Silent Movie at the Old Town House

Jul 09, 2014

Union — The past comes to life again with the annual Founders Day screening of a classic silent movie at the Old Town House on Town House Road. Union Historical Society will screen the 1926 classic Western “The Great K&A Train Robbery,” starring Tom Mix and his horse Tony, Saturday, July 19, at 7 p.m.

Doug Protsik, director of Maine Fiddle Camp and The Old Grey Goose band, will play non-stop piano accompaniment from an original score. Silent Movies at the Old Town House is a re-creation of 1920s America, with an audience of all ages eagerly watching the silver screen from the antique deacon’s bench seating.

The Old Town House, built in 1840, adds a special ambiance with its rounded ceiling, antique quilts, raked stage and tongue-and-groove paneling. There are vintage movie posters hidden away behind the screen.  Protsik’s showmanship completes the atmosphere as he plays music themed to the on-screen action on the building’s honky-tonk piano. Modern audiences often are surprised to realize they don’t notice the lack of spoken dialogue.

“The Great K&A Train Robbery,” based on a real incident, is one of those wonderful early films that has it all – horses, trains, a daring heist, a detective disguised as a bandit and the railroad president’s glamorous daughter who, of course, falls in love with the horseback detective. The prototype of all cowboy actors, Tom Mix performed in more than 280 silent Westerns and did his own stunt work.

Silent movie fan Protsik has a varied background in classical, folk, old-time and dance music and falls naturally into his role as “heir” to the late Danny Patt who, at age 11 and for years thereafter, accompanied silent movies at the Old Town House in the 1920s.  Using Patt’s techniques, and aided by research into 1920s standards including Erno Rapee’s “Motion Picture Moods for Pianists and Organists” and J.S. Zamecnik’s “Sam Fox Moving Picture Music,” as well as the silent movie collection at Blue Hill’s Bagaduce Music Lending Library, Protsik creates his own scores. “The Great K&A Train Robbery” is new to his repertoire, but he has composed and recorded original scores for silent film restorations for Turner Classic Movies cable network and performed for silent movies at international film festivals.

Union Historical Society acknowledges the sponsorship of member Susan Fay, whose generosity underwrites this event. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Admission is free, but donations to help with maintenance of the historic building will be gratefully accepted.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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