Saturday, March 2, 2024

Thoughts on how we all need a Topeka, plus 'Why Worry?' in Wilton, N.H. on Sunday, 3/3

Harold Lloyd has big shoes to fill in 'Why Worry?' (1923).

Today's headlines getting you down? Then see a film from yesterday called 'Why Worry?' (1923), which I'm accompanying on Sunday, March 3 at 2 p.m. at the Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H.

Lots more info about this Harold Lloyd comedy in the press release pasted in below. With silent film, the audience is an important part of the show, so hope to see you there!

For now, here's a report from this year's Kansas Silent Film Festival, which took place on Friday, Feb. 23 and Saturday, Feb. 24 on the campus of Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. 

This was the 25th consecutive year I've attended this festival, which includes the pandemic year of 2021 when I staged my own version of it, "The Kansas Silent Film Festival in New Hampshire." 

Why have I done this for so many years? Well, besides the films and the people, I think it represents hope and renewed possibilities, at least on a personal level.

Setting up: Larry Stendebach and Brian Sanders hang the banner on the White Concert Hall.

I first attended it quite by random in the year 2000, just prior to co-founding a successful publishing business that's been a big part of my life ever. Something about the accidental nature of it all triggered something in me to move ahead with all this.

And not long afterwards, the Kansas festival prompted me to embark on my own silent film journey—one that's involved creating music for silent film screenings for nearly 20 years now. 

For a lot of us, our life path involves finding our own way to what we become. And for some of us, the path has to include random detours to make it uniquely our own. 

It's one thing to follow a good example and learn from the paths that others have taken, to stand on the shoulders of those who came before you. But it's such a human thing to want to explore and find your own way—to pioneer, to discover, to learn and experience for yourself.

So returning to Topeka once a year in late February has become something of a pilgrimage for me, with its own interior rituals such as fried pickles on Saturday morning at the Hanover Pancake House—itself a symbol of renewal, having risen from the rubble of the F5 tornado that roared through town in June 1966.

(Interesting fact: a local TV reporter in Topeka at the time the tornado hit is credited with saving lives by sternly warning viewers, "For God's sake, take cover!" The reporter was a young Bill Kurtis, today the announcer for NPR's 'Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me.')

And for me, Topeka has become a sort of Midwest version of Brigadoon: a distant community conjured out of the mist just once a year, a place where like-minded people gather to celebrate something most people don't understand or appreciate—and a place where I can pause and ponder what I've done, and what I can still do, to be the best version of myself. 

We all need a Topeka. In my case, it actually happens to be Topeka.


For a comprehensive round-up of this year's films, I point you to a wonderfully detailed write-up by longtime attendee Bruce Calvert of Texas. 

Accompanist Ben Model provides music for 'Mabel's Blunder' (1914), a short Keystone comedy.

For me, among the highlights was getting to hear other accompanists do their stuff for a wide range of films, and with large and appreciative audiences. 

A special treat was to finally meet and hear Donald Sosin, one of the big names in the field, who was making his first appearance in Kansas.

I had the privilege of chauffeuring Donald to the Kansas City Airport (at 5 a.m.!), and we got chatting about a wide range of topics. I was surprised to find Donald was in the audience for my stuff, and he shared some useful observations.

And then just like that, it was over—until next year. 

But until then, I'll continue with my own little circus, including Harold Lloyd's comedy 'Why Worry?' on Sunday, March 3 at the Town Hall Theatre in Wilton.

More info below!

*   *   *

A vintage lobby card promoting Harold Lloyd's comedy 'Why Worry?' (1923).
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Silent comedy 'Why Worry?' with live music at Town Hall Theatre on Sunday, March 3

Harold Lloyd finds himself caught up in south-of-the-border revolutionary hilarity in inventive 1920s farce

WILTON, N.H.— He was the bespectacled young man next door whose road to success was often plagued by perilous detours.

He was Harold Lloyd, whose fast-paced comedies made him the most popular movie star of Hollywood's silent film era.

See for yourself why Lloyd was the top box office attraction of the 1920s in a revival of 'Why Worry?' (1923), one of his top-grossing comedies.

'Why Worry?' will be screened with live music on Sunday, March 3, 2024 at 2 p.m. at the Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H.

The screening was originally scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 18, but was moved to Sunday, March 3 due to a scheduling conflict.

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.

Lloyd's go-getter character proved immensely popular throughout the 1920s, with fans following him from one adventure to the next.

Lloyd searches for footwear in 'Why Worry?' (1923).
In the political satire 'Why Worry?', Harold plays a wealthy hypochondriac traveling abroad who gets caught up in a local uprising.

Thrown into prison, Harold is forced to use his wits to escape and rescue his nurse from the clutches of a dangerous revolutionary leader.

Regarded as one of Lloyd's most surreal movies, 'Why Worry?' features a cast that includes an actual real-life giant—8-foot-tall John Aasen, discovered in Minnesota during a national talent search.

Rapsis will improvise a musical score for 'Why Worry?' as the film screens. In creating accompaniment for the Lloyd movies and other vintage classics, Rapsis tries to bridge the gap between silent film and modern audiences.

"Creating the music on the spot is a bit of a high-wire act, but it contributes a level of energy that's really crucial to the silent film experience," Rapsis said.

'Why Worry?' (1923) will be screened with live music on Sunday, March 3, 2024 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.

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