‘Great Stone Face’ comes to Wilton Town Hall Theatre

  • Buster Keaton as primitive man taking an all-natural bath in 'Three Ages' (1923), a classic silent comedy to be screened with live music on Sunday, Nov. 24 at 4:30 p.m. at the Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H. Admission is free, with a donation of $5 per person requested to help defray expenses; for more info, call (603) 654-3456 or visit www.wiltontownhalltheatre.com. Courtesy Photo

  • Buster Keaton’s version of the fall of the Roman Empire is depicted in ‘Three Ages’ (1923), a classic silent comedy to be screened with live music on Sunday, Nov. 24 at 4:30 p.m. at the Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H. Admission is free, with a donation of $5 per person requested to help defray expenses; for more info, call (603) 654-3456 or visit www.wiltontownhalltheatre.com. Courtesy Photo

  • Buster Keaton stars as a victim of modern love (1920s style) in 'Three Ages' (1923), a classic silent comedy to be screened with live music on Sunday, Nov. 24 at 4:30 p.m. at the Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H. Admission is free, with a donation of $5 per person requested to help defray expenses; for more info, call (603) 654-3456 or visit www.wiltontownhalltheatre.com. Courtesy Photo 

Published: 11/7/2019 1:19:00 PM
Modified: 11/7/2019 1:18:49 PM

He never smiled on camera, earning him the nickname of "the Great Stone Face." But Buster Keaton's comedies rocked Hollywood's silent era with laughter throughout the 1920s.

See for yourself with a screening of 'Three Ages' (1923) and 'Sherlock Jr.' (1924), two of Keaton's landmark films, on Sunday, Nov. 24, at 4:30 p.m. at the Town Hall Theatre in Wilton.

In 'Three Ages' (1923), Keaton spoofs historical dramas by seeking true love in three differing epochs. Great physical comedy plus Buster's deadpan attitude still resonates with audiences.

In 'Sherlock Jr.' (1924), Keaton plays a small-town movie projectionist who dreams of being a detective.

The films will be shown with live musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based performer who specializes in creating live scores for silent film programs.

Admission is free; a donation of $5 per person is suggested to help defray expenses.

"If you've never seen a silent comedy in a theater with an audience and live music, you're missing one of the cinema's great experiences," said Rapsis, who accompanies more than 100 silent film programs each year.

Keaton's 'Three Ages,' a send-up of the then-famous drama 'Intolerance' (1916), weaves together similar love stories told in three different epochs: the Stone Age, the Roman Age, and "Modern" (1920s) times.

The three-stories-in-one approach was Keaton's first attempt at a feature-length comedy. If 'Three Ages' ran into box office trouble, Keaton planned to split it up into three shorter films to be released separately.

But the picture was a hit, due to inspired comic touches that still shine through today. 'Three Ages' launched Keaton's spectacular run of classic comic features that lasted until the industry's transition to sound pictures in 1929.

Although 'Three Ages' spans three historical eras, Keaton performs jaw-dropping physical comedy in each of them.

The "caveman" sequences feature Buster in a bearskin outfit; the Roman scenes include a wild chariot race held during a snowstorm; and the modern era scenes include one of the great silent film chases.

The Keaton program will open with 'Sherlock Jr.' (1924), in which Keaton plays a movie projectionist who yearns to be a top detective.

After getting framed for a theft, Keaton dreams himself into the on-screen action to solve the crime, with surprising results.

Keaton, one of the silent film era's great comics, was known for his ingenuity with gags, acrobatic stunts, and his trademark dead-pan manner.

He was among the first movie-makers to move comedy out of the confines of the stage and use cinema to expand it to a massive scale, using film to do battle with ocean liners, railroad locomotives, cyclones, and hordes of policemen ready to give chase to his hapless everyman character.

In reviving the Keaton films and other great movies of cinema's early years, the Town Hall Theatre aims to show silent movies as they were meant to be seen—in high quality prints, on a large screen, with live music, and with an audience.

"All those elements are important parts of the silent film experience," said Rapsis, who will improvise live scores for the Keaton films on the spot. "Recreate those conditions, and the classics of early cinema leap back to life."

To accompany a silent film, Rapsis uses a digital synthesizer to recreate the texture of the full orchestra. The score is created live in real time as the movie is screened.

Rather than focus on authentic music of the period, Rapsis creates new music for silent films that draws from movie scoring techniques that today's audiences expect from the cinema.

Buster Keaton's 'Three Ages' (1923) and 'Sherlock Jr.' (1924) will be shown on Sunday, Nov. 24 at 4:30 p.m. at the Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H. Admission is free, with a donation of $5 per person requested to help defray expenses; for more info, call (603) 654-3456 or visit www.wiltontownhalltheatre.com.

For more information on the music, visit www.jeffrapsis.com.


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