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Shoulder Arms (1918)

 -  Comedy | War  -  20 October 1918 (USA)
6.6
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Ratings: 6.6/10 from 3,512 users  
Reviews: 29 user | 18 critic

Charlie is a boot camp private who has a dream of being a hero who goes on a daring mission behind enemy lines.

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
Doughboy
...
Charlie's Comrade / The Kaiser (as Sydney Chaplin)
Loyal Underwood ...
Short German Officer
Henry Bergman ...
Fat Whiskered Soldier / The Kaiser's General / Bartender
Tom Wilson ...
Dumb German Wood-Cutter
Albert Austin ...
American Soldier / Clean Shaven German Soldier / Bearded German Soldier
Jack Wilson ...
Crown Prince
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Storyline

Charlie is in boot camp in the "awkward squad." Once in France he gets no letters from home. He finally gets a package containing limburger cheese which requires a gas mask and which he throws over into the German trench. He goes "over the top" and captures thirteen Germans ("I surrounded them"), then volunteers to wander through the German lines disguised as a tree trunk. With the help of a French girl he captures the Kaiser and the Crown Prince and is given a statue and victory parade in New York and then ... fellow soldiers wake him from his dream. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

20 October 1918 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Carlitos nas Trincheiras  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (TCM print)

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System) (1959 re-issue)|

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Many in Hollywood were nervous that one of their most famous peers was going to tackle the subject of WWI. It was released shortly before the Armistice so it did not help boost national morale. But it did end up as one of Charles Chaplin's most popular films and it was particularly popular with returning doughboys. See more »

Goofs

Charlie, disguised as a tree, enters a pipe to escape a German. When the German tries to pull Charlie out he seperates the lower part of the tree costume along with Charlie's shoes. When Charlie emerges from the other end of the pipe he is still wearing shoes. See more »

Quotes

Officer: How did you capture thirteen?
Recruit: I surrounded them.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The short opens with a title card showing a caricature of Chaplin dressed as a World War I soldier, and text reading "Shoulder Arms Written and Produced by" followed by a blank space. A live action hand appears and points to the title, then the drawing, then uses a piece of white chalk to sign "Charles Chaplin" in the blank space, then points to the caricature one more time. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Charlie Chaplin: The Forgotten Years (2003) See more »

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User Reviews

 
"Over there"
17 July 2010 | by (Ruritania) – See all my reviews

One of the prices of superstardom is that you have to become adaptable. When the US joined the World War in 1917 Charlie Chaplin was at the height of his popularity. Naturally, he was expected to make some sort of contribution. Chaplin had already set his short films in all sorts of locations, even at different time periods, and had given his little tramp all manner of occupations, so soldiering in the trenches shouldn't have been too big a step. However, Shoulder Arms is, if not a propaganda piece (it was released a bit late for that), at least one that had to have a certain outlook. As a result Chaplin was constrained somewhat, and it shows.

The first half of the picture, which is set during Charlie's training and among his comrades in the trench seems a little muted compared to other Chaplin pictures of this period. The reason for this is clear – it wouldn't have had the right effect if there were seen to be too much antagonism between soldiers. Characters like the burly drill sergeant or Charlie's buddy (played his brother Syd) would make ideal bugbears in any other picture, but here all we get is a bit of appropriately brotherly tussling between Charlie and Syd. When you see how weak these opening ten minutes are you realise how much of Chaplin's comedy depended upon playing off others and pricking pomposity.

Fortunately, Chaplin gets to make up for all this when his little tramp goes out to face the German foe. Here he can go all out with making his enemies look ridiculous, getting the most out of his varyingly-sized supporting players. We have Henry Bergman as a roly-poly German, Albert Austin as a gangly one, and best of all Loyal Underwood as a short but self-important German officer. This is Underwood's finest moment, and he really puts a lot of energy and spirit into the part. And Chaplin gets to set up some great routines, with some ingenious ways of defeating foes, not to mention one of his best ever entrances when he appears out of the landscape in his tree disguise.

And Chaplin was clearly savvy enough to realise that the beginning of the picture contained some fairly poor material. Consequently he edits in a handful of shots of antics in the German trench (with Underwood at his most animated), which serve as nothing more than a little touch of uproar, and a promise of things to come.

And now we must have that all-important statistic – Number of kicks up the arse: 7 (1 for, 0 against, 6 other)


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