A new score for the 1925 film classic The Phantom of the Opera, performed by the Berklee College of Music’s Silent Film Orchestra, will help launch the third annual Filmusic Festival at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center on Thursday, June 25.
The festival’s opening reception at 7 pm on Thursday will precede screening of The Phantom of the Opera, which tells the love story of a crazy, disfigured composer, played by Lon Chaney, and his opera-singing inamorata Christine, played by Mary Philbin. The Silent Film Orchestra is returning after last year’s sold-out performance of the Harold Lloyd comedy Safety Last with a new musical score. The orchestra is part of the only undergraduate program in film scoring worldwide.
The Phantom of the Opera is one of seven full-length films and a number of live performances by Island and off-Island performers featured over the weekend. Playing Friday, June 26, are two films. The Wrecking Crew is a documentary about a studio band that filmgoers may remember seeing in action during the recent Beach Boys film, Love and Mercy. The Wrecking Crew played the background music for Grammy-winning albums’ “Record of the Year” for the past six years. Another music-themed film, Midsummer Night’s Tango, tracks the search for the origins of tango music in Finland by three Argentinian brothers.
Showing on Saturday are Brasil Bam Bam Bam: The Story of Sonzeira, a film about Brazilian music genres like the bossa nova and the samba, and Orion: The Man Who Would Be King. A 6:30 pm reception between the films will allow filmgoers to dress like Elvis Presley in anticipation of Orion. The audience member who most resembles the King of Rock ’n’ Roll will win a membership to the Film Society.
A documentary, Orion: The Man Who Would Be King tells the intriguing story of Alabamian Jimmy Ellis, a talented country-western singer who had the misfortune of sounding exactly like Elvis. Although he first spent 17 years training Tennessee Walker horses, including three world champions, Mr. Ellis’s true love was music, and in 1975 he moved to Los Angeles in hopes of developing a successful singing career. Elvis’s 1977 death coincided with Mr. Ellis’s efforts to break into the music industry, and Elvis fans fantasized that Mr. Ellis was a reincarnation of their idol. This happened despite the fact that at six feet four inches, Mr. Ellis was taller than the King and did not look anything like him.
Before Elvis died, the pop novelist Gail Brewer Giorgio published Orion, in which an Elvis-like superstar fakes his own death to escape the ravages of fame. Relocating to Nashville, Mr. Ellis had joined Sun Records, and was persuaded by its owner Shelby Singleton to adopt the stage name Orion and wear masks to disguise the fact that he didn’t look like Elvis, even if he sounded like him.
What makes the story of Jimmy Ellis particularly interesting is the way it explores how the search for celebrity affects a talented singer, the impact of an uncanny vocal resemblance to a true superstar, and the role of luck in achieving stardom.
The Filmusic Festival concludes on Sunday, June 28, with Keep On Keepin’ On, about the 93-year-old jazz trumpeter Clark Terry; and Landfill Harmonics, which describes how a group of Paraguayans created an orchestra using instruments recycled from trash in a local landfill.
The Phantom of the Opera, with the Berklee College of Music’s Silent Film Orchestra, Thursday, June 25, 7:15 pm. Reception at 6:45 pm. Special pricing, $30 (MVFS members $25).
The Wrecking Crew, Friday, June 26, 7:30 pm.
Midsummer Night’s Tango, Friday, June 26, 9:15 pm.
Brasil Bam Bam Bam: The Story of Sonzeira, Saturday, June 27, 4 pm.
Orion: The Man Who Would Be King, Saturday, June 27, 7:30 pm. Reception at 6:30 pm.
Keep On Keepin’ On, Sunday, June 28, 4 pm.
Landfill Harmonics, Sunday, June 28, 7:30 pm. All films at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, Tisbury Marketplace, Vineyard Haven. All-access festival passes $75 (MVFS members, $60). Individual tickets except The Phantom of the Opera, $12 (MVFS members, $9). For information and tickets, see mvfilmsociety.com.