Monday, September 25, 2017

Rounding up a few loose ends prior
to the Buster Keaton Celebration in Iola, Kansas


Just back from Utica, N.Y., where I did music on Saturday night for Harold Lloyd's 'Speedy' (1928) at The Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, a really nifty museum.

Harold killed, as usual. And what a pleasure to be present as yet another audience got acquainted with this film!

Next up: heading out to Iola, Kansas this weekend for the annual Buster Keaton Celebration, held not far from Buster's birthplace in Piqua, Kansas.

While there, I'll get to hear accompanists Ben Model and Marvin Falwell do music for several Keaton features and short comedies. Looking forward to it!

And me—I'll accompany Keaton's 'The Cameraman' (1928) and my share of short comedies, too.

But I also get to introduce a new documentary, 'To Be Funny,' a contemporary look at Buster's enduring popularity.

Why me? Because I'm actually in it, and the filmmakers couldn't be on hand, so they asked me to do the honors.

It's the first time the film will be shown publicly. But to see a bit in advance, the trailer is posted online.

Also online is a new feature article on silent film music and my approach to it.

Published by the Boston Arts Fuse, it was written by Ken Bader, who did a very thorough job interviewing me and pulling this piece together. Thanks, Ken!

When I get back from Kansas, we'll be entering the busiest time of the year for a silent film accompanist—the weeks leading up to Halloween.

And yes, I have something like 12 shows in the two weeks prior to Oct. 31. Scary!

To keep the Halloween season from becoming a 'Nosferatu' marathon, each year I try to pull a worthy thriller from the shadows and give it a chance at some screen time.

This year, it's the original silent film version of 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' (1922), starring John Barrymore and a surprisingly scary piece of vintage cinema.

But things worked out where I'm also accompanying a couple of screenings of 'The Man Who Laughs' (1928), the terrific Paul Leni film starring Conrad Veidt.

So it make for a spooky good time.

And remember: in silent film, no one can hear you scream.

Monday, September 11, 2017

This week, four screenings in four states:
silent film with live music in NH, MA, VT, CT

We enjoyed a great turnout of about 250 people on Sunday, Sept. 10 for the Boston premiere of the rediscovered 'Sherlock Holmes' (1916), which was shown in 35mm at the Somerville Theatre.

But I'm already looking ahead to a crowded week of screenings that takes me to four different states in five days.

Luckily, our states in New England are small, so they're all easy day trips.

Okay, rounding them up in order, which is how Holmes would have approached it:


Wednesday, Sept. 13 finds me doing music for Mary Pickford in 'The Little American' (1917) at the Cheshire County Historical Society in Keene, N.H.

They're running it because the patriotic film played Keene exactly 100 years ago, after the U.S. had entered what we now call World War I.

Keene State College Prof. Larry Benaquist will lead a discussion on issues ranging from the film's propaganda value to Pickford's role as one of the pioneering women in cinema.

The program starts at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public. More information is online.

Richard Barthelmess and Ernest Torrence battle in 'Tol'able David.'

Thursday, Sept. 14 gives me the chance to revisit an early favorite: Richard Barthelmess in 'Tol'able David' (1921), Henry King's evocative rural drama.

Shot in the Virginia countryside where King grew up, the film captures a way of life that hadn't changed in generations, but which now has completely vanished.

In addition, the film boasts a great story and a fine cast, headed by Barthelmess (who Lillian Gish called "the most beautiful man" she'd ever worked with) and also including stalwart character actor Ernest Torrence playing one of the creepiest roles of his career.

See it all for yourself at the Capitol Theatre in Arlington, Mass. The show starts at 8 p.m., and there's plenty more info in the press release pasted in below.

Harry Houdini leaves little to the imagination in 'Terror Island.'

Saturday, Sept. 16 sees me hauling myself up to Brandon, Vermont for the latest in our monthly silent film series at the Brandon Town Hall.

This time it's a double feature of rarely screened adventure thrillers starring none other than Harry Houdini!

The titles: 'Terror Island' (1920) and 'The Man From Beyond' (1922).

Yes, it's the same Harry Houdini known as the "Handcuff King," the legendary illusionist who amazed audiences around the globe with daring stunts and seemingly impossible escapes.

Houdini, like many performers of the era, had a fling with the new-fangled flickers, starring in several silent thrillers designed to showcase his good looks, magnetic personality, and athletic prowess.

The result was a kind of embryonic mixture of Indiana Jones-type adventure with mysticism, James Bond-style gadgetry, dangerous stunts, and anything else the plots demanded.

Houdini eventually gave up on the movies in favor of live performance. But came to Brandon and you'll see what he was up to.

Show starts at 7 p.m. No admission charged, but free will donations are welcome to support ongoing Town Hall renovations.

Lots more info in the press release, which I'm pasting at the end of this post.

Promotional art for Vernon and Irene Castle.

Sunday, Sept. 17 brings me to Connecticut, where I'll present an unusual silent film program as part of a Vintage Dance Weekend taking place in and around Hartford.

Featured attraction is 'The Whirl of Life' (1915), an obscure early drama but one starring no less than Vernon and Irene Castle, the ballroom dance sensation of the decade!

I hadn't known much about the Castles until the organizers of this screening asked me to run this title as the featured attraction.

Turns out the Castles were quite the shooting stars, rocketing to fame in 1914 in the first-ever Broadway musical by an up-and-coming composer named Irving Berlin.

Among other accomplishments, they popularized the foxtrot, and of course the film has scenes of them doing the dance that remains a ballroom staple. Okay, everyone: Slow, slow, quick quick!

Preceding 'Whirl' is a classic Charley Chase farce, 'Mighty Like a Moose' (1926), which also has some dancing in it, plus a lot of other great stuff.

Should be a fun program at Hartford's Charter Oaks Cultural Center, and it's actually open to the public—even to non-vintage-dance folks.

If you'd like to attend, there's more info at this Constant Contact page.

Okay, a busy week beckons. But first, let me follow through with the promised press releases, first for 'Tol'able David' and then for the Houdini program. Hope to see you at one or two—or perhaps you'll attempt to collect all four!

* * *


WEDNESDAY, AUG. 30, 2017 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Rip-roaring rural drama at Arlington's Capitol Theatre on Thursday, Sept. 14


'Tol'able David' (1921), ground-breaking silent coming-of-age drama filmed entirely on location, to be screened with live music

ARLINGTON, Mass.—A film that helped Hollywood understand the power of location shooting will continue this season's silent film series at the Capitol Theatre in Arlington, Mass.

'Tol'able David' (1921), a coming-of-age drama starring Richard Barthelmess, will be shown on Thursday, Sept. 14 at 8 p.m. at The Capitol Theatre, 204 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington, Mass.

Admission is $12 adults, $10 kids and seniors. Live music will be provided by accompanist Jeff Rapsis, a New England-based performer who specializes in creating music for silent film presentations.

Barthelmess plays the title role of David Kinemon, an adolescent eager to prove to the community that he's a man. He gets his chance when three escapees from jail come to town and menace the local residents.

When push comes to shove, who will emerge on top?

Based on a 1919 short story by author Joseph Hergesheimer, 'Tol'able David' was directed by Henry King, then at the start of a long Hollywood career that would go on include such later classics as 'Twelve O'Clock High' (1949) and 'The Gunfighter' (1950), both starring Gregory Peck.

Boyish leading actor Barthelmess, one of the silent era's superstars and the Leonardo DiCaprio of his day, won praise for his realistic portrayal of a 15-year-old, although he was 25 at the time the film was made.

The cast also features character actor Ernest Torrence, who transformed the role of Luke Hatburn into what some critics have called one of the most sinister villains in all of cinema.

For 'Tol'able David,' director King insisted the film be shot on location in rural Virginia, where the story was set and where he grew up in the 1890s.

Much of 'Tol'able David' was filmed in the countryside within a few miles of the director's boyhood home in Staunton, Va., and as a result was infused with the spirit and details of a vanishing way of life that King knew so well.

The film is full of the simple rituals of small-town life as it was lived a century ago, when most people lived on subsistence farms ruled by the rhythms of nature and without modern conveniences.

It was also a time when there was no greater responsibility than driving the mail wagon into town—just as it appears in 'Tol'able David.'

To create a musical score for 'Tol'able David,' Rapsis will improvise using material assembled beforehand, using a digital synthesizer to recreate the sound and texture of a full orchestra.

"What I try to do," Rapsis said, "is create music that bridges the gap between a film that might be nearly a century old, and the musical expectations of today's audiences."

'Tol'able David' continues a monthly series of silent films presented with live music at the Capitol.

The series provides local audiences the opportunity to experience silent film as it was intended to be shown: on the big screen, in good-looking prints, with live music, and with an audience.

“These films are still exciting experiences if you can show them as they were designed to be screened,” Rapsis said.

“There’s a reason people first fell in love with the movies, and we hope to recreate that spirit. At their best, silent films were communal experiences in which the presence of a large audience intensifies everyone’s reactions.”

Upcoming shows in the Capitol's 2017 silent film series include:

• Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017, 8 p.m.: 'Der Golem' (1922). Prepare for Halloween with one very weird flick! In 16th-century Prague, a rabbi creates a giant creature from clay, called the Golem. Using sorcery, he brings the creature to life in order to protect the Jews of Prague from persecution. Early German fantasy film anticipates Frankenstein story.

Richard Barthelmess and Ernest Torrence star in 'Tol'able David' (1921), to be shown on Thursday, Sept. 14 at 8 p.m. at The Capitol Theatre, 204 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington, Mass. Admission $12 adults, $10 kids and seniors.

For more info, call (781) 648-6022 or visit www.capitoltheatreusa.com.

* * *

Houdini and crew on location at Niagara Falls for 'The Man From Beyond' (1922).

MONDAY, AUG. 28, 2017 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Rare Harry Houdini films with live music at Brandon Town Hall on Saturday, Sept. 16


Legendary 'Handcuff King' escape artist starred in a series of stunt-filled early silent adventure movies

BRANDON, Vt.—He reigned for decades as the legendary "Handcuff King," famous for his daring and impossible escapes staged around the world.

But Harry Houdini also had a brief career in the movies, starring in a series of silent adventure films that showed off his athletic prowess as his talent for illusion, stunts, and escape.

See Houdini back on the big screen with a double feature of two of his surviving films on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. at Brandon Town Hall and Community Center, Route 7, in Brandon, Vt.

Admission is free, with donations welcome. All proceeds support ongoing restoration of the Town Hall, which dates from 1860 and is being brought up to modern standards as funds allow.

The screening is sponsored by an Anonymous Donor.

The rarely screened Houdini films will be shown with live musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based performer regarded as one of the nation's leading silent film musicians.

Houdini made only a handful of movies in the 1910s and 1920s, and much of his film work is lost.

But enough of it escaped oblivion to provide a glimpse of the world-renowned escape artist at the peak of his worldwide fame.

In 'Terror Island' (1920), Houdini stars as a swashbuckling inventor who steers his high-tech submarine to a forbidden tropical isle to rescue the woman he loves.

The film includes underwater sequences designed to show off Houdini's ability to survive being submerged for long periods of time.

'Terror Island' was an ambitious production for Houdini; the film was directed by James Cruze and released by Paramount.

Existing copies are missing about 20 minutes of footage but the story remains easy to follow.

In 'The Man From Beyond' (1922), Houdini plays a man frozen 100 years in the Arctic who returns to civilization to reclaim his reincarnated love.

Once thawed out, Houdini tries to straighten out the lives of the descendants of his old friends and lost loves. The film includes a daring climax filmed at Niagara Falls.

Although Houdini's films were well-received, he eventually abandoned his movie career, preferring to concentrate on live performance.

Houdini, born Erik Weisz, was a Hungarian-born, American-Jewish illusionist and stunt performer noted for his sensational escape acts.

He first attracted notice in vaudeville in the U.S. and then as "Harry Handcuff Houdini" on a tour of Europe, where he challenged police forces to keep him locked up.

Soon he extended his repertoire to include chains, ropes slung from skyscrapers, straitjackets under water, and having to escape from and hold his breath inside a sealed milk can with water in it.

In 1904, thousands watched as he tried to escape from special handcuffs commissioned by London's Daily Mirror, keeping them in suspense for an hour.

Another stunt saw him buried alive and only just able to claw himself to the surface, emerging in a state of near-breakdown.

In 1913, Houdini introduced the Chinese Water Torture Cell, in which he was suspended upside-down in a locked glass-and-steel cabinet full to overflowing with water, holding his breath for more than three minutes. He would go on performing this escape for the rest of his life.

Houdini died prematurely in 1926, at age 52, of peritonitis following a burst appendix that may have been caused by blows received to the abdomen by a visitor backstage at a performance in Montreal.

Following his death, Houdini's reputation as a legendary performer continued to make his name a household world in the decades that followed.

Although not well known as a film actor, Houdini's work in motion pictures was not forgotten. In a posthumous ceremony on Oct. 31, 1975, Houdini was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7001 Hollywood Blvd.

Houdini is one of several "big name" performers featured on this year's silent film program at Brandon Town Hall.

"These films are audience favorites, and people continue to be surprised at how engrossing and exhilarating they can be when shown as they were intended: in a theater, and with live music," said Rapsis, who accompanies more than 100 screenings each year at venues around the nation.

Rapsis improvises live scores for silent films using a digital synthesizer to recreate the texture of the full orchestra.

"It's kind of a high wire act," Rapsis said. "But for me, the energy of live performance is an essential part of the silent film experience."

Other upcoming shows in this year's Brandon silent film series include:

• Saturday, Oct. 21: Chiller Theatre, 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' (1920). John Barrymore plays both title roles in the original silent film adaptation of the classic novella by Robert Louis Stevenson. A spook-tacular performance that helped establish Barrymore as one of the silent era's top stars. Sponsored by an Anonymous Donor and Heritage Family Credit Union.

A 'Harry Houdini Double Feature' will be shown with live music on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. at Brandon Town Hall and Community Center, Route 7, in Brandon, Vt. Admission is free; free will donations are encouraged, with proceeds to support ongoing renovation of the town hall. For more information, visit www.brandontownhall.org.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

It's elementary! Doing music for original silent 'Sherlock Holmes' (1916) on Sunday, Sept. 10

William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes.

As a teenager, I read Walter Kerr's great book 'The Silent Clowns,' in which Mr. Kerr suggested it was getting very late for any missing silent film to turn up.

That was in 1975. Thankfully, his assessment hasn't been quite on the mark, as significant lost films continue to be rediscovered even now, two generations later.

Recent finds include the complete final reel of Laurel & Hardy's pie fight comedy 'Battle of the Century' (1927), and troves of U.S. films found in archives ranging from Amsterdam to New Zealand.

Even in my little corner of the world (New Hampshire, U.S.A.), we've seen discoveries that include the only known copy of Mary Pickford's first credited appearance in 'Their First Misunderstanding,' a 1911 one-reeler.

But the most impressive re-emergence in recent times, I think, is a long-lost movie that turned up complete in 2014 in the Cinémathèque Français.

It's the original film version of 'Sherlock Holmes' (1916), produced by Essanay in Chicago and starring noted actor William Gillette, who originated the iconic role on stage. (That's a poster for the stage production at left.)

For nearly a century, not a trace of this film was known to exist. But since it was found complete among other Holmes-related materials in the Cinematheque's archives, it's since been restored and can now be seen for the first time since Warren G. Harding was in the White House.

I had the honor (and the pleasure) of accompanying the restoration last year up at Northeast Historic Film in Bucksport, Me., where it earned a huge ovation.

And now it's time for the Boston-area premiere, which will take place this weekend: on Sunday, Sept. 10 at 2 p.m. at the Somerville Theatre, Davis Square, Somerville, Mass.

It's notable in part because it's the only film appearance of Gillette, an immensely popular (and influential) actor man of the theater for several decades on either side of 1900.

In creating 'Sherlock Holmes' for the stage, Gillette collaborated with author Arthur Conan Doyle (often by telegram from America to England) to develop the script and portray the character.

And he then went on to star as 'Sherlock Holmes' for more than three decades, racking up more than 1,300 performances in the U.S. and Europe.

Another poster for the stage production of 'Sherlock.'

In doing so, Gillette set the template for all actors who would portray Holmes from then on, from Basil Rathbone right down to Benedict Cumberbatch.

Alas, Gillette was one of those stage actors who remained loyal to the theater, never getting involved with what was known as the "flickers" early on.

So, with Gillette's only filmed appearance missing from the record, Holmes scholars and fans had no real sense of the actor's crucial contribution to the ever-growing Holmes legend and industry.

Until now!

See for yourself where the adventures of Sherlock Holmes started for so many: with William Gillette's portrayal of the iconic detective.

Along the way, you'll meet the original Dr. Watson, and many other characters, including the eternal Holmes nemesis, Professor Moriarty.

And I'm pleased to say that we'll be showing the restored 'Sherlock' via a newly struck 35mm print, which at first wasn't going to be produced.

Rob Byrne of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, who led the restoration effort, told me two years ago that 'Sherlock' would only be available via DCP, the digital cinema format.

Well, something changed, as there's a 35mm print of 'Sherlock' at the Somerville Theatre right now, in the capable hands of projectionist David Kornfeld. Yay!

So please join us. The restored 'Sherlock Holmes' will entertain and beguile you. It might also stir hope that yet more missing films will reappear, and even inspire you to look.

Anyone have a copy of 'London After Midnight' (1927) in their basement?

Here's the press release that went out, with more info about the film and the screening. See you there!

* * *

William Gillette uses a magnifying glass in 'Sherlock Holmes.'

MONDAY, AUG. 28, 2017 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Rediscovered 'Sherlock Holmes' movie to get Boston area premiere on Sunday, Sept. 10


Original film adaptation, lost for nearly a century, returns to the big screen in 35mm with live musical accompaniment, part of Somerville Theatre's 'Silents Please' series

SOMERVILLE, Mass.—The first-ever movie adaptation of 'Sherlock Holmes,' a silent film released in 1916 and recently rediscovered, will screen in September at the Somerville Theatre.

The original 'Sherlock Holmes' will be shown in 35mm with live music on Sunday, Sept. 10 at 2 p.m. at the Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, Somerville, Mass.

Admission is $15 per person/$12 students and seniors.

The screening, part of the Somerville's 'Silents, Please' series, marks the Boston premiere of the recently rediscovered feature film, long considered a celluloid "Holy Grail" film scholars and Holmes fans alike.

Like many films from the silent era, the original 'Sherlock Holmes' movie was long considered completely lost until a nearly complete copy was discovered in 2014 at the Cinemathique Francaise in Paris.

The film has since been restored, allowing movie-goers to again see the only screen appearance of legendary stage actor William Gillette in his most famous role.

Gillette originated the role of Sherlock Holmes in a popular stage adaptation, collaborating with writer Arthur Conan Doyle to create the script and flesh out the character.

Gillette performed as the brilliant Holmes more than 1,300 times over three decades, touring the U.S. and Europe and popularizing Conan Doyle's sleuth.

A highly regarded stage actor, Gillette made no other known movie appearances.

But his interpretation of the Holmes character laid the groundwork for all actors who would later play the role, from Basil Rathbone to Benedict Cumberbatch.

Set in Victorian-era London, the original 'Sherlock Holmes' movie is an episodic crime drama that incorporates the plots of several Conan Doyle tales.

Running about 90 minutes, it features all major characters of the Holmes stories, including companion Dr. Watson and nemesis/rival Prof. Moriarty.

It was filmed in 1915 in the Chicago studios of the Essanay Film Co., with exterior shots of the Windy City doubling for Victorian London.

The restoration was premiered at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. The screening at the Somerville Theatre will be the first time the restoration has been shown in the Boston area.

"We're proud to be one of the few venues using the 35mm print of the restoration that's recently been made available," said Ian Judge, the Somerville Theatre's general manager. "We remain committed to showing classic film on actual film whenever possible, and we're thrilled to bring 'Sherlock' to Boston in the traditional 35mm format."

'Sherlock Holmes' will be shown with live musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based performer regarded as one of the nation's leading silent film musicians.

Rapsis improvises live scores for silent films using a digital synthesizer to recreate the texture of the full orchestra.

"It's kind of a high wire act," Rapsis said. "But for me, the energy of live performance is an essential part of the silent film experience."

The original ‘Sherlock Holmes' (1916), starring William Gillette in the title role, will be shown in 35mm with live music on Sunday, Sept. 10 at 2 p.m. at the Somerville Theater, 55 Davis Square, Somerville, Mass. Admission is $15 adults, $12 students/seniors; general admission seating. For more information, call (617) 625-5700 or visit www.somervilletheatre.com. For more info on the music, visit www.jeffrapsis.com.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

New friends, old films: Report from this year's Western NY Film Expo/Movie Memorabilia Show

A glass slide promoting 'Raffles the Amateur Cracksman' (1917).

A few notes from the just-concluded Western New York Film Expo and Movie Memorabilia Show, which took place over Labor Day weekend in Buffalo, N.Y.

The four-day schedule of film screenings included a good numbers of silents, which I was on hand to accompany.

Most were shown via 16mm collector prints, all of which looked really sharp. (Just one title was unavailable on film: Gloria Swanson's 'Zaza' (1923), recently reissued in DVD/Bluray by Kino-Lorber.)

Best of all, however, was the chance to catch up with so many people in the vintage film community. Attendees this time around included Cynthia Cozart, wife of film restoration expert James Cozart, who recently passed away.

And Gerry Orlando, longtime organizer of Cinefest down the road in Syracuse, N.Y., stopped in for a visit!

Silent titles included 'Raffles the Amateur Cracksman' (1917), an early John Barrymore feature in which Staten Island substitutes for the British countryside.

But as sometimes happens, 'Raffles' turned out to be really entertaining, with Barrymore in fine form playing cat and mouse with a hard-nosed detective. A lot of fun!

Also of interest was an original Kodascope print of 'The Lost World' (1925), the legendary "dinosaur" film adapted from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's story.

The print looked fantastic: sharp and clear with great tonal values and really easy on the eyes.

But most interesting to me was how the film was abridged. Like many Kodascope prints made for the home market, it was cut down.

In its original release, 'The Lost World' ran 106 minutes. But the Kodascope version clocks in at just 55 minutes.

I'm familiar with 'Lost World' restorations that have tried to be as complete as possible, but had never encountered the Kodascope edition. So prior to the screening, I told audience members to expect what amounts to a "dinosaur highlight reel."

And so it was! The basic plot was followed, but most of the character development was excised so the film could get straight to the dinosaur scenes.

It still got a great reaction, which was nice. But I found it hard to accompany because I would be setting up for one scene that I expected, but then the film would suddenly jump way ahead!

It was like trying to dance to a record that keeps skipping.

(Does anyone play records anymore? How many people watch 16mm film, for that matter?)

A lobby card for 'Hot Water' (1924).

A personal highlight was 'Hot Water' (1924), the only Harold Lloyd silent feature film that I'd never had a chance to accompany live.

Really! I've done all the others, some many times. I've even accompanied the rare silent version of 'Welcome Danger' (1929), which Lloyd reshot and released as a talkie.

So with 'Hot Water,' I could say I was hitting for the cycle.

And what's odd about that is that 'Hot Water' was actually the very first Lloyd feature I ever got to see, although in truncated form.

That's because I was first exposed to the Lloyd features via the Time-Life 1970s re-edits of the films, which ran on PBS when I was a teenager.

As a prelude to 'Safety Last' (1923), the producers used an extended excerpt from 'Hot Water.' So when I tuned in to see Lloyd's famous building climb in 'Safety Last,' I first got a good dose of 'Hot Water.'

It's a good comedy, but generally regarded as one of Lloyd's lesser efforts. As such, it almost never gets shown. And over the years, I've wound up accompanying all the Lloyds except this one.

Well, that changed at this year's N.Y. Film Expo, where I created music for it as 'Hot Water' (via another sparkling 16mm print) drew big laughs.

Also on the bill were Keaton's classic feature comedy 'The Navigator' (1924), and also Gloria Swanson's costume vehicle 'Zaza' (1923).

The latter was recently brought out on DVD/Bluray by Kino-Lorber with a recorded score by me. So it was a special privilege to recreate the music live at this year's N.Y. Film Expo.

Response was gratifying and I received many nice comments afterwards.

So thanks to organizer Alex Bartosh and everyone associated with the N.Y. Film Expo.

Nice to see a lot of familiar faces, and looking forward to the next edition of the event, which is set for Labor Day Weekend 2018!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

We're off to see the Wizard—and also Gloria Swanson, Buster Keaton, and the future

No, not the one with Judy Garland—it's Larry Semon's silent film version of the iconic tale, on screen at the Flying Monkey in Plymouth, N.H. on Thursday, Aug. 10.

Happy mid-August! The next four days bring four screenings in three states, and films that take us to Oz, France, the American West, and a city of the future.

Here's a quick round-up:

• Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, 6:30 p.m.: "The Wizard of Oz" (1925) starring Larry Semon; The Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center, 39 South Main St., Plymouth, N.H.; (603) 536-2551; http://www.flyingmonkeynh.com/. Early silent film version of Frank L. Baum's immortal tales features silent comedian Larry Semon in a slapstick romp that also casts Oliver Hardy as the Tin Man. Oz as you've never seen it before! Part of a monthly silent film series at a newly restored moviehouse in Plymouth, N.H. Admission, $10 per person.

Some original promotional art for 'Zaza,' starring Gloria Swanson and H.B. Warner.

• Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, "Zaza" (1923) starring Gloria Swanson, H.B. Warner. Vintage Dance Weekend, Knights of Columbus Hall, Nahant, Mass. Private event not open to the general public. Romance set in France in which Swanson plays a hot-tempered provincial actress who gets entangled with a married diplomat. Swanson's ebullience in Zaza was unfeigned; she called it "the fastest, easiest, most enjoyable picture I ever made."

Buster Keaton and co-star Brown Eyes in 'Go West.'

• Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, 7 p.m.: "Go West" (1925) starring Buster Keaton; Brandon Town Hall and Community Center, Main Street/Route 7, Brandon, Vt.; http://www.brandontownhall.org. Buster heads out to ranch country, where the stone-faced comedian encounters romance with—a cow! Can he save his love from a trip to the livestock yards? Rustle up some belly laughs as Buster must once again prove himself worthy to all those who doubt him. Join us for a series of silent films and live music in a wonderfully restored town hall in Brandon Vt. that features great acoustics. Admission free, donations accepted, with proceeds to help continuing preservation work.

From 'Metropolis': it just wouldn't be a city of the future without a giant mechanical gong!

• Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017, 7:30 p.m. "Metropolis" (1927) directed by Fritz Lang; Aeronaut Brewing Co., 14 Tyler St., Somerville, Mass. Admission $10 per person, limited seating. The eye-popping silent film sci-fi masterpiece of German filmmaker Fritz Lang is a vintage look at things to come. Restored version includes nearly a half-hour of lost footage that was rediscovered in Argentina in 2008. Seen in its entirety and with live music, 'Metropolis' stands as an stunning example of the power of silent film to tell a compelling story without words, and reach across the generations to touch movie-goers from the real future that came to pass: us! Part of the Aeronaut Brewery's commitment to showcase local music, art, and performance. Limited seating so reserve early; for more details on tickets, visit Aeronaut Brewing. online.

It would have been five screenings in five days, but I gave up a slot at the Harvard Film Archive on Monday, Aug. 14 so that fellow accompanist Andrew E. Simpson could make a much-anticipated visit to the Boston area.

If you're interested in hearing one of the most talented accompanists in the field, get thee to the Harvard Film Archive next Monday night to hear Andrew do his stuff for Ernst Lubitsch's 'The Wildcat.' Here's the listing:

• Monday, Aug. 14, 2017, 7 p.m.: "Die Bergkatze/The Wildcat" or "The Mountain Cat" (1921), directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Harvard Film Archive, 24 Quincy St., Cambridge, Mass. (617) 496-3211. Admission $9 per person, $7 for non-Harvard students, Harvard faculty and staff, and senior citizens; free for Harvard students. Part of a summer-long retrospective of the work of director Ernst Lubitsch. Amidst delightfully bizarre décor—framed by altering screen shapes—a stalwart bandit chaser falls for bandit’s daughter Pola Negri. Lubitsch’s German comedy masterpiece is "both an anti-militarist satire and a wonderful fairy tale" (John Gillett). For this screening, I'm pleased to have accompanist Andrew E. Simpson sit in at the keyboard!

And another special note: earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to be asked to do a piano score for Kino-Lorber's re-issue of 'Zaza.' The disc is now out, and just this week I received a box of copies that I can make available to fans at screenings.

And, thanks to the kind folks at Kino-Lorber, I'm able to make them available at a discount off the published retail price. But you can only get this deal by attending a screening!

So I'll have them with me until the stock runs out. If you'd like me to save one for you, please send me a note indicated standard DVD or Blu-ray and I'll set a copy aside.

P.S. This Sunday, I'm being interviewed by Harvard Magazine for a story about the art of silent film accompaniment. So I may not have made it into Harvard, but at least I'll be in the magazine!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

August: Returning to a heavy schedule
of improvisation in darkened theatres

Buster and his co-star Brown Eyes in 'Go West' (1925), which I'll accompany in several venues this month.

People think of movie theaters as dark places, and they are.

Except when a movie is playing.

When doing live music, I find more often than not I don't need any kind of lamp or light to see the keyboard. Often, the ambient light from the screen is quite enough.

This is true so often for me because the digital keyboard I have is relatively flat, and also because I'm usually down below the screen.

So the keys are generally bathed in some kind of light flooding off the screen, which makes it easy to see when I need to.

Of course when the screen goes dark, I can easily get lost, which accounts for some spectacularly dissonant final chords at some screenings.

The only time a light is really needed, I've found, is when I'm playing a traditional acoustic piano.

Whether upright or grand, these are shaped in a way that if you're facing the screen, the location of the keyboard will almost always be deep in shadows. The light is blocked.

In this case, you really would be in the dark if you didn't have a light.

Looking ahead, August brings me back to a fairly busy schedule of film screenings in locations both close to home and fairly distant.

I've just sent out an update to my e-mail list, and figured I'd post it here for perusal.

If you'd like to receive a monthly update of upcoming screenings, just let me know (click on the link at right) and I'll add your e-mail to the list.

For now, here's what's on the docket:

Silent Film / Live Music screenings August / September 2017


Hi film fans,

A great line-up of silent film programs with live music awaits in the coming weeks.

Highlights include 'Anna Boleyn' (1920), a rarely screened Ernest Lubitsch historical drama at the Harvard Film Archive; a 35mm screening of the recently rediscovered 'Sherlock Holmes' (1916) at the Somerville Theatre; and some rarely shown movies starring Harry Houdini in September.

Labor Day weekend finds me at the Western N.Y. Film Expo in Buffalo, N.Y., where I'll accompany an extensive line-up of silent features and short films.

Details listings below. Hope to see you at a screening real soon!

• Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017, 6 p.m.: "Christine of the Big Tops" (1926) starring Pauline Garon, Cullen Landis; Carpenter Memorial Auditorium, Manchester Public Library, 405 Pine St., Manchester, N.H.; (603) 624-6550; Manchester Public Library. Raised in a traveling circus, young orphan Christine is eager to prove her worth on the trapeze. But her real challenge is choosing between the affections of her Guardian and a young doctor. Monthly series of rarely screened silent films presented with live music in 1913 auditorium. Admission free, donations encouraged.

• Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017, 7:30 p.m.: "Grandma's Boy" (1922) starring Harold Lloyd, Mildred Davis; The Capitol Theatre, 204 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington, Mass.; (781) 648-6022; http://capitoltheatreusa.com/. Admission $12, $10 student/senior. A cowardly young man must learn to conquer his fears before dealing with a larger menace to his community. Riotous small town comedy that helped propel Harold Lloyd into the most popular movie comedian of the 1920s. Bonus Lloyd short comedy: "Never Weaken" (1921). Silent film with live music at a terrific locally owned neighborhood cinema!

• Friday, Aug. 4, 2017, 7 p.m.: "Anna Boleyn" (1920) directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Harvard Film Archive, 24 Quincy St., Cambridge, Mass. (617) 496-3211. Admission $9 per person, $7 for non-Harvard students, Harvard faculty and staff, and senior citizens; free for Harvard students. Part of a summer-long retrospective of the work of director Ernst Lubitsch. Emil Jannings’ tour-de-force as Henry VIII highlights the most impressive of Lubitsch’s spectacles, with Henny Porten as the eponymous Anna.

• Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017, 4:30 p.m.: "Wagon Tracks" (1919) starring William S. Hart; Wilton Town Hall Theatre, Main Street, Wilton, N.H.; (603) 654-3456; www.wiltontownhalltheatre.com. Our summer series, The Birth of the Western, continues with 'Wagon Tracks' (1919). William S. Hart as Buckskin Hamilton, guiding a wagon train across the wasteland, caring well for the pioneers he escorts, but also hoping to solve the murder of his brother by one of the travelers. Monthly series of silent films with live music at a theater where movies have been shown since 1912! Admission free, donations of $5 per person encouraged.

• Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, 6:30 p.m.: "The Wizard of Oz" (1925) starring Larry Semon; The Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center, 39 South Main St., Plymouth, N.H.; (603) 536-2551; http://www.flyingmonkeynh.com/. Early silent film version of Frank L. Baum's immortal tales features silent comedian Larry Semon in a slapstick romp that also casts Oliver Hardy as the Tin Man. Oz as you've never seen it before! Part of a monthly silent film series at a newly restored moviehouse in Plymouth, N.H. Admission, $10 per person.

• Friday, Aug. 11, 20117, "Zaza" (1923) starring Gloria Swanson, H.B. Warner. Vintage Dance Weekend, Nahant, Mass. Details to be announced. Romance set in France in which Swanson plays a hot-tempered provincial actress who gets entangled with a married diplomat. Swanson s ebullience in Zaza was unfeigned; she called it "the fastest, easiest, most enjoyable picture I ever made."

• Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, 7 p.m.: "Go West" (1925) starring Buster Keaton; Brandon Town Hall and Community Center, Main Street/Route 7, Brandon, Vt.; http://www.brandontownhall.org. Buster heads out to ranch country, where the stone-faced comedian encounters romance with—a cow! Can he save his love from a trip to the livestock yards? Rustle up some belly laughs as Buster must once again prove himself worthy to all those who doubt him. Join us for a series of silent films and live music in a wonderfully restored town hall in Brandon Vt. that features great acoustics. Admission free, donations accepted, with proceeds to help continuing preservation work.

• Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017, 7:30 p.m. "Metropolis" (1927) directed by Fritz Lang; Aeronaut Brewing Co., 14 Tyler St., Somerville, Mass. Admission $10 per person, limited seating. The eye-popping silent film sci-fi masterpiece of German filmmaker Fritz Lang is a vintage look at things to come. Restored version includes nearly a half-hour of lost footage that was rediscovered in Argentina in 2008. Seen in its entirety and with live music, 'Metropolis' stands as an stunning example of the power of silent film to tell a compelling story without words, and reach across the generations to touch movie-goers from the real future that came to pass: us! Part of the Aeronaut Brewery's commitment to showcase local music, art, and performance. Limited seating so reserve early; for more details on tickets, visit Aeronaut Brewing. online.

Guest accompanist Andrew E. Simpson!
• Monday, Aug. 14, 2017, 7 p.m.: "Die Bergkatze/The Wildcat" or "The Mountain Cat" (1921), directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Harvard Film Archive, 24 Quincy St., Cambridge, Mass. (617) 496-3211. Admission $9 per person, $7 for non-Harvard students, Harvard faculty and staff, and senior citizens; free for Harvard students. Part of a summer-long retrospective of the work of director Ernst Lubitsch. Amidst delightfully bizarre décor—framed by altering screen shapes—a stalwart bandit chaser falls for bandit’s daughter Pola Negri. Lubitsch’s German comedy masterpiece is "both an anti-militarist satire and a wonderful fairy tale" (John Gillett). For this screening, I'm pleased to have accompanist Andrew E. Simpson sit in at the keyboard!

• Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, 7 p.m.: "Sherlock Holmes" (1916) starring William Gillette; Leavitt Theatre, 259 Main St. Route 1, Ogunquit, Maine; (207) 646-3123; http://www.leavittheatre.com. Recently discovered in France after being lost for nearly a century, see this original 1916 adaptation of Sherlock Holmes stories as performed by William Gillette, the actor who created the role on stage. See great silent films with live music in a summer-only theater opened in 1923 and barely changed since. Admission $10 per person.

• Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, 1:45 p.m.: "Sleeping Beauty" (1908) and "Snow White" (1916); silent film at the Toronto International Film Festival Cinematheque. "Sleeping Beauty": A beautifully designed adaptation of the Perrault fairy tale, brought to the screen by top Pathé director Albert Capellani. "Snow White": An underrated gem of the silent era, this 1916 adaptation of Snow White is one of the few surviving films of the appealingly childlike Marguerite Clark, who was one of Hollywood's biggest stars of the period. Based on Winthrop Ames' 1912 stage play (which also featured Clark in the title role), this version of the beloved tale substantially departs from the original Brothers Grimm story, most notably by dividing the character of Snow White's nemesis between the evil Queen Brangomar (Dorothy Cumming) and a witch named Hex (Alice Washburn).

• Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017, 4:30 p.m.: "Go West" (1925) starring Buster Keaton; Wilton Town Hall Theatre, Main Street, Wilton, N.H.; (603) 654-3456; www.wiltontownhalltheatre.com. We conclude our 'Birth of the Western' series with Buster's ranch comedy about the stone-faced comedian and his enduring romance with—a cow! Rustle up some belly laughs as Buster must prove himself worthy once again. Monthly series of silent films with live music at a theater where movies have been shown since 1912! Admission free, donations of $5 per person encouraged.

• Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017, 7 p.m.: "Celebrating Billy B Van"; Historical Society of Cheshire County; 246 Main St., Keene, N.H.; (603) 352-1895 ; www.HSCCNH.org. The Newport Historical Society brings to life Billy B. Van: “The Sunshine Peddler”. This multi-media (~60 min.) presentation brings to life a book of the same name by Jayna Hooper. The presentation celebrates Billy B. Van, his many outstanding accomplishments and his contributions to American culture that still bear fruit today. It includes slides of his many products, his music, quotes in character, and a 1920 silent film named the “Plucky Hoodoo,” starring Billy B. Van and filmed in the Georges Mills, N.H. area. From a vaudeville and Broadway performer to author, dairy farmer, soap maker, radio personality, motivational speaker Billy left sunshine in his wake during the darkest days of The Great Depression. Free admission.

• Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, 7 p.m.: "Go West" (1925) starring Buster Keaton; Leavitt Theatre, 259 Main St. Route 1, Ogunquit, Maine; (207) 646-3123; http://www.leavittheatre.com. Buster's ranch comedy about the stone-faced comedian and his enduring romance with—a cow! Rustle up some belly laughs as Buster must prove himself worthy once again. See great silent films with live music in a summer-only theater opened in 1923 and barely changed since. Admission $10 per person.

• Friday, Aug. 25, 2017, 7 p.m. "Buster Keaton Double Feature"; Regent Theatre, 7 Medford St., Arlington, Mass; (781) 646-4849. Join us for a pair of Buster Keaton's best comedies. In 'Sherlock Jr.' (1924), Keaton plays a small-town movie projectionist who dreams of being a detective. In 'Three Ages' (1923), Keaton spoofs historical dramas by seeking true love in three differing epochs. Great physical comedy plus Buster's deadpan attitude will have you laughing out loud. Silent film with live music in a treasured neighborhood theater and performance space.

• Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, 2 p.m.: "Get Your Man" (1927) starring Clara Bow, Buddy Rogers; Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, Somerville, Mass.; http://www.somervilletheatreonline.com. Long-lost Clara Bow feature only recently rescued and restored by the Library of Congress. Bow is Nancy Worthington, a liberated (of course) American in Paris who meets cute with French nobleman Robert Albin (Rogers) while on vacation by herself. Robert and Nancy fall hard for each other, but an arranged, politically motivated marriage stands in their way. Nancy scams her way onto the family estate, and complications ensue. Silent film shown in 35mm on the big screen with live music. Part of a monthly series at the Somerville Theatre, a wonderful 100-year-old moviehouse committed to keeping alive the experience of 35mm film. Featuring outstandingly exacting work of legendary projectionist David Kornfeld. For more info, call the theater box office at (617) 625-5700. Admission $15 per person.

• Friday, Sept. 1 through Monday, Sept. 4, 2017: The Western New York Movie Expo and Memorabilia Show, Hilton Garden Inn, 4201 Genesee St., Cheektowaga, N.Y.; (716) 565-0040 Four-day successor to Cinefest, annual vintage film festival in Syracuse, N.Y. that ended in 2015. Silent features with live music include: "Burn ‘em Up Barnes" (1921) starring Johnny Hines; "Hot Water" (1924) starring Harold Lloyd; "The Juggernaut" (1915) starring Anita Stewart and Earle Williams; "Little Orphant Annie" (1918) starring Colleen Moore; a Kodascope print of "The Lost World" (1925) starring Wallace Beery and Bessie Love; "The Navigator" (1924) starring Buster Keaton; "Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman" (1917) starring John Barrymore; and "Zaza" starring Gloria Swanson. Plus many short subjects, including the restored full-length "Battle of the Century" pie fight with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

• Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, 6 p.m.: "The Shield of Honor" (1927) starring Neil Hamilton; Carpenter Memorial Auditorium, Manchester Public Library, 405 Pine St., Manchester, N.H.; (603) 624-6550; Manchester Public Library. Long before he played Commissioner Gordon in the iconic 1960s 'Batman' TV show, Neil Hamilton was a leading man, saving the day and getting the girl in a steady stream of films throughout the silent era. This vintage crime drama is a good example of his output. Monthly series of rarely screened silent films presented with live music in 1913 auditorium. Admission free, donations encouraged.

• Thursday, September 7, 2017, 6:30 p.m.: "The Adventures of Prince Achmed" (1926) directed by Lotte Reiniger; The Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center, 39 South Main St., Plymouth, N.H.; (603) 536-2551; http://www.flyingmonkeynh.com/. Taken from 'The Arabian Nights,' the first full-length animated feature tells the story of a wicked sorcerer who tricks Prince Achmed into mounting a magical flying horse, sending him off to a series of wondrous and romantic adventures. A masterful example of silhouette-style animation and a true breakthrough in cinematic story-telling. Part of a monthly silent film series at a newly restored moviehouse in Plymouth, N.H. Admission, $10 per person.

• Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, 2 p.m.: "Sherlock Holmes" (1916) starring William Gillette; Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, Somerville, Mass.; http://www.somervilletheatreonline.com. Recently discovered in France after being lost for nearly a century, see this original 1916 adaptation of Sherlock Holmes stories as performed by William Gillette, the actor who created the role on stage. Silent film shown in 35mm on the big screen with live music. Part of a monthly series at the Somerville Theatre, a wonderful 100-year-old moviehouse committed to keeping alive the experience of 35mm film. Featuring outstandingly exacting work of legendary projectionist David Kornfeld. For more info, call the theater box office at (617) 625-5700. Admission $15 per person.

• Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, 7 p.m.: "The Little American" (1917) starring Mary Pickford, directed by Cecil B. DeMille; Historical Society of Cheshire County; 246 Main St., Keene, N.H.; (603) 352-1895 ; www.HSCCNH.org. Current events drama in which American woman (Pickford) is in love with both a German and a French soldier during World War I. Production began only a week after the U.S. declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, and the movie was released in July, making it one of the first to reflect on the attitude of American involvement at the time. Part of the Historical Society's look at U.S. involvement in World War I. Free admission.

• Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017, 8 p.m.: "Tol'able David" (1921) starring Richard Barthelmess; The Capitol Theatre, 204 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington, Mass.; (781) 648-6022; http://capitoltheatreusa.com/. A farm family is poor but content until unsavory distant relatives unexpectedly arrive while on the lam from the law. Compelling story, plus filmed on location in back country Virginia, making for an amazing time capsule into America's vanished rural past. Admission $12, $10 student/senior. Silent film with live music at a terrific locally owned neighborhood cinema!

• Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, 7 p.m.: Harry Houdini Silent Film Double Feature!; Brandon Town Hall and Community Center, Main Street/Route 7, Brandon, Vt.; http://www.brandontownhall.org. Rare surviving films from the great illusionist's brief movie career. In 'Terror Island' (1920) Houdini stars as a swashbuckling inventor who steers his high-tech submarine to a forbidden tropical isle to rescue the woman he loves; in 'The Man From Beyond' (1922), Houdini plays a man frozen 100 years in the Arctic who returns to civilization to reclaim his reincarnated love. Join us for a series of silent films and live music in a wonderfully restored town hall in Brandon Vt. that features great acoustics. Admission free, donations accepted, with proceeds to help continuing preservation work.

• Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, Silent film screening, part of Vintage Dance Weekend in Hartford, Conn. Details TBA.

• Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, 8 p.m.: "Speedy" (1928) starring Harold Lloyd; the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, 310 Genesee St., Utica, N.Y.; (315)797-0000; www.mwpai.org. Admission charge to be announced. Harold's final silent feature is a tribute to New York City, baseball, and the idea that nice guys can indeed finish first. Complete with an extended cameo from none other than Babe Ruth! Part of the Institute's summer exhibition Roaring into the Future: New York, 1925-35. More details to come.

• Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, 4:30 p.m.: "Harry Houdini Silent Film Double Feature"; Wilton Town Hall Theatre, Main Street, Wilton, N.H.; (603) 654-3456; www.wiltontownhalltheatre.com. Rare surviving films from the great illusionist's brief movie career. In 'Terror Island' (1920) Houdini stars as a swashbuckling inventor who steers his high-tech submarine to a forbidden tropical isle to rescue the woman he loves; in 'The Man From Beyond' (1922), Houdini plays a man frozen 100 years in the Arctic who returns to civilization to reclaim his reincarnated love. Monthly series of silent films with live music at a theater where movies have been shown since 1912! Admission free, donations of $5 per person encouraged.

• Friday, Sept. 29 and Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, "The Buster Keaton Celebration"; Bowlus Fine Arts Center in beautiful downtown Iola, Kansas. Two days of Keaton-focused panels, films, and fellowship not far from Keaton's rural Kansas birthplace. Rumor has it this might be the last Keaton Celebration ever! For more info, check out their Web site.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Sunday, 7/30 in Wilton, N.H.: a double feature starring legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt


He doubled for Clark Gable during the burning of Atlanta in "Gone With The Wind." He enjoyed a long-time friendship with John Wayne, whom he taught how to fall off a horse.

But long before he became one of Hollywood's legendary stunt men, Yakima Canutt had a career in front of the camera.

During the silent era, "Yak" starred in a series of Westerns that featured his expertise in horsemanship, trick riding, and rodeo skills.

We'll show two of his surviving features, 'Branded a Bandit' (1924) and 'The Iron Rider' (1926), on Sunday, July 30 at 4:30 p.m. at the Wilton (N.H.) Town Hall Theatre.

It's the latest installment of our summer-long "Birth of the Western" series. And no series about the origins of Hollywood westerns would be complete without Yakima Canutt.

(The last name, by the way, is pronounced "Ca-Nute.")

Both of the films we're showing are classic fare—the kind of fast-paced adventure film that Hollywood was learning to crank out in quantity to keep theaters filled and audiences happy.

It's also an interesting look at a figure who would be influential in years to come.

In his early on-camera days, Canutt was just as daring as anyone, risking life and limb to get just the right shot.

Take this passage from Canutt's Wikipedia entry:
"It was in Branded a Bandit (1924) that his nose was broken in a 12-foot fall from a cliff. The picture was delayed several weeks, and when it resumed, Canutt's close shots were from the side. A plastic surgeon reset the nose, which healed, inspiring Canutt to remark that he thought it looked better."
But later, he used his hard-won experience to stage stunts that were no less spectacular, but which minimized the risks faced by performers.

His long career included work on Golden Age blockbusters such as 'Ben Hur' (1959) and 'El Cid' (1961), and in Walt Disney productions such as 'The Swiss Family Robinson' (1960), one of the most memorable films of my early childhood.

Canutt remained active in the business into his 80s, his last credit being 'Equus' in 1977.

But his influence could still be seen on the big screen. 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' (1981), for example, contains a specific tribute to Canutt's work.

We'll let Wikipedia once again tell the story:
It was while working on Mascot serials that Canutt practiced and perfected his most famous stunts, including the drop from a stagecoach that he would employ in John Ford's 1939 Stagecoach. That famous stunt in Stagecoach was filmed near Chimney Rock on Rabbit Dry Lake, west of Lucerne Valley, California. He first did it in Riders of the Dawn in 1937 while doubling for Jack Randall.[2] In his 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark, Steven Spielberg paid homage to Canutt, recreating the stunt when stuntman Terry Leonard (doubling for Harrison Ford) 'dropped' from the front of a German transport truck, was dragged underneath (along a prepared trench) and then climbed up the back and round to the front again.
Wow! From silent films to 'Raiders.' Pretty impressive!

Canutt died in 1986, at age 90.

But he'll return to the silver screen on Sunday with two of his starring pictures. See you there—and get ready to cheer on 'Yak' as he rides to the rescue!