World War I affected the nation, and also shows in detail what it was like to serve one's country a century ago."

Rapsis, a composer who specializes in film music, will create a score for 'Wings' on the spot, improvising the music as the movie unfolds to enhance the on-screen action as well as respond to audience reactions. Rapsis performs the music on a digital synthesizer, which is capable of producing a wide range of theatre organ and orchestral textures.

"Live music was an integral part of the silent film experience," Rapsis said. "At the time, most films weren't released with sheet music or scores. Studios relied on local musicians to come up with an effective score that was different in every theater. At its best, this approach created an energy and a connection that added a great deal to a film's impact. That's what I try to recreate," Rapsis said.

'Wings' runs about 2½ hours and will be shown with one intermission. The film is a family-friendly drama but not suitable for very young children due to its length and intense wartime battle scenes.

‘Wings’ (1927) starring Clara Bow, Buddy Rogers and Richard Arlen will be shown with live music in honor of Veterans Day on Friday, Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m. at Epsilon Spires, 190 Main St., Brattleboro, Vt.

Admission is $20 per person, with all veterans receiving free admission. Tickets may be purchased in advance at or at the door. Doors open at 7 p.m.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Tonight in Plymouth, N.H.! All for one, one for all in 'The Three Musketeers' (1921) with live music

The original 'Three Musketeers' candy bar, introduced in 1932, contained three sections of flavoured nougat: one vanilla, one chocolate, and one strawberry, hence the name. The bar went all chocolate in 1945, but the name stayed the same.

I dare say it's one of the best opening sentences of any press release I've issued:

PLYMOUTH, N.H.—Long before it became a candy bar in the concession stand, 'The Three Musketeers' was on the big screen as a swashbuckling silent film, a major hit of 1921.

You won't get that in a press release from an AI chatbot no matter how generative its intelligence. 

Yes, tonight (Wednesday, Nov. 7) brings a screening of the early Douglas Fairbanks swashbuckler, with live music by me. Showtime is at 6:30 p.m.; lots more info about the film is in the press release pasted in below. 

First, a quick round-up of recent gigs.

Saturday, Nov. 4 saw my first post-pandemic appearance at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, where they run silent film programs with live music every weekend all year round.

I've enjoyed helping out when I'm out there, and it was great to return and reconnect with everyone.

The evening's feature was the 1925 version of 'Raffles the Amateur Cracksman,' with actor House Peters in the title role. Yes, it's about crime, but the trick with a film like this, which at its heart is light-hearted, is to treat it very lightly.

That's what I did: mostly light cocktail/dance music, but always to underscore the action, highlight any emotional subtext (of which there was little), and keep things skipping along.

'Raffles' was preceded by two shorts: the 1912 Griffith classic 'The Musketeers of Pig Alley' (hey, there's that Musketeers theme again!) plus a Stan Laurel solo comedy. 

We were fortunate in that one person in the audience was a big and easy laugher. All it takes in one of these to help loosen up an audience, and that's what happened Saturday night in Niles. With one fearless soul leading the way, everyone else had permission to laugh.

At the Garden: owner/operator Isaac Mass unveils the venue's 2024 schedule of silent films.

Monday, Nov. 6 found me at the Garden Cinema in Greenfield, Mass. to accompany a screening of 'The Scarlet Letter' (1926), starring Lillian Gish, who also starred in the Griffith film shown at Niles.

To my surprise, 'The Scarlett Letter' drew 59 people on a Monday night. Wow! We've been doing silents in Greenfield on and off for a couple of years now, and an audience seems to be developing.

Yesterday afternoon I hauled myself down to Newport, R.I. to accompany a screening of Chaplin's 'The Gold Rush' (1925) at the Jane Pickens Theater.

The film was programmed as part of the town's 'Restaurant/Foodie Week' due primarily to its famous Thanksgiving scene in which Chaplin and co-star Mack Swain consume a shoe.

In introducing the film, I got a big laugh by saying: "The film is a surprising choice for restaurant week because it was inspired in part by cannabilism."

Then, looking at two little girls sitting close by with their parents, I couldn't resist saying into the microphone: "For you young folks, that's people eating other people."

And then I recounted the story of how Chaplin was looking at images of the ill-fated Donner party, etc. 

A bonus at last night's screening was the presence of a photographer on assignment from WBUR-FM, the Boston NPR station. They're doing a piece on me that I believe will air any day now. Stay tuned!

And that brings us to tonight; 'The Three Musketeers' (1921) at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center (like the candy bar, quite a mouthful). 

Press release is below. See you at the movies. 

*    *    *

All for one and one for all: a scene from 'The Three Musketeers' (1921).

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

'Three Musketeers' with live music at Flying Monkey on Wednesday, Nov. 8

It's 'all for one and one for all' in classic silent film swashbuckler starring Douglas Fairbanks

PLYMOUTH, N.H.—Long before it became a candy bar in the concession stand, 'The Three Musketeers' was on the big screen as a swashbuckling silent film, a major hit of 1921.

And now, more than a century later, it returns: 'The Three Musketeers' (1921), starring Douglas Fairbanks Sr., will be shown with live music on Wednesday, Nov. 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center, 39 Main St., Plymouth, N.H.

The program will feature live accompaniment by silent film musician Jeff Rapsis. Admission is $10 per person.

'The Three Musketeers,' adapted from the classic Alexandre Dumas novel and directed by Fred Niblo, is a costume drama set amid palace intrigue in 17th century France.

Fairbanks plays the leading role of D'Artagnan, who after challenging musketeers Athos (Leon Barry), Porthos (George Siegmann) and Aramis (Eugene Pallette) to a duel, joins forces with them in opposition of the scheming Cardinal Richelieu (Nigel De Brulier).

Plotting to discredit Queen Anne (Mary McLaren) in the eyes of her husband King Louis XIII (Adolphe Menjou), Richelieu dispatches Milady de Winter (Barbara La Marr) to pilfer the diamond brooch given by Anne to her British lover, the Duke of Buckingham (Thomas Holding).

Marguerite de la Motte and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. in 'The Three Musketeers.'

With the help of the lovely Constance (Marguerite de la Motte), D'Artagnan and the Musketeers race against time to retrieve the brooch and save their Queen.

The athletic Douglas Fairbanks's one-handed handspring to grab a sword during a fight scene in 'The Three Musketeers' is considered as one of the great stunts of early cinema.

Critics point to 'The Three Musketeers' as a turning point in Fairbanks' career.

" 'The Three Musketeers' was the first of the grand Fairbanks costume films, filled with exemplary production values and ornamentation," wrote author Jeffrey Vance in 2008. "With 'The Three Musketeers,' he at last found his metier and crystallized his celebrity and his cinema."

Fairbanks, among the most popular stars of the 1920s, was the inspiration for the character of George Valentin in the Oscar-winning Best Picture 'The Artist' (2011). Fairbanks was known for films that used the then-new medium of motion pictures to transport audiences to historical time periods for grand adventures and athletic stunts.

He's often referred to as "Douglas Fairbanks Sr." to avoid confusion with his son, the actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

As early as it is, the Fairbanks version of 'Three Musketeers' was not the first big-screen adaptation of the classic Dumas tale. At least a half-dozen earlier versions were filmed in the U.S. and Europe. Over the years, at least 24 different adaptation of the 'Musketeer' saga have been released, attesting to the timeless popularity of Dumas' tale.

Douglas Fairbanks in 'The Three Musketeers' (1921).

Live music for 'The Three Musketeers' will be provided by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis, who uses a digital synthesizer to create a traditional full orchestra "movie score" sound.

"Seeing a Fairbanks picture in a theater with live music and an audience is a classic movie experience," Rapsis said.

Rapsis emphasized the unique value of seeing early cinema as it was originally presented.

"These films were designed for the big screen, live music, and large audiences. If you put it all together again, you get a sense of why people first fell in love with the movies," Rapsis said.

'The Three Musketeers' (1921) starring Douglas Fairbanks Sr., will be screened with live music on Wednesday, Nov. 8 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

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Monday, Nov. 6: Lillian Gish plus some Puritan-era hanky panky in 'The Scarlet Letter' (1926)

An original lobby card promoting Lillian Gish in 'The Scarlet Letter' (1926).

With Halloween in the rear view mirror, time for a break from the annual marathon of spooky silent film screenings. 

But not for long! 

The pace resumes again on Monday, Nov. 6, when I'll accompany the MGM's big-budget adaptation of 'The Scarlet Letter' (1926) at the Garden Cinemas in Greenfield, Mass. 

Showtime is 6:30 p.m. Lots more info about the film and the screening is in the press release pasted at the end of this post.

Then on Tuesday, it's Chaplin's 'The Gold Rush' (1925) in Newport, R.I., then 'The Three Musketeers' (1921) in Plymouth, N.H., then a total of four shows on the weekend around Veterans Day, including three biggies: one 'Wings' (1927) and two screenings of 'The Big Parade' (1925).

But before any of that, this weekend I have the privilege of sitting in as accompanist at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Niles, Calif. 

On Saturday, Nov. 4, I'll do live music for a program highlighted by the 1925 feature film 'Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman.' 

By the way, what a film this is for names. It stars "House Peters," which sounds like a name out of Monty Python's Flying Circus. And it's directed by "King Baggot," who was actually quite a big name in early cinema. 

The cast also includes Hedda Hopper and stalwart character actor Walter Long, a New Hampshire native.

It's the first time since the pandemic that I've gone out to Niles, which is in on the east side of San Francisco Bay, about halfway between Oakland and San Jose.

Prior to everything shutting down, I'd generally go out there twice a year to accompany programs. It's the only venue I know of that runs silent film programs each week all year round, so it's worth the pilgrimage to do my part. 

Let's hope this weekend's screening marks the resumption of this ritual. I like going out to San Francisco to do this. The whole area reminds me of the model railroad layouts I dreamed about as a child. And the ramen is much better than anything you can get in New England.

Speaking of which: I invite you to join me for MGM's adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel set in 1600s Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony on Monday, Nov. 6 at 6:30 a.m. 

*    *    *

Lillian Gish stars in 'The Scarlet Letter' (1926)

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Greenfield's Garden Cinemas to screen 1926 silent film version of 'The Scarlet Letter'

Early adaptation of Nathanial Hawthorne classic tale of old New England features Lillian Gish in lead role; shown with live music on Monday, Nov. 6.

GREENFIELD, Mass.— It was a picture that MGM studio boss Louis B. Mayer didn't want to make, fearing the scandalous story of adultery in old New England would offend the movie-going public.

But silent screen star Lillian Gish, then at the height of her fame, insisted that 'The Scarlet Letter' by Nathaniel Hawthorne would be her next film.

Gish prevailed, and the result was MGM's splashy big budget adaptation of a classic literary tale anchored by Gish's landmark performance as Hester Prynne.

See it for yourself when 'The Scarlet Letter' (1926) will be shown with live music on Monday, Nov. 6 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.

Adapted from Hawthorne's 1850 classic novel set in the Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1642 to 1649, 'The Scarlet Letter' featured Lillian Gish in the leading role as Hester Prynne.

Hester is married to Roger Prynne, whom she does not love. During her husband's long absence she walks in the woods with her pastor, the Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale, and they soon fall in love.

When a child is born to her, she is condemned to wear upon her breast the brand of Adulteress and is shunned when she refuses to divulge the name of the child's father.

The situation leads to a shattering climax in which a community is forced to confront its own hypocrisy and double standards.

'The Scarlet Letter' was directed by Victor Seastrom, a Swedish filmmaker brought to Hollywood by MGM.

Seastrom's talent for memorable visuals is evident throughout 'The Scarlet Letter.'

Film critic Paul Malcolm observed that “early in the film Gish, as Prynne, loses her bonnet chasing a songbird through a summer glade. When the wind catches her waist-long tresses, Gish appears for an instant as if she had stepped into a painting by Botticelli."

The film was the second that Gish made under her contract with MGM and a departure from the ingénue roles she had performed in service to director D.W. Griffith. 

Her first MGM picture was an adaption of 'La Bohème' with co-star John Gilbert, in which she played the pathetic consumptive Mimi.

Although 'The Scarlet Letter' cost MGM nearly $500,000 to make, it proved a solid box office hit, earning a profit of just under $300,000.

An exhibition trade ad promoting 'The Scarlet Letter' (1926).

In screening 'The Scarlet Letter,' the Garden Cinemas aim to recreate all essential elements of silent film experience: high quality prints shown on a large screen, with live music and an audience.

"These films caused people to fall in love with the movies for a very good reason," said Jeff Rapsis, who will improvise a musical score during the screening. "They were unique experiences, and if you can recreate the conditions under which they were shown, they have a great deal of life in them.

"Though they're the ancestors of today's movies, silent film is a very different art form than what you see at the multiplex today, so it's worth checking out as something totally different," Rapsis said.

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

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

• 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.

• Monday, Jan. 1 at 6:30 p.m.: 'The Gold Rush' (1925). Charlie Chaplin's beloved 'Little Tramp' character tries his hand at prospecting in the Yukon, finding romance instead. All-time classic comedy!

• Monday, Feb. 5 at 6:30 p.m.: 'Flesh and the Devil' (1926). Just in time for Valentine's Day! Garbo and Gilbert steam up the camera lens in this torrid romance set in 19th century European high society.

• Monday, March 4 at 6:30 p.m.: 'The Passion of Joan of Arc' (1928). Danish director Carl Dreyer's intense recreation of the trial of Joan of Arc set new standards for cinematography and expanded the language of film in new directions.

• Monday, April 1 at 6:30 p.m.: 'Safety Last' (1923). The iconic image of Harold Lloyd dangling from the hands of a downtown clock is only one small piece of a remarkable thrill comedy that has lost none of its power over audiences.

The silent film version of 'The Scarlet Letter' (1926) will be screened with live music on Monday, Nov. 6 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 at the door; advance tickets are available at For more information, call the box office at (413) 774-4881.

Karl Dane provides some comic relief in 'The Scarlet Letter' (1926).