Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Arts/Entertainment

February 21, 2013

Rebirth of an era: Silent films on the big screen

Residents can enjoy an unusual movie-going experience that turns back the clock next Wednesday.

The silent film era will return to the big screen at Rogers Center for the Arts on the campus of Merrimack College in North Andover, with the screening of a classic silent comedy and short subjects, all accompanied by live music.

Showtime is Wednesday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. All are welcome to this family-friendly event; admission is free and the show is open to the public.

Featured will be a full-length comedy, “Grandma’s Boy,” starring Harold Lloyd, a popular 1920s film star. Comedy short subjects will include “Neighbors” (1920) starring Buster Keaton and “Mighty Like a Moose” (1926) starring Charley Chase.

The screening, the latest in the Rogers Center’s silent film series, will feature live accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based composer who specializes in creating scores for silent films. The program will be proceeded by a discussion of the film starting at 6:30 p.m.

“Grandma’s Boy” tells the story a cowardly young man (Harold Lloyd) who seeks the courage to battle a menacing tramp who terrorizes his small hometown. Audiences loved “Grandma’s Boy” when it was first released, and the picture helped establish Lloyd as a major star for the rest of the silent film era.

Today, “Grandma’s Boy” not only can serve as an introduction to the magic of silent films, but provides a window into small town American life as it was lived a century ago.

Despite his mega-star status in the 1920s, Lloyd is largely unknown to today’s audiences, mostly because he kept control of his films and refused to let them be shown on television.

“People today remember Charlie Chaplin, but the silent era had many popular stars,” Rapsis said. “Harold Lloyd’s ‘average American’ character was immensely popular in the 1920s, not just in the U.S. but around the globe.”

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