Shoulder Arms (1944)
Movie InfoShoulder Arms was Charlie Chaplin's final contribution to the World War I effort, along with his personal appearances selling Liberty Bonds and his film The Bond. It was released shortly before the end of the war, and Chaplin made prints available to soldiers fighting overseas, for which he was lauded for cheering the severely tested troops. Charlie is a member of the "Awkward Squad" and we first see him being put through his paces in training camp. He has problems with making a proper about-face and with marching, his out-turned feet, constantly annoying his drill sergeant. Exhausted after a hard drill, he collapses on his cot. "Over there," somewhere in France, the troops are engaged in trench warfare, and Chaplin gives the audience a hilarious view on the difficulties experienced by the troops -- flooded quarters (which he shares with a sergeant played by brother Sydney Chaplin), constant shelling, sniping and homesickness. In a touching scene, a mail-less Charlie reads a letter from home over the shoulder of another soldier and on his face we can see his emotional reactions to the good and bad news that the soldier reads. Charlie is sent over the top and ends up capturing a squad of German soldiers single-handedly. His next foray, in the guise of a tree, provides a wonderful look at Chaplin's pantomime talents as he "becomes" a tree each time the enemy soldiers approach. Escaping the enemy squad he hides in a bombed-out house where a French girl, Edna Purviance, lives. She discovers him in her bed and tends to his wounds. Soon they're beset by the enemy squad, searching for Charlie. In the chase, they collapse the rickety house and Charlie escapes, but Edna is arrested for aiding the enemy. Meanwhile Charlie's sergeant buddy is captured while attempting to telegraph information on the enemy to the allied camp. Edna and Sydney are both brought to the enemy headquarters and Edna is threatened by the evil commandant. Charlie, sneaking down the chimney of the commandant's house, rescues Edna from his advances and locks him in a closet. At that moment the Kaiser, Crown Prince and their General arrive at the camp. Charlie, rushing to the closet, takes the commandant's uniform and impersonates him. Taking charge of Edna and escorting her outside, he is recognized by his captive buddy, and the three of them overcome and restrain the Kaiser's driver and guards and replace them. When the Kaiser and the others enter the limousine, the allies drive them off to the American camp, where Charlie is hailed as a hero and is hoisted on the shoulders of his comrades. But it was all a dream - in classic Chaplinesque-style Charlie is shaken awake by his drill sergeant -- still in boot camp! ~ Phil Posner, Rovi … More
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Critic Reviews for Shoulder Arms
Although it's been a long time since 1918, there are still lessons to be learned from Shoulder Arms.
Audience Reviews for Shoulder Arms
Whether you served in the military or just learned to march in high school band, you'll appreciate the opening gags in boot camp with new recruit Charlie. The next thing Charlie knows, he's heading to the front lines of WWI "Over There." From a flooding bunk room off of the trenches, to waiting for presents from home, and engaging with the German enemy Charlie must mature as a soldier quickly. Loyal Underwood as the short German officer is blustery and funny. And like Sergeant York, Doughboy Charlie somehow manages to single-handedly surround a troop of Germans. Chaplin's brother and Purviance join him again in a later plot to capture someone higher up in the German command. Charlie becomes a supremely confidant soldier, but is it only wishful thinking.More
The "Little Tramp" wardrobe is missing from this one, as soldier Charlie becomes an unlikely World War I hero. The funniest sequences involve struggling to sleep in a flooded barracks and spying on the Germans via a tree disguise.More
A mildly amusing, yet ultimately forgetful early film from the master of comedy, Charlie Chaplin. Sadly, Charlie's not on his A-game in this one. Most of the gags were uncreative and uninspired. However, no matter how mediocre it is, I can't bring myself to fail anything from Chaplin. He's as charming as usual, but it's the rest of the film falls flat. If you want great Chaplin, watch City Lights or Modern Times!More
Another of Chaplin's shorts from 1918, "Shoulder Arms" was his second million dollar film and proved extremely popular with troops returning home. The film features Charlie Chaplin as The Recruit and while not dressed in his usual The Tramp attire, makes a completely hilarious soldier. After showcasing his shooting skills and other talents, most of which are done with little enthusiasm, The Recruit spends his downtime in a little bunk room to rest. It's here that one of the most absurd and hilarious sequences takes place during a heavy rain as the bunk fills with water and Charlie tries to lay down and sleep in his bed underneath the water. This and one other scene had me laughing uncontrollably and that is near the latter part of the film when Charlie dresses up in a tree outfit and goes behind enemy lines taking down the unsuspecting enemy soldiers in his getup. The absurdity as well as Chaplin's willingness to tackle even the most tricky of subjects including religion, war, and even playing an extreme likeness to Hitler himself prove that he wasn't afraid to make anything a joke. This is a great and funny short that is so over the top goofy that you can't help but love it!More
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