Published on July 1, 2016
Shoulder Arms is Charlie Chaplin’s second film for First National Pictures. Released in 1918, it is a silent comedy set in France during World War I. The main part of the film actually occurs in a dream. It co-starred Edna Purviance and Sydney Chaplin, Chaplin’s brother. It is Chaplin’s shortest feature film.
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.