Wednesday, January 21, 2015

episode 7: news from the road, Peter Pan, Blackmail, using ragtime

episode 7: news from the road, Peter Pan, Blackmail, "Everybody Gets Cake"

News from the road: December 2014 recap: the Silent Clowns Film Series, Chaplin Mutuals, Library of Congress holiday party, the Powers kids in "The Skeleton"
Recording: live performance, accompaniment to "Peter Pan", Peter saves Tinkerbell
Using ragtime to accompany silent films, then and now, pros and cons
On accompanying the murder scene in "Blackmail"
Recording: live performance, from Hitchcock's "Blackmail" at Alden Theater
Silent film series at the Alden Theatre in McLean, VA
Upcoming performances, Egyptian Theatre in Boise, with Boise Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble, release of Marcel Perez DVD, off-Broadway show "Everybody Gets Cake".

Tuesday, January 13, 2015



Undercrank Productions Collaborates with Library of Congress
and EYE Filmmuseum (Netherlands) to Shine Spotlight on
Overlooked Silent Clown & Director; New Book on Perez by
Steve Massa Also to be Published.


NEW YORK, N.Y. (MONDAY January 12, 2015) Undercrank Productions and noted silent film accompanist/historian Ben Model announced today the DVD release of THE MARCEL PEREZ COLLECTION, a disc of 10 rare short silent film comedies starring and directed by the largely forgotten star Marcel Perez will be released February 3, 2015. The five Italian and five US shorts in this collection prominently feature the silent-era comedian whose work has been completely unknown…until now.

The DVD features new digital transfers of the films, which were preserved by the Library of Congress ( and by EYE Filmmuseum (Netherlands) (, with new musical scores by Ben Model. Undercrank is also publishing Marcel Perez: the International Mirth-Maker, written by noted film historian Steve Massa, a 100-page bio with over 50 rare photos from Perez’s films. Both the DVD and book will be released on February 3 and will be available exclusively through

Following a 10-year career in movies in France, Marcel Perez directed and starred as the character “Robinet” in approximately 160 short comedies in Italy before coming to the US in 1915, where he made another 60 comedy shorts as the character Tweedledum or “Tweedy” for a number of independent studios in Florida, New York and New Jersey. Perez is the only silent screen comedian besides Max Linder to have had this kind of long-reaching career on both continents. More than just another slapstick comedian, Perez had a unique character and a directorial persona, which he developed throughout his career and adapted seamlessly to American slapstick filmmaking.  Sadly, only a fraction of Perez’ output, which spanned 1900-1928, survives.

“Perez was literally one of the founders of film comedy,” says film historian Steve Massa, author of Lame Brains and Lunatics: the Good, the Bad and the Forgotten of Silent Comedy, and librarian in the Billy Rose TheatreCollection at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln
Center.  “He was right there at the dawn of cinema, making movies in France starting in 1900. By 1910 he was headlining in his own series in Italy, writing and directing them too and he was known around the world. So when he came to the U.S. in 1915 his popularity continued and while prolific, most of the American films have been lost. THE MARCEL PEREZ COLLECTION DVD rounds up his best surviving films and gives Perez the opportunity to take his rightful place as one of the innovators of the whole silent film genre.”

“What impressed me in discovering Marcel Perez and his films is how clever the humor and filmmaking is and how engaging a persona he has,” said DVD Producer Ben Model. “It’s been a thrill, working with Library of Congress, EYE Film and being supported by fan crowdfunding, to give this forgotten silent clown his day in the sun. THE MARCEL PEREZ COLLECTION not only means that classic film fans can now discover this forgotten comedy star, but his two surviving grand-children will finally be able to see his films.”

This is the third DVD project that Ben Model has funded by reaching out to silent film fans via Kickstarter, and is the second that he has produced as part of a co-branding association with the Library of Congress. The first DVD project was THE MISHAPS OF MUSTY SUFFER released April 2014. The DVD of The Marcel Perez Collection will be available for $19.95; 120 mins, B&W. The DVD contains new digital transfers of archival master prints held the Library of Congress and the EYE Filmmuseum (Netherlands).

The book Marcel Perez: the International Mirth-Maker, will be priced at $11.95 and is written by Steve Massa; 100 pp..
THE MARCEL PEREZ COLLECTION is set for release on February 3, 2015 via Amazon and serves as a great introduction to his ‘lost’ work in the US and Europe.

For review copies, interest in talking to Ben Model directly about the collection and more, please contact:


Ben Model is one of the nation’s leading silent film accompanists, and has been a resident film pianist at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) since 1984.  He accompanies silent films on piano and theatre organ regularly at MoMA, the Library of Congress, the Silent Clowns Film Series (in NYC), and at many theatres and schools around the country.  His recorded scores can be heard on numerous releases from Kino Lorber and on Turner Classic Movies (TCM).  He is also co-curator of MoMA’s annual “Cruel and Unusual Comedy” silent film series, and this month will be performing in the off-Broadway show “Everyone Gets Cake” at 59E59 Theatres. Model is also the archivist for the Ernie Kovacs/Edie Adams collections and has programmed two “Ernie Kovacs Collection” DVD box sets for Shout Factory as well as MVD’s “Here’s Edie: The Edie Adams Television Shows”. He is based in New York City.  His website is


Italian films:
“Robinet's White Suit” (1911)
“Robinet in Love with a Singer” (1911)
“Mademoiselle Robinet” (1912)
“Robinet is Too Much Loved By His Wife” (1912)
“Robinet is Jealous” (1914)

American films:
“A Bathtub Elopement” (1916)
“A Busy Night” (1916)
“Camouflage” (1918)
“You're Next” (1919)
“Sweet Daddy” (1921)

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

episode 6: welcome to the reboot, 2014 recap, Arthur Kleiner, SFSMA

episode 6: welcome to the reboot, 2014 recap, Arthur Kleiner, SFSMA

Mea culpa, and welcome to the podcast reboot
The Silent Film Sound and Music Archive
My new DVD label Undercrank Productions and the LoC
Live performance: "My Best Girl" at St. Francis College
Using pre-existing music in film accompaniment
The Herb Graff show: silent comedies on public TV in the 1970s
Recording: Arthur Kleiner playing "The Philanderer"
Arthur Kleiner, MoMA's first silent film pianist
Composing silent film scores for concert band
Recording: the Palisades Virtuosi playing my "Spice of the Program"
Upcoming performances, release of Marcel Perez DVD, off-Broadway show "Everybody Gets Cake".

Saturday, January 03, 2015

William S. Hart in THREE WORD BRAND (1921) - new release

Happy new year!

Today I'm releasing William S. Hart in THREE WORD BRAND (1921) for streaming only. It's available for just $2.99 on my YouTube channel.

Why am I releasing this in this manner?
  • my YouTube channel was recently approved for offering videos for a fee, as well as for starting a separate subscription-only channel
  • if I release it as a DVD, the less-than-stellar Amazon reviews for the Alpha Video version may get attributed to it and vice versa
  • if I release it as a DVD, I'd feel obligated to find other content to "fill out the disc", and this way I can release the feature as a stand-alone
  • this was a project not worthy of doing a Kickstarter, and any scoring/editing work I've done on it is "on spec" and is work I'm not willing to just give away for free; anything I've already posted on my YT is work I'd already been compensated for
  • this was a way of offering an edition of this film that is somewhere between "I just want to see it and don't care about the score or image quality" and a full-blown Criterion-Blu restoration from 35mm elements
This is an experiment. As is the "tip jar" I've enabled on my channel, a feature for creators that YouTube rolled out a couple months ago.

What I'm trying to find out is whether YouTubers will pony up a few bucks to watch a silent feature knowing the score will be good and — given the rest of my channel's content — that the film looks good and is at a decent speed.

Here are some particulars about this edition.
  • it's from a good 16mm print
  • I've adjusted the speed to approximate 21 fps
  • I have tinted the exterior night scenes blue, as the visual information I saw indicated this. (I could be wrong, but I'm learning to recognize what this looks like when seen in a B&W print.)
  • this film was originally 7 reels, released at 6,638 ft; this edition is slightly abridged, and if it were in 35mm it'd be around 5,700 ft
  • new stereo piano score by yours truly

This is streaming 'purchase' and not a 'rental', so if you pay the $2.99 you will have access to it as long as you like.

If anyone here goes for it, I'd appreciate any info about how this whole thing works from the consumer end of it. Also, posting any comments on the YouTube listing itself will help other fans find it or have it suggested to them.

Enough exposition. If you'd like to check out this new release of THREE WORD BRAND starring William S. Hart and directed by Lambert Hillyer...




Sunday, December 21, 2014

a lost Christmas song by the composer of "Charlie Brown"

Used record bins turn up the most unusual items sometimes. I usually will flip through them, past the usual suspects that turn up (My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof, The First Family, My Name is Barbra, Vox classical), to see if there aren't any stereo/hi-fi demonstration records from the space age bachelor pad era. Some of those have fantastic and really creative instrumental arrangements and are a lot of fun.

Some years back, I was perusing a bin and a small demonstration record caught my eye. I recognized the name of the artist, Clark Gesner, as the composer of "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown", but this was a song I'd never heard of.

This was a 45 rpm 7" demo record, and when I (carefully) played it, I discovered that this was a recording of Gesner himself playing the piano and singing "All Kinds of Christmases", a song he'd written. It's a beautiful song, and really deserves to be part of the annual holiday playlist.

And in 1977, it almost was. Here's what I learned about the song.

Clark Gesner wrote a lot of other musical theatre material and songs besides "Charlie Brown", and at some point in the mid-1970s he played and sang "All Kinds of Christmases" for a friend who was a Princeton alum and fellow classmate who offered to shop the song around, and for this purpose the demo recording was made. It made the rounds of various singers of the day, but was turned down. Until news came, in the summer of 1977, that Bing Crosby liked it and wanted to sing it on his Christmas special. Unfortunately, Crosby died that October.

"All Kinds of Christmases" has not been recorded or published since, and has not been heard except for a holiday concert in 2003 by the Albany Pro Musica chorus.

I posted the record on YouTube last year at holiday time, and am posting it here again for your entertainment. A friend of mine who was also a good friend of Gesner's has transcribed the recording into a piano/vocal lead sheet.

If you like this song, won't you help Mr. Gesner's legacy by sharing the YouTube link or this post?


Tuesday, December 09, 2014

** coming in 2015…the podcast is back! **

** coming in 2015…the podcast is back! **

A brief recap of how it came to pass that the podcast is being resuscitated for 2015

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Resuscitating My Podcast

It's the slower months when projects that have been mentally circling the airport can actually contact the tower and request permission to land. In 2014 I got a little better at this, by anticipating the space I'd have in my calendar and brain, and planning to produce my DVD releases then.

A couple months ago, someone posted something on Facebook, mentioning my podcast. Perhaps they'd actually found it and posted a link to it. (I can't remember now, and you can't search Facebook like it's Google, so you'll have to take my word for it.)
Oh, yeah, my podcast. The premiere episode posted in June of 2012, and I had grey matter in May that year to figure out how to do a podcast and get it listed on iTunes. I also had the confluence of being a guest on a Daniel Person's "Mighty Movie Podcast", and Daniel had some advice and tips on navigating the coding etc to get this going. (Click on the photo to listen to the episode of Daniel's MMP that I was on.)

Doing a podcast was one of those things I'd  thought about doing, to add to the various other facets of my online presence and as a way to connect with people who find what I do of interest, and I just needed the time to figure out the nuts and bolts of how to get episodes listed on iTunes.

Finding the wormhole between content and audience has been an interest of mine.

Once I figured out how that worked, and got through the learning curve of recording and posting the first episode, doing the podcast wasn't too too difficult.

Remembering to do episodes of it was the hard part.

Episodes 1, 2 and 3 went out in June and July of 2012, ep. 4 in Jan 2013, and ep. 5 two months after that.  And then I got busy, and the thought of doing all the steps on top of carving out the time to do them was too much. Far as I could tell, hardly anyone was listening anyway, as the online stats showed I had 15-20 subscribers when I checked.

Or so I thought.

When that Facebook post appeared this past October, I commented something about it being defunct and that I just couldn't get it together to do more episodes…to which Kendra Leonard responded that she'd be happy to help.

Kendra is a musicologist who launched the Silent Film Sound and Music Archive, an online resource to find silent era mood music, cue sheets and vintage "instruction" books on film accompaniment. I'd sent her PDFs I'd made of a few of the "PianOrgan" folios of mood cues someone had given me at a show last year, as well as a score for "The Sea Beast" that I had scanned for someone else at some point.

And so, my Silent Film Music podcast will reboot at some point in the beginning of next year, barring any tech snafus. In getting myself back into gear, I looked up the current stats on the 5 episodes I'd posted, and was surprised to see that episodes 1, 2, and 3 had been downloaded more than 400 times, with ep 4 at 215 and ep 5 around 280, with a current subscriber tally of 64. And that's with me doing nothing on the podcast for 18 months.

Perhaps there's something to this, after all.


PS - you can listen or subscribe to the podcast here.