Live music to accompany uproarious silent film classic; to be shown on big screen using restored edition.
BRANDON — It’s a candidate for Hollywood’s first-ever “rom-com:” a silent film comedy that inadvertently pioneered an enduring cinematic genre.
It’s ‘Girl Shy,’ a frenetic, kinetic, get-me-to-the-church-on-time Harold Lloyd silent comedy classic, and it’s to be screened on Saturday, June 19 at 7 p.m. at the Brandon Town Hall
Admission is free; donations are encouraged, with all proceeds supporting ongoing restoration of the Town Hall.
A live musical score for the movie will be performed by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based silent film accompanist.
‘Girl Shy’ (1924) stars Harold Lloyd as a timid young man from a small town who pens a book about imaginary female conquests. Trouble begins when bashful Harold falls in love for real, and then must rescue his beloved from marrying the wrong man in the big city.
Harold’s dilemma prompts a climactic race to the altar that stands as one of the great chases in all of cinema. The sequence was so successful that MGM used it as a model for the famous chariot race in the original silent film version of ‘Ben Hur’ (1925).
The film is bursting with visual comedy typical of the silent era, but the romantic storyline was strong enough to act as a counterweight, creating a new hybrid genre now known as the romantic comedy, or “rom-com.”
Co-starring in ‘Girl Shy’ is actress Jobyna Ralston, who often played Lloyd’s leading lady, including in later Lloyd masterpieces ‘The Freshman’ (1925) and ‘The Kid Brother’ (1927).
‘Girl Shy,’ directed by Lloyd’s colleagues Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor, was among the 10 top-grossing films of 1924.
Harold Lloyd, along with Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, stands today as one of the three masters of silent comedy. Throughout the 1920s, Lloyd’s films enjoyed immense popularity, ranking regularly among the highest grossing of the era.
Though Lloyd’s reputation later faded due to unavailability of his movies, the recent re-release of most of his major films on DVD and other media has spurred a reawakening of interest in his work and has led to more screenings of his work in movie houses, where it was designed to be shown.
“Seeing a Harold Lloyd film in a theater with live music and an audience is one of the great experiences of the cinema of any era,” said Rapsis, who emphasized the value of seeing early cinema as it was originally intended to be shown.
“These films were designed for the big screen, live music, and large audiences. If you can put those conditions together again, you get a sense of why people first fell in love with the movies,” Rapsis said. It’s the 10th year of the Brandon’s popular silent film series, which gives residents and visitors a chance to see great movies from the pioneering days of cinema. The screening is sponsored by local residents Peter and Louise Kelley, and Harold and Jean Somerset.
Upcoming programs include:
• Saturday, July 17, 7 p.m.: Planes, Trains and Monty Banks. Rediscover forgotten silent comedian Monty Banks, born “Mario Bianchi” in Italy and who emigrated to America to become a popular 1920s Hollywood star; sponsored by Peter and Louise Kelley, Heritage Family Credit Union, John and Lynn Wilson.
• Saturday, Aug. 7, 7 p.m.: ‘Wild Orchids’ (1928) starring Greta Garbo. This is a steamy romantic thriller that is just in time for the humid doldrums of summer. Sponsored by Tracy Holden and Kirk Thomas.
• Saturday, Sept. 18, 7 p.m.: ‘Tramp, Tramp, Tramp’ (1926) starring Harry Langdon. Rediscover forgotten comedian Harry Langdon in riotous visual comedy about a cross-country foot race; sponsored by Bill and Kathy Mathis in memory of Maxine Thurston.
• Saturday, Oct. 23, 7 p.m.: ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ (1923) starring Lon Chaney. Victor Hugo’s classic novel about a deformed bell ringer in medieval Paris, filled with classic scenes and capped with a thrilling climax. It is sponsored by Harold and Jean Somerset, Kathy and Wayne Rausenberger, Pat Hanson, and Brian and Stephanie Jerome.
• Saturday, Nov. 13, 7 p.m.: ‘College’ (1927) starring Buster Keaton. Head back to school with Buster, a bumbling freshman who discovers sports is the only sure-fire route to popularity; sponsored by Lucy and Dick Rouse, Edward Loedding and Dorothy Leysath, Sam and Sharon Glaser, Peter and Louise Kelley, Bar Harbor Bank and Trust.