BRANDON — Two comic icons of the silent film era will return to the big screen for one night only, as the Brandon Town Hall presents a silent comedy double feature on Saturday, Sept. 14. On the program are Harold Lloyd starring in “Dr. Jack” (1922) and Buster Keaton in “Seven Chances” (1925).
The show starts at 7 p.m. at Brandon Town Hall and is open to the public. Admission is free; donations are encouraged, with proceeds to support ongoing renovation of Brandon Town Hall.
Live music will be provided by accompanist Jeff Rapsis, a resident of Bedford, N.H., and one of the nation’s leading silent film musicians. The screening is sponsored by Pam and Steve Douglass.
“There’s nothing like silent film comedy shown on the big screen with a live audience,” said Rapsis, who regularly accompanies silent film screenings all around New England.
“Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton were both master of knowing how to make a large audience laugh,” Rapsis said. “Seeing their films as they were intended to be shown is still one of the great experiences the movies have to offer.”
Rapsis was recently selected as featured accompanist at this year’s prestigious Buster Keaton Celebration in Iola, Kansas on Sept. 28-29.
In “Dr. Jack” (1922), Lloyd plays a country doctor with methods that are unorthodox, but which get results. But now comes his toughest case yet: a poor little rich girl (Mildred Davis), bedridden with a mysterious condition. Harold’s cure is sure to make audiences smile.
Lloyd’s optimistic go-getter character was extremely popular throughout the 1920s, as audiences followed him from one adventure to the next. His pictures, with their mix of comedy, sentiment and thrills, proved so successful that Lloyd was the top box office star during the silent era, outgrossing all other performers.
In “Seven Chances” (1925), stockbroker Jimmie Shannon (Buster Keaton) will inherit a fortune provided he’s a married man … by 7 p.m. that day. After an afternoon of turn-downs, Keaton finds himself mobbed by hordes of would-be brides who pursue him through the streets of Los Angeles. Classic Keaton comedy, complete with what critics hail as one of the best silent film comedy endings ever.
Keaton, along with Chaplin and Lloyd, endures as one of the three great clowns of the silent screen. Many critics regard Keaton as the best of all; critic Roger Ebert wrote in 2002 that “in an extraordinary period from 1920 to 1929, (Keaton) worked without interruption on a series of films that make him, arguably, the greatest actor-director in the history of the movies.”
The Brandon Town Hall’s silent film series aims to recreate the full silent film experience, with restored prints projected on the big screen, live music, and the presence of an audience. All these elements are essential to seeing silent films they way they were intended, Rapsis said.
“If you can put it all together again, these films still contain a tremendous amount of excitement,” Rapsis said. “By staging these screenings of features from Hollywood’s early days, you can see why people first fell in love with the movies.”
Music is a key element of each silent film screening, Rapsis said. Silent movies were never shown in silence, but were accompanied by live music made right in each theater. Most films were not released with official scores, so it was up to local musicians to provide the soundtrack, which could vary greatly from theater to theater.
“Because there’s no set soundtrack for most silent films, musicians are free to create new music as they see fit, even today,” Rapsis said. “In bringing a film to life, I try to create original ‘movie score’ music that sounds like what you might expect in a theater today, which helps bridge the gap between today’s audiences and silent films that are in some cases nearly 100 years old.”
The last feature in this season’s silent film series at the Brandon Town Hall is “Nosferatu (1922) on Saturday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. The annual “Chiller Theater” presentation in the as-yet-unheated Brandon Town Hall comes just in time for Halloween. Moviegoers will see the original silent film adaptation of Bram Stoker’s famous “Dracula” story, still scary after all these years. In fact, some critics believe this version is not only the best ever done, but has actually become creepier with the passage of time. This screening is sponsored by Heritage Family Credit Union.