Fri, Nov 05 | Epsilon Spires

Buster Keaton Comedy! Live Pipe Organ Soundtrack by Ben Model!

Join us in our Sanctuary for Buster Keaton's sublime vision of innocence being protected by comically benign forces. A slapstick farce featuring miraculous stunt work with a live soundtrack performed on our historic Estey pipe organ by Ben Model, one of the nation’s leading silent film accompanists!
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Buster Keaton Comedy! Live Pipe Organ Soundtrack by Ben Model!

Time & Location

Nov 05, 2021, 7:00 PM – 9:30 PM
Epsilon Spires, 190 Main St, Brattleboro, VT 05301, USA

About the Event

Our Silent films with live soundtracks programming continues with: Steamboat Bill, Jr. The 1928 classic starring comedian extraordinaire, Buster Keaton. Buster plays a college graduate trying to gain the respect of his father, a roughneck riverboat captain, as well as the love of Kitty, pretty daughter of his father’s business rival. This film contains one of cinema’s most famous (and dangerous) stunts as Buster narrowly avoids being crushed by a tumbling house façade. *This Event is Appropriate for All-Ages! TRAILER:

"Buster Keaton was so far ahead of his time that we’re still running to catch up with him. This new film restoration adds substantially to our understanding of Keaton’s remote, introverted, often enigmatic art."-Dave Kehr, NY Times

"Miraculous physical comedy and stunt-work! Keaton's genius makes it look easy. The final storm sequence is a breathtaking apocalypse." -Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian 

BEN MODEL is one of the nation’s leading silent film accompanists, and performs on both piano and theatre organ.

Over the past 35+ years Ben has created and performed live scores for several hundred silent films, films lasting anywhere from one minute to five hours. Ben is a resident film accompanist at the Museum of Modern Art (NYC) and at the Library of Congress’ Packard Campus Theatre, and performs at theatres, museums, schools and other venues around the US and internationally. As a film programmer, Ben has co-curated film series for The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and co-programs a monthly silent film series at the Cinema Arts Center.

Behind-The-Scenes Background On The Film:

"It’s noteworthy that the elaborate set piece of Steamboat Bill, Jr. is a cyclone. Legend has it that when Joseph Francis “Buster” Keaton was born in Piqua, Kansas, on October 4, 1895, there was a gigantic windstorm.

And when he was just 20 months old, he was supposedly sucked out of an open dressing-room window by an actual cyclone, which deposited him unharmed some four blocks away. These incidents not only presaged Keaton’s tumultuous career, but they also served as fodder for his comedic imagination, to be used and re-used in many of his films.

Buster Keaton was born into a theatrical family. His parents, Joe and Myra, had a traveling medicine show, and Buster joined the act as soon as he knew how to crawl. The Three Keatons became a vaudeville sensation, touring the United States and England from 1897 to 1917.

A popular part of the act involved Joe throwing Buster around the stage, into the wings, and even at the audience on occasion. Buster became known as “The Human Mop” and “The Child That Cannot Be Damaged” because he was able to take falls with comedic, acrobatic skill and without serious injury. His name, in fact, derived from the observation of a fellow performer who, witnessing Buster do a fall down a flight of stairs, declared the kid “a buster.” Buster attributed his famous frozen face to the early years of being batted about, claiming he knew at a very young age that he got bigger laughs if he didn’t smile.

Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) was the last film Keaton made over which he had writing and directorial control. Set on the banks of the Mississippi (and filmed on the Sacramento River), the climactic set piece was originally conceived as a flood, and construction for the sequence was nearing completion when a devastating flood of the real Mississippi caused the studio to cancel Keaton’s plan. Forced to go over schedule and over budget, Keaton proposed a cyclone, and he began preparing for the new scenes. He brought in airplane engines to simulate the cyclone effect and constructed breakaway buildings that could fly apart or collapse when needed.

The cyclone has its roots in Keaton’s past, and there are many such autobiographical references in the film. In the sequence where Buster is caught in an abandoned theater during the cyclone, he shows us several artifacts of his vaudeville days: the magician’s disappearing cabinet, the secret to which Buster reveals in the film, and the frightening ventriloquist’s dummy, which refers to an incident from Buster’s childhood when he was trapped in a suitcase with just such a doll for several hours.

One of the most iconic images in Steamboat Bill, Jr. involves a breakaway building that was carefully constructed to collapse around Keaton without harming him. By strategically positioning himself beneath a second-story window, he was able to create a death-defying visual gag that still invokes awe. Had his calculations been off by even two inches he would have been driven into the ground like a tent peg."-Frank Buxton,

  • Children Under 13
  • Buster Keaton Comedy!

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