Starring Charlie Chaplin
In "Shoulder Arms," Charlie Chaplin so easily and perfectly gets away from the bewildering trousers, the rattan cane and the immortal derby that his escape, at last, is scarcely the matter of a moment's thought.
Here he is in khaki, canvas leggings and army hat -- yet how many of us have insisted that the gentlemanly essentials named in the preceding paragraph were an absolutely necessary part of his success?
"Shoulder Arms" is the glory-dream of a recuit. It is a perfect handling of a delicate subject, and in its treatment the comedian has shown, more completely than ever before, his faculty for getting inside a character and grasping, as if by intuition (but really by hard work) all that character's salient points. The best thing about this film is that the rookie sees his own little weaknesses, his hardships, his hopes, his glories, his quaint vanities and small fears -- he sees himself. If this film is not 100 percent triumph in our army camps in Europe, all best and guesses fail.
Right in the midst of a guffaw, one stops to admire a skillful mastery of even the new technique of war. Camouflaged as a tree, and motionless in a grove, he is absolutely undiscoverable until he moves. What a chilling satire on Flanders rain, too, is that scene of sweet slumber in the inundated dugout! Daintily shaking out his submarine pillows, the comedian tucks the watery blanket about his shoulders -- and sinks beneath the black flood with only the phonograph horn to give him air. Looking at his passage is enough to give one penumonia by suggestion. The customary hint of breezy amour is lightly, deftly touched in a momentary scene with the cynical and evil-thinking crown prince.
Being completely funny on a background of completely terrible war is not only difficult, but dangerous. As far as we can see, only Chaplin and Bruce Bairnsfather have been wholly successful and wholly apropos.
starring Charlie Chaplin
"Shoulder Arms starts off with a fusillade of comicalities and ends with a bombardment of mirth-provoking tricks. Charles Spencer Chaplin, serious-faced, wide-eyed, drills, marches, trips, dodges thru all the customary episodes of a war drama, but in turning what has been done so often as drama into farce, he has struck a note that is almost more human than the blood and thunder warplays. We laugh at his awkwardness at drill, at his plight in the mud-filled trenches, at his method of scratching imaginary cooties on a nutmeg grater, at his predicament when all the boxes come from home and he receives none, and we double up painfully with guffaws of mirthfulness when he camouflages himself as a tree and battles the bewildered Germans, but underneath all the farce of it, we are in close sympathy with the little man and conscious of a touch of true pathos which makes us realize that this Chaplin who calls himself a comedian is perhaps the greatest (a word I dislike to use but which seems necessary in this case) actor on the screen today. Truly, with each release does he prove the value of his policy of making only a few pictures a year. Not only is the perfection of three months' work apparent as compared to the three weeks expended upon other feature films, but the public does not have an opportunity to become satiated with the star. With each successive Chaplin picture the verdict is, the best thing he has ever done, which, I believe, can be said of no other actor on the screen.
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