Classic Buster Keaton farce ‘Spite Marriage’ at Garden Cinemas on April 21

  • Nov. 26, 1928: Dorothy Sebastian (1903-1957) cuts Buster Keaton’s beard with a sword in a scene from the silent comedy “Spite Marriage,” directed by Edward Sedgwick for MGM. The film will be screened with live music by Jeff Rapsis on Wednesday, April 21, at 7 p.m. at the Greenfield Garden Cinemas. Contributed image

  • Buster Keaton’s silent comedy “Spite Marriage” (1929) will be screened with live music by Jeff Rapsis on Wednesday, April 21, at 7 p.m. at the Greenfield Garden Cinemas. Contributed image

  • An original lobby card promoting Buster Keaton’s comedy “Spite Marriage” (1929), which will be screened with live music by Jeff Rapsis on Wednesday, April 21, at 7 p.m. at the Greenfield Garden Cinemas. Contributed image

  • Silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis returns to the Greenfield Garden Cinemas with music for a program featuring Buster Keaton’s comedy “Spite Marriage” (1929). The film will be screened on Wednesday, April 21, at 7 p.m. Contributed Photo

Staff Report
Published: 4/8/2021 10:42:52 AM

He never smiled on camera, earning him the nickname of “the Great Stone Face.” But Buster Keaton’s comedies rocked Hollywood’s silent era with laughter throughout the 1920s, according to a press release announcing a screening of “Spite Marriage,” Keaton’s last silent feature film.

The screening, on Wednesday, April 21, at 7 p.m. at the Garden Cinemas, honors the 92nd birthday of the Main Street movie theater, which opened at the end of the silent era and has been showing movies to Pioneer Valley residents ever since.

Admission is $9.50 per person, or $8.50 for children, students and seniors, according to the release. The program will be accompanied by live music performed by silent film composer Jeff Rapsis.

The Garden Cinemas was built in 1928 and 1929. The theater has had just three owners in its nearly century-long history, the release states. Most recently, it was taken over in 2019 by Isaac and Angela Mass.

“Spite Marriage” finds the poker-faced comic smitten by stage actress Trilby Drew (Dorothy Sebastian) — so much so that he joins the cast of her current production, a Civil War melodrama.

The fun begins when she unexpectedly asks Buster to marry her, but only to get even with an old flame. Complications with gangsters lead to a climax at sea, making for a classic Keaton comedy full of memorable routines.

Keaton, along with Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, stands as one of the three great comics of the silent screen, though many critics regard Keaton as the best of all. Roger Ebert wrote in 2002 that “in an extraordinary period from 1920 to 1929, (Keaton) worked without interruption on a series of films that make him, arguably, the greatest actor-director in the history of the movies.”

“Seen today, his films are remarkable for their effective stories, their innovative cinematography, and their ability to still produce gales of laughter,” Rapsis said in the release. “A chance to see a Keaton film as originally presented — in a theater, with live music and an audience — is not to be missed.”

Rapsis said it’s currently a new golden age for silent film because so many titles have been restored, and are now available to watch at home or via online streaming.

However, the birthday screening at the Garden Cinemas enables film fans to really understand the power of early cinema, which was intended to be shown on a big screen, with live music, and with an audience.

“Put those elements together,” Rapsis said, “and films from the silent era spring right back to life in a way that helps you understand why people first fell in love with the movies.”


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