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A Scrap of Paper (1918)

6.9
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Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle confronts the Kaiser in his headquarters, and tells him that he will be be defeated by "scraps of paper," i.e. War Bonds.

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Title: A Scrap of Paper (1918)

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Cast

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Glen Cavender ...
Al St. John ...
Monty Banks ...
Soldier
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Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle confronts the Kaiser in his headquarters, and tells him that he will be be defeated by "scraps of paper," i.e. War Bonds.

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Short | Comedy

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1.33 : 1
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A fund-raising short made for the Canadian War Loan in World War I. See more »

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Roscoe flummoxes the Beast of Berlin!
15 May 2006 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

This very short film, only recently rediscovered, features Roscoe Arbuckle touting the efficacy of Liberty Bonds in the struggle to defeat German Imperialism, just as Chaplin did in his own propaganda effort The Bond. While Chaplin's film is more offbeat and stylish this one is interesting in its own right, though no more subtle than most propaganda of the period.

A title card reading "The Cause of It All" introduces The Kaiser himself, in his headquarters, glowering at the camera. We also meet his son The Crown Prince, and three goose-stepping soldiers. (One of the soldiers is played by Monty Banks, who would later star in his own comedies; here he wears a Chaplin-style mustache that will remind latter day viewers, disturbingly, of Hitler.) A guard abruptly announces that Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle has arrived to see the Kaiser, and he is promptly ushered in. Roscoe wears his usual costume and quickly makes himself at home. Introduced to the Kaiser's son, he addresses him as the "Clown Quince." So much for subtlety. Out of the blue, Roscoe asks the Kaiser about the treaty he signed with Belgium; the Kaiser laughs contemptuously and calls it a mere "scrap of paper." Roscoe retorts that there are other scraps of paper-- Liberty Bonds, purchased by patriotic citizens --that the Kaiser must reckon with. And then, in a genuinely surprising and striking visual effect, a veritable blizzard of paper blows into the office and overwhelms the Kaiser, the Prince, and the German soldiers. They attempt to escape by various exits, but are confronted by Allied troops at each door. These "scraps of paper" have defeated the Huns!

As the description should make clear this film is more valuable as a historical document than as comedy, but for students of the popular culture of the First World War it's a fascinating find. (Incidentally, the film is also known as "Scraps" of Paper, plural.) Where propaganda is concerned I'd call it highly effective; that image of the Kaiser and his minions overwhelmed by a snowstorm of paper is as memorable as any slickly crafted TV commercial of recent vintage.


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