Saturday, May 11, 2024

If it's May, then it must be time to start showing silent films with live music in Brandon, Vt.

Not-so-elegant dining: A scene from Chaplin's 'The Gold Rush' (1925)

...and sure enough, it is!

Join me for Opening Night of the Brandon (Vt.) Town Hall and Community Center's annual Silent Film Series!

The 2024 edition opens on Saturday, May 11 at 7 p.m. (hey, that's tonight!) with Chaplin's 'The Gold Rush' (1925), with live music by me.

Lots more info in the press release below, including the entire Brandon schedule now through November.

See you at the movies!

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A German poster promoting Chaplin's 'The Gold Rush' (1925).

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Classic Chaplin comedy 'The Gold Rush' with live music on Saturday, May 11 in Brandon, Vt. 

Brandon Town Hall's 2024 silent film series kicks off with classic comedy featuring the Little Tramp's search for fortune and romance in the Klondike

BRANDON, Vt.—Classics from the silent film era return to the big screen this May at the Brandon Town Hall and Community Center, which will host another season of vintage cinema with live music.

First up is Charlie Chaplin in 'The Gold Rush' (1925), an epic comedy in which the Little Tramp joins in the Klondike Gold Rush. The film screens on Saturday, May 11 at 7 p.m. at the Brandon Town Hall and Community Center, Route 7, in Brandon, Vt.

Admission is free; donations are welcome to help support ongoing Town Hall renovation efforts.

Live music for each silent film program will be provided by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based performer and composer who specializes in scoring and presenting 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.

Improvised foot-warming: Chaplin in 'The Gold Rush' (1925).

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.

'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."
The screening of 'The Gold Rush' provides local audiences the opportunity to experience silent film as it was intended to be shown: on the big screen, in restored prints, with live music, and with an audience.

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.

"It's a real treat to return to Brandon for another season of great silent film," Rapsis said. "If you've never seen one of these movies in a theater, check it out. These films were the pop culture of their day, and retain their ability to hold an audience and deliver a great time at the movies."

It's the 13th year of the popular silent film series, which gives residents and visitors a chance to see great movies from the pioneering days of cinema as they were meant to be shown—on the big screen, with an audience, and accompanied by live music.

Screenings are held once a month, generally on Saturday nights starting in May and running through November. Admission is free; donations are encouraged, with proceeds to benefit the Town Hall's ongoing restoration.

Over the years, silent film donations have helped support projects including handicapped access to the 19th century building; renovating the bathrooms; and restoring the structure's original slate roof.

The screening of 'The Gold Rush' is sponsored by Bill and Kathy Mathis in memory of Maxine Thurston

Other films in this year's Brandon Town Hall silent film series include:

• Saturday, June 8, 2024, 7 p.m.: "The Thief of Bagdad" (1924) starring Douglas Fairbanks Sr. Celebrate the 100th anniversary of this eye-popping cinematic spectacle; starring Fairbanks in top form as Arabian adventurer who must complete a series of epic tasks to save his beloved. Timeless tale told imaginatively and on a grand scale, complete with cutting edge special effects.

• Saturday, July 20, 2024, 7 p.m.: "The Cameraman" (1928) starring Buster Keaton. In 'The Cameraman,' Keaton tries to impress the gal of his dreams by working as a newsreel photographer. Can he get a break and get the girl? Classic visual comedy with Keaton at the peak of his creative powers; set in NYC and includes 1920s shots of Midtown Manhattan and the old Yankee Stadium.

• Saturday, Aug. 10, 2024, 7 p.m.: "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" (1921) starring Rudolph Valentino. Sweeping drama of a divided family with members caught up on opposites sides during World War I. Breakthrough film for Rudolph Valentino, introducing the sultry tango and launching him to stardom. The real deal! Shown both in honor of the 110th anniversary of World War I's outbreak and the anniversary of Valentino's untimely death in 1926.

• Saturday, Sept. 21, 2024, 7 p.m.: "Speedy" (1928) starring Harold Lloyd. Harold's final silent feature cis a tribute to New York City, baseball, and the idea that nice guys can indeed finish first, highlighted by one of the most exciting races to the finish in all silent cinema. Complete with an extended cameo from none other than Babe Ruth!

• Saturday, Oct. 19, 2024, 7 p.m.: "Phantom of the Opera" (1925) starring Lon Chaney. Long before Andrew Lloyd Webber created the hit stage musical, this silent film adaptation starring Lon Chaney put 'Phantom' firmly in the pantheon of both horror and romance. Just in time for Halloween!

• Saturday, Nov. 16, 2024, 7 p.m.: "Barbed Wire" (1927) starring Pola Negri, Clive Brook. During World War I, the French government commandeers a family farm for use as a camp for German POWs, setting the local population at each other. Intense drama about forbidden love and the human condition, with a special holiday twist.

See Charlie Chaplin in the 'The Gold Rush' (1925) with live music on Saturday, May 11 at 7 p.m. at the Brandon Town Hall and Community Center, Route 7, in Brandon, Vt. All are welcome to this family-friendly event. Admission is free, with free will donations accepted in support of ongoing Town Hall renovations.

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