Shoulder Arms


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

Shoulder Arms is Charlie Chaplin's second film for First National. Released in 1918 in film, 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.


In the scene where Chaplin (in his tree costume) is being pursued through the forest, cars can be seen traveling on a highway in the background. Although highways in the United States existed when this film was made, they did not exist in Germany. Germany's first highway was built in 1921. Of course, the Western Front was in France, not Germany.

Credited cast

  • Charles Chaplin ... Charlie, the Doughboy
  • Edna Purviance ... French girl
  • Syd Chaplin ... The sergeant, Charlie's Comrade/The Kaiser
  • Jack Wilson (actor) ... German Crown Prince
  • Henry Bergman ... Fat German sergeant/Field Marshal von Hindenburg/Bartender
  • Albert Austin ... American Officer/Clean Shaven German Soldier/Bearded German Soldier
  • Tom Wilson (actor) ... Dumb German Wood-Cutter
  • John Rand (actor) ... U.S. soldier
  • J. Parks Jones ... U.S. soldier (as Park Jones)
  • Loyal Underwood ... Small German officer
  • W.J. Allen ... Motorcyclist
  • L.A. Blaisdell ... Motorcyclist
  • Wellington Cross ... Motorcyclist
  • C.L. Dice ... Motorcyclist
  • G.A. Godfrey ... Motorcyclist
  • W. Herron ... Motorcyclist


Shoulder Arms proved to be Chaplin's most popular film, critically and commercially, up to that point. A review in the October 21, 1918 New York Times was typical:
"'The fool's funny,' was the chuckling observation of one of those who saw Charlie Chaplin's new film. Shoulder Arms, at the Strand yesterday&mdash;and, apparently, that's the way everybody felt. There have been learned discussions as to whether Chaplin's comedy is low or high, artistic or crude, but no one can deny that when he impersonates a screen fool he is funny. Most of those who go to find fault with him remain to laugh. They may still find fault, but they will keep on laughing."

See also

  • List of World War I films

  • Category:Films directed by Charlie Chaplin
    Category:1918 films
    Category:American World War I propaganda films
    Category:Black-and-white films
    Category:American comedy films
    Category:American films
    Category:American silent feature films
    Category:1910s comedy films
    Category:Military humor in film

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