38 user 22 critic

Shoulder Arms (1918)

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


Charles Chaplin (uncredited)


Charles Chaplin




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


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>

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A 3 REEL ASSAULT ON THE HUN (Print ad- Watertown Daily Times, ((Watertown NY)) 17 December 1918) See more »


Short | Comedy | War


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Did You Know?


Originally planned at five reels; outtakes were preserved in Charles Chaplin's private collection. True Boardman, Marion Feducha, and Frankie Lee played Chaplin's sons in cut domestic scenes intended for the beginning of the film. Peggy Prevost and Nina Trask played draft-board clerks, Alfred Reeves a draft-board sergeant, and Albert Austin a doctor in a cut scene at the draft-board office. See more »


Charlie, in his trench, throws the Limburger cheese into a German trench. This would not have been possible because the distance between the two sides' trenches ("no man's land") would have been far too great. See more »


Title Card: Peace on earth - good will to all mankind.
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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 »


Referenced in The Big Show (1923) See more »

User Reviews

Chaplin's brilliant take on World War I.
11 March 2007 | by Anonymous_MaxineSee all my reviews

In one of the best of Charlie Chaplin's lengthier short films, he places the Little Fellow in the trenches of WWI, where he brings his intolerable politeness and endless patience to the drudgery of trench life, where troops lived for months at a time before finally going over the top to overtake the enemy, and usually to their deaths. It takes someone of Chaplin's skill as a comedian to make something as dreary as trench warfare into such a brilliant comedy, but the irony that he uses in the film makes even the most uncomfortable conditions highly amusing.

Like all of the best of Chaplin's films, short films and otherwise, this one is packed with brilliant and memorable scenes, such as the scene where he marks off kills with a piece of chalk on a board in the trench, erasing one when he gets his helmet shot off, the scene where he and his fellow soldiers are sleeping underwater, the opening of the beer bottle and lighting of the cigarette, and of course, the overtaking of the enemy. All of these scenes are show-stoppers, reminiscent of the most wonderful Chaplin scenes. This one should not be missed!

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None | English

Release Date:

27 October 1918 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Camouflage See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

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

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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