Silent film version of ‘Peter Pan’ at Aeronaut on Sunday, April 2

Original adaptation of magical fantasy classic to be shown with live musical score
SOMERVILLE, Mass.—It was the film that introduced movie-goers to visions of flying children, magical fairies, human-like animals and menacing pirates.
It was the original silent film adaptation of ‘Peter Pan,’ a picture personally supervised by author J.M. Barrie. The film was a major hit when released in 1924, with audiences eager to get their first big-screen look at the wonders of Neverland.
Movie fans can see for themselves when the first ‘Peter Pan’ (1924) is screened on Sunday, April 2 at 7 p.m. at the Aeronaut Brewing Co., 14 Tyler St., Somerville.
The program will feature live music for the movie by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis, and will include a classic silent comedy short film. Admission is $10 per person. Tickets are available online at http://www.eventbrite.com; search on “Aeronaut Brewery.”
Thought lost for many years, and overshadowed by more recent adaptations, the original silent ‘Peter Pan’ maintains its freshness and charm 90 years after its original release.
In the story, first presented as a stage play in 1904, three children in London are visited one night by Peter Pan, a youth in search of his shadow. Pan shows his new friends how to fly, and then convinces them to join him in a journey to Neverland.
There they encounter Indians, mermaids, and a band of pirates whose leader, Captain Hook, is Pan’s sworn enemy. The children are captured by Hook and taken prisoner aboard his pirate ship, setting the stage for an epic battle, the outcome of which will determine if the children may ever return home.
Though the Peter Pan story is well-known today due to subsequent adaptations (and also merchandising that includes a ubiquitous brand of peanut butter), the tale was virtually new when Hollywood first brought it to film in the early 1920s.
In England, author Barrie gave his blessing to the first-ever screen adaptation, though he retained control over casting and insisted that any written titles in the film be taken directly from his own text.
After a major talent search, Barrie settled on unknown 18-year-old actress Betty Bronson for the title role, and filming began in 1924. The role of Captain Hook was played by noted character actor Ernest Torrence, who invented the now-iconic villainous pirate persona that would become a Hollywood legend.
The film’s highlights include special effects that maintain their ability to dazzle even today. The film’s memorable images include a group of mermaids entering the sea, a miniature Tinkerbell interacting with full-sized children and adults, and a pirate ship lifting out of the water and taking flight.
‘Peter Pan’ also includes a cast of animal characters played by humans in costume, including the family dog Nana and an alligator who serves as Hook’s nemesis, lending the film a magical quality.
After the film’s release, no copies of the original ‘Peter Pan’ were known to exist, and for many years the film was regarded as lost. However, in the 1950s a single surviving print turned up in the George Eastman Archives in Rochester, N.Y., from which all copies today have descended.
Accompanist Jeff Rapsis specializes in creating live musical scores for films made prior to the introduction of recorded sound. Based in New Hampshire, Rapsis specializes in improvising music for silent film screenings at venues ranging from Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. to the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in San Francisco, Calif.
Rapsis creates film scores in real time, as a movie is running, using a digital synthesizer to reproduce the texture of a full orchestra. He averages about 100 performances per year, and has created music for more than 250 different silent feature films.
“Improvising a movie score is a bit of a high wire act, but it can result in music that fits a film’s mood and action better than anything that can be written down in advance,” Rapsis said. “It also lends a sense of excitement and adventure to the screening, as no two performances are exactly alike.”
The screening is part of the Aeronaut’s commitment to give local artists and audiences a chance to connect in the brewery’s performance space.
Just as beer aficionados appreciate a good hand-crafted brew, movie-goers are rediscovering the joys of silent cinema presented as it was intended: on a big screen, with live music, and with an audience.
“If you can put all the original elements together, the films of early Hollywood still come to life,” said Rapsis, who performs regularly at the Aeronaut. “These are the films that caused people to first fall in love with the movies.”
‘Peter Pan’ (1924) will be shown on Sunday, April 2 at 7 p.m. at the Aeronaut Brewing Co., 14 Tyler St., Somerville, Mass. Admission is $10 per person. Tickets are available online at http://www.eventbrite.com; search on “Aeronaut Brewery.” For more info about Aeronaut Brewing, visit http://www.aeronautbrewing.com. For more information about the music, visit http://www.jeffrapsis.com.
CAPTIONS FOR ATTACHED IMAGES
CAPTION A: Betty Bronson stars in ‘Peter Pan’ (1924), the original silent film version of J.M. Barrie’s classic children’s fantasy. The restored film will be screened with live music on Sunday, April 2 at 7 p.m. at the Aeronaut Brewing Co., 14 Tyler St., Somerville, Mass. Admission is $10 per person. For more info about Aeronaut Brewing, visit http://www.aeronautbrewing.com. For more information about the music, visit http://www.jeffrapsis.com.
CAPTION B: A full-color poster for the original silent film version of ‘Peter Pan’ (1924), the first adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s classic fantasy. The restored film will be screened with live music on Sunday, April 2 at 7 p.m. at the Aeronaut Brewing Co., 14 Tyler St., Somerville, Mass. Admission is $10 per person. For more info about Aeronaut Brewing, visit http://www.aeronautbrewing.com. For more information about the music, visit http://www.jeffrapsis.com.
CAPTION C: Accompanist Jeff Rapsis will supply live music to a screening of the original silent film version of ‘Peter Pan’ (1924). The restored film will be screened on Sunday, April 2 at 7 p.m. at the Aeronaut Brewing Co., 14 Tyler St., Somerville, Mass. Admission is $10 per person. For more info about Aeronaut Brewing, visit http://www.aeronautbrewing.com. For more information about the music, visit http://www.jeffrapsis.com.

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