Custom House Maritime Museum A View of the Museum from Water St.


"The Yankee Clipper" (1927) Silent Film Drama with Live Music Accompaniment

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January 19, 2019 @ 6:00pm


A sea-going adventure set in the heyday of the fast "clipper", this silent drama starring a young William Boyd and filmed at sea aboard authentic 19th century vessels, will be screened with live music performed by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis.

Set sail with action-packed high seas adventure during the era of the19th century clipper ships.  It is an exciting drama in which two tall ships—one British, the other American—race from China to Boston to compete for a lucrative tea contract in the 1840s.

Produced by Cecil B. DeMille and directed by Rupert Julian ('Phantom of the Opera'), 'The Yankee Clipper' set new standards for historical adventure when it was released in 1927.

The film takes place in the 1840s, during a period of intense rivalry between British and American sailing captains to win lucrative trade routes between China and the U.S.

As 'The Yankee Clipper' opens, Captain Winslow (William Boyd) takes a revolutionary new clipper ship, built by his father, on its first voyage from America to the Orient.

While in China, Winslow attends a dinner hosted by a wealthy Chinese
merchant and rescues English maiden Lady Jocelyn Huntington (Elinor Fair) from rioting beggars.

Winslow agrees to a race from China to Boston against an English clipper ship, with the fastest vessel to be awarded an important tea contract.

To win, the ships must brave dangerous seas, mutiny, and potential sabotage on board. Romance enters the picture when Lady Jocelyn inadvertently winds up on board the American ship.

The cast features a very young William Boyd in the leading role. Boyd, a popular actor in silent films, would go on to gain fame in later years by playing the character sidekick role of "Hopalong Cassidy" in many Hollywood Westerns. Also, at the time the film was made, female lead Elinor Fair was married to producer Cecil B. DeMille.

The film also features New England actor Walter Long as Portuguese Joe, a ship's crew member. Long, a native of Milford, N.H., was a popular character actor with an extensive career in early cinema that ranged from an appearance in D.W. Griffith's epic 'The Birth of a Nation' (1915) all the way to playing the heavy in Laurel & Hardy comedies much later.

Critics today hail 'The Yankee Clipper' as a masterful drama from the height of the silent film era, one imbued with a great sense of authenticity and historical accuracy. The production filmed on location at sea for six weeks aboard the 1856 wooden square-rigger Indiana.

Leonard Maltin called 'The Yankee Clipper' a "splendid 19th-century seagoing adventure, as clipper ships race full-sail from China to Boston to earn a coveted tea trade contract. En route: typhoon! No fresh water! Mutiny! And a woman on board! Realistic yet heightened drama has it all."

Music for 'The Yankee Clipper' will be created live by Jeff Rapsis,
who specializes in improvising scores to classic silent films in live
performance. For each film, Rapsis will improvise a score from original musical material that he creates beforehand, using a digital synthesizer to recreate the sound and texture of a full orchestra.

"What I try to do," Rapsis said, "is create music that bridges the gap
between a film that might be 80 or 90 years old, and the musical
expectations of today's audiences."

$20 Custom House Maritime Museum Members
$25 Non-Members

Doors open at 5:00pm. Cash bar provided by Loretta of Newburyport.

All proceeds to benefit the Custom House Maritime Museum.

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