BRANDON — When the story gets too intense for words, that’s when silent film rises to the occasion.
See for yourself with ‘Wild Orchids’ (1929), a romantic thriller starring Greta Garbo, to be screened with live music at the Brandon Town Hall and Community Center on Saturday, Aug. 7 at 7 p.m.
‘Wild Orchids,’ one of the last silent films of MGM studios, is a steamy tale of forbidden romance that follows the story of an older businessman (John Lewis) who takes his young wife (Greta Garbo) on a business trip to the South Pacific. Aboard ship, she witnesses a wealthy passenger (Nils Asther) brutally thrashing a servant. The violent man sees Garbo and resolves to meet her.
Things get complicated, however, when the man turns out to be a royal heir crucially important to the business affairs of Garbo’s husband. Emotions boil over in the tropical heat, leading to a dramatic showdown over Garbo’s ultimate fate.
Released during the movie industry’s chaotic switchover from silent film to synchronized dialogue, ‘Wild Orchids’ proved a hit. The silent film earned $1.1 million, making it one of the year’s top 10 box office attractions.
Although MGM was already releasing talking pictures, it kept starring Garbo in silent pictures as long as possible due to concerns about her heavy accent.
Originally from Sweden, in Hollywood Garbo quickly rose to silent film stardom based on her acting ability and her unique and stunning beauty.
Garbo spoke English, but with a Scandinavian accent, causing concerns that the public would reject her in talking pictures. When she finally spoke on-screen, Garbo’s distinctive delivery and husky voice only served to add to her popularity, to the great relief of studio bosses.
A live musical score for ‘Wild Orchids’ will be performed by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis, who specializes in creating music to help silent films connect with modern-day audiences.
“As one of the last commercial silent films produced, ‘Wild Orchids’ shows how fluent Hollywood had become at telling stories visually, rather than through dialogue,” Rapsis said. “These films were intended to be seen on the big screen, with live music, and—most importantly—with an audience. Put it all back together, and films like ‘Wild Orchids’ really leap back to life.”
Addison residents can go to the show for free, though donations are appreciated.
Upcoming programs in the Brandon Town Hall silent film series include:
• Saturday, Sept. 18, 7 p.m.: ‘Tramp, Tramp, Tramp’ (1926) starring Harry Langdon. Rediscover forgotten comedian Harry Langdon in riotous visual comedy about a cross-country foot race; sponsored by Bill and Kathy Mathis in memory of Maxine Thurston.
• Saturday, Oct. 23, 7 p.m.: ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ (1923) starring Lon Chaney. Victor Hugo’s classic novel about a deformed bellringer in medieval Paris, filled with classic scenes and capped with a thrilling climax; sponsored by Harold and Jean Somerset, Kathy and Wayne Rausenberger, Pat Hanson, and Brian and Stephanie Jerome.
• Saturday, Nov. 13, 7 p.m.: ‘College’ (1927) starring Buster Keaton. Head back to school with Buster, a bumbling freshman who discovers sports is the only sure-fire route to popularity; sponsored by Lucy and Dick Rouse, Edward Loedding and Dorothy Leysath, Sam and Sharon Glaser, Peter and Louise Kelley, Bar Harbor Bank and Trust.
Admission is free to all the shows, though donations support ongoing restoration of the Town Hall.
For more information and the latest updates on Covid-19 safety protocols at the Town Hall, visit www.brandontownhall.com.
The screening of ‘Wild Orchids’ is sponsored by local residents Tracy Holden and Kirk Thomas.