Showing posts with label 1918. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1918. Show all posts

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Shoulder Arms

Set partly amongst the trenches of the First World War, Shoulder Arms was a bold film for Charlie Chaplin to make in 1918 given the wide reaching criticism he received for failing to sign up to fight. He was advised by close friends to abandon the film for something less controversial but Charlie battled on and despite the possible outrage and backlash the film became Chaplin’s most critically acclaimed and financially successful film up to that point, was particularly popular with returning Doughboys and features a couple of scenes which may well be recognisable to people who have never even seen a full Chaplin film.

Charlie plays a young recruit who is sent over to France to join the war. Despite typical problems to begin with he soon discovers that he is a more than competent soldier and after numerous brave exploits ends up in the house of a French woman (Edna Purviance) who tends to his wounds. With the help of his new love and a dear friend from the trenches, Chaplin ends up winning the war for the allies. Or does he?

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Bond

A half reel propaganda film, funded by and starring Charlie Chaplin, The Bond is a unique film in Chaplin’s cannon in that it is the only film he ever made to be filmed in front of a plain black set. There are just a few dimly lit props littered around the stage alongside the actors, Chaplin regulars Edna Purviance, Albert Austin and Sydney Chaplin. The film depicts several sketches along the theme of bonds, from friendship to marriage to the most important, Liberty Bonds.

Though not in the least bit funny the film is still an interesting watch and Chaplin’s simple to understand depiction of what Bonds actually did would have been seen by millions of people across the world. In a very simple sketch Chaplin offers up his savings to Uncle Sam who in turn gives it to Industry who finally furnishes soldiers with rifles. The idea is simple and easy to understand despite the lack of dialogue. In the final scene, Chaplin uses a large hammer with the words Liberty Bonds engraved on the side to smash the Kaiser into submission, thereby further expressing the idea of the difference the bonds can make.

Monday, 15 October 2012

A Dog's Life

Charlie Chaplin’s first short for First National Pictures was released in April 1918, six months after his final film for Mutual. Chaplin in his Tramp character befriends a local mongrel dog called Scraps and together they go about causing mischief and mayhem. Later, Scraps comes to the aid of the Tramp when he gets into trouble with some thugs and helps his master set up a new life for himself and his new lady friend, a bar singer (Edna Purviance).

What was immediately obvious about this opening First National film was its quality. The sets, costume and story are all far superior to pretty much anything seen in a Chaplin film before. The sets especially look as though they may well have been real streets. There is a much more rounded story which incorporates comedy as one aspect rather than relying solely on kicks up the backside or doffing caps to curbs. The film is still funny but this isn’t one of Chaplin’s finest works. What it is though is one of his finest stories to date and overall one of his best short films.

Charlie Chaplin - The First National Films

Having ended his contract with the Mutual Film Corporation amicably, Charlie Chaplin signed the world’s first One Million Dollar movie contract in June 1918. This contract gave him total control over production for a return of eight films. Chaplin decided to build a new studio off Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. The famous Chaplin Studios were designed in the style of English country cottages and contained everything Chaplin would need to develop, film and cut his movies. Chaplin eventually sold the studios in 1953 and they are now owned by Jim Henson Company.

Chaplin began work on his first film for First National in early 1918 and A Dog’s Life was released in April. Over the next four years Chaplin shot eight films at his new studio for First National during one of the most turbulent times of his career. In September 1918 he married the seventeen year old actress Mildred Harris in what was and still is a highly controversial marriage. Harris lied to Chaplin about being pregnant and the marriage ended in a messy divorce in 1920. During the same period the star became frustrated with First National’s impatience and lack of concern for quality and in 1919, while still under contract with First National created United Artists with fellow actors and directors Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D. W. Griffith. The venture which was self funded and offered the Hollywood stars the chance to work freely and independently although Chaplin himself didn’t make a film with the company until 1922 as he was still under contract with First National.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Triple Trouble

Charlie Chaplin’s final Essanay film is probably his most controversial. Unlike the controversy his films created in the 1930s and 40s, the controversy surrounding Triple Trouble comes from its very existence. The two reel film was created in 1918; two years after Chaplin left Essanay and was compiled by Chaplin regular Leo White. White directed some sequences and took other scenes from Police as well as the ending from Work and some unused footage from the never completed Life. The result is a hodgepodge of half completed jokes, tired scenes and uneven continuity.

The plot (I think) involves Chaplin working in the house of a scientist/Count (Leo White) as a janitor. Having got into his trademark trouble and briefly bumping into a Maid (Edna Purviance) whose role is not expanded, the janitor finds a bed for the night at a flophouse. While there a pickpocket enters and starts stealing from the residents. The janitor attempts to stop him and then for some reason runs away from the police. Later the janitor meets an old friend who convinces the cleaner to help him to steal from his employers.