Thursday, May 30, 2024

Next up: 100th anniversary of Doug Fairbanks in 'Thief of Bagdad' on Saturday, 6/8 in Brandon, Vt

A promotional image for 'The Thief of Bagdad' (1924).

First, a quick thank you to everyone who contributed to this site recently reaching the milestone of 1 million page views

I've been keeping this running log about my silent film accompaniment adventures for about 15 years now. It's been fun and I'll continue to do so.

It's mostly to get the word out about upcoming screenings, such as 'The Thief of Bagdad' (1924), which I'm accompanying on Saturday, June 8 in Brandon, Vt. (See below!)

But occasionally I share more in-depth thoughts about the craft of accompanying, the silent era, the films themselves, or other idiosyncratic topics.

It's an intermittent diary of sorts, a record that helps me remember and keep track of the experiences I've had so far. 

Next up is a biggie: Douglas Fairbanks in 'The Thief of Bagdad,' which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this season. 

I hope you'll join me up in Brandon, Vt. on Saturday, June 8 for a screening of this timeless motion picture fantasy. More info in the press release below!

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An original poster for 'The Thief of Bagdad; (1924)

Classic epic 'Thief of Bagdad' to screen Saturday, June 8 at Brandon Town Hall

Adventure/fantasy starring Douglas Fairbanks Sr. presented with live music in celebration of film's 100th anniversary

BRANDON, Vt.—It ranks among the first Hollywood epics to show the full potential for movies to depict entire worlds of fantasy. It was also one of the top grossing films of 1924.

It was 'The Thief of Bagdad,' a celebrated triumph for actor/director Douglas Fairbanks that stands as one of greatest achievements of cinema's silent era.

It's a film filled with images of flying carpets, exotic cities, underwater palaces, winged horses, fire-breathing dragons, and more!

See if for yourself with live music on Saturday, June 8 at 7 p.m. at Brandon Town Hall and Community Center. All are welcome to this family-friendly event. 

Admission is free, with free will donations accepted in support of ongoing Town Hall renovations.

This 100th anniversary screening of 'The Thief of Bagdad' will be accompanied with live music by Jeff Rapsis.

Douglas Fairbanks, star of 'The Thief of Bagdad,' was the Harrison Ford of his time—a pioneering action hero who was among the first to entertain movie audiences with thrilling adventures.

'The Thief of Bagdad' stands among his best work. It's a timeless fable on a grand scale, boasting a great story, spectacular sets, and magical special effects.

A bare-chested Fairbanks plays a crafty street-smart rogue who can easily steal anything his heart desires—except the love of a beautiful princess, daughter of the powerful Caliph of Bagdad.

To win her hand, he must not only change his ways, but also show his worthiness over many other highly placed suitors.

In making the film, Fairbanks spared no expense for what some critics still regard as the most lavish fantasy movie ever made, a show-stopping adaptation of the traditional "A Thousand and One Nights" Arabian legend. 

The result is an epic in which a flying carpet is just one of many eye-popping sights designed to astound movie audiences.
Douglas Fairbanks Sr. in costume for 'The Thief of Bagdad' (1924).

Fairbanks, swaggering through massive marketplace sets and cavernous throne rooms as an incorrigible pickpocket, scales towering walls (with the help of a magic rope) and leads merry chases through crowded bazaars in his pursuit of loot.

The jaunty opening is a preamble to the film's spectacular second half, in which the repentant thief embarks on an odyssey through caverns of fire, underwater palaces, and even outer space. 

Special effects range from a giant smoke-belching dragon to a magical flying horse, and still glow with a timeless sense of wonder from the early days of movies.

William Cameron Menzies's sets were among the largest ever created for a motion picture. Especially noteworthy is his design for a mythical Bagdad, a unique combination of Art Deco and Islamic elements—a dream city inspired by illustrations from story books.

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.

A century after its premiere, 'The Thief of Bagdad' remains highly regarded. In 1996, the film was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Live music for 'The Thief of Bagdad' 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 screening of 'The Thief of Bagdad' is sponsored by Kathy and Wayne Rausenberger, Donna Malewicki, Jean and Harold Somerset, Donald and Dolories Furnari, Gary and Nancy Meffe, and Pam and Steve Douglass.
Other films in this year's Brandon Town Hall silent film series include:

• 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 Douglas FairbanksSr.  in the 'The Thief of Bagdad' (1924) with live music on Saturday, June 8 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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