PROVINCETOWN – When the sun was shining on another summer day in Provincetown, Brad Moore was already planning his fall and winter film series, which always includes an annual showing of “Nanook of the North,” a silent documentary about Eskimos released in 1922.
February is when Moore, 46, traditionally shows “Nanook,” perhaps accompanied by local musicians on fiddle, mandolin and stand-up bass who wing it for the occasion.
The film series, in its ninth year, starts in October and runs through March, every Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at WOMR’s offices at the Schoolhouse on the east end of town.
The series is a benefit for WOMR where Moore works as a deejay.
Moore started collecting old movies as a child.
He now has an extensive collection of early films, including many silent movies.
When WOMR moved its offices to the Schoolhouse building about 10 years ago, Moore noticed a room was already set up as a performance space with a screen.
“A lightbulb went off in my head. I have a film collection and I can do a series,” he said.
Moore’s radio show on WOMR is Psychedelic Oyster, a Grateful Dead tribute show Monday nights from 9 to midnight.
Some of the other WOMR deejays have pitched in as impromptu performers to accompany the movies in Moore’s film series. He has many silent films in his collection; some come with sound tracks and some don’t.
Having local musicians play started with a fluke. WOMR deejay, Mary Martin, aka The Ukelele Diva, was in the audience at one of his first shows.
It was the end of October and in honor of Halloween, Moore decided to show “Phantom of the Opera” with Lon Chaney Sr., one of his favorites.
“I needed someone to play piano and she did it. She was just winging it, he said.
From then on, every Thursday night if he was playing a movie with no sound or score, Martin would play the piano and sometimes the ukelele or other instruments.
Turns out Martin enjoys winging it. On movies for which she has been unfamiliar, she actually enjoys not knowing what is going to happen and playing along as it goes, Moore said.
At other shows, Dinah Mellin, a fiddle player and deejay on the show Fiddle & The Harp, invited her friend Randy Patterson, who plays the mandolin, and Roe Osborn, who plays stand-up bass to join her to play during the silent films. Denya LeVine, another fiddle player has also accompanied the films, as has Moore’s wife, April Baxter, who is also a deejee on Fiddle & The Harp.
Moore is a rare breed in Provincetown: a local. His parents, Munro and Mary Moore moved to Provincetown in 1960. Munro, an avid sailor, arts patron and former selectmen, died in 1995.
When Brad Moore was a child, his father used to shoot home movies and show them on occasion in the living room after dinner. For his fifth birthday party, his father spliced together some cartoons.
“Watching those was my first inspiration,” he said.
He began collecting old films when he was 10 or 11. He worked as a paperboy and his route allowed him to earn some pocket money. He was able to afford to buy some short films.
He used to attend movies Metro and The Movies, two local movie houses owned by Monte Rome. Rome gave him a copy of the catalogue for Black Hawk, a company based in Davenport, Iowa, with a large selection of old movies.
He starting collecting and now that collection includes about 200 movies plus short films on 8 mm, Super 8, and 16 mm film.
He stopped collecting for a number of years but started again in earnest about 10 years ago, buying up movies on eBay. He owns many classics including all of Charlie Chaplin’s silents and short films and some unusual ones like one of the first movies with sound, “The Great Gabbo” from 1929, which stars Erich von Stroheim as a ventriloquist.
“The Great Gabbo” will be the first film shown in the series this year on October 3.
He stores his movie collection in an air conditioned space—his former bedroom—at his mother’s house. He also has a half-dozen old projectors.
Moore said films deteriorate without proper care, so he cleans his movies with special solvents on a regular basis so they do not scratch in the projector. He also keeps his projectors clean.
Moore said there are a few movies he plays annually, including “Phantom of the Opera” with Lon Chaney Sr.
“It’s definitely one of the most interesting films of the silent era,” he said.
He also holds a Lon Chaney birthday bash on April Fools Day when he gives a mini-Lon Chaney movie festival, sometimes showing several films and featuring a Champagne toast.
Throughout the winter, the films in the series draw anywhere from a few people to 25, with some regulars who come from as far away as Orleans.
The “Nanook of the North” screening in February, where he usually has several musicians on hand playing a score, tends to attract a good crowd. The film is considered one of the all time classics of movie making and coupled with the live music, it is sure to draw a crowd once again.
The WOMR Fall and Winter Benefit Film Series
494 Commercial Street (the Schoolhouse, upstairs)
October 3-March 27, Thursday nights at 7:30 PM
Suggested donation: $5
Free popcorn provided by the Provincetown Inn. Beer and wine are available by donation.
For more info: womr.org
October 10th Freaks (1932) Directed by Tod Browning with Harry Earles, and Olga Baclanova;
October 17th Der Golem (1920) Directed by Paul Wegener with Paul Wegener;
October 24th Witchcraft Through The Ages (1922) Directed by Benjamin Christensen with Benjamin Christensen;
October 31st Halloween night will be the annual screening of the original The Phantom Of The Opera (1925) with Lon Chaney, Norman Kerry, and Mary Philbin.
– Laura M. Reckford