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Film: Shoulder Arms
Shoulder Arms is a 1918 short film starring and directed by Charlie Chaplin. In this film, Charlie is an American doughboy fighting in World War I. After an opening sequence showing Charlie's incompetence at basic training, the film cuts to the trenches of France. Charlie goes over the top, dons a gas mask to deal with Limburger cheese, and goes on a dangerous scouting mission behind enemy lines, where he meets a pretty French girl (regular Chaplin leading lady Edna Purviance).

Originally intended to be a feature film, with two long sequences removed—one where Charlie is a Henpecked Husband who's glad to get his draft notice, and another comic sequence dealing with Charlie's medical examination. Shoulder Arms, released three weeks before the Armistice, is possibly the first comedic war movie ever made.


Tropes:

  • All Just a Dream: The final 3/4 or so of the film, namely all of Charlie's adventures in France, turns out to be a dream that Charlie has while in boot camp.
  • California Doubling: The film was shot in the vicinity of Hollywood in 1917, and it shows. One visible example is the scene where Charlie, disguised as a tree, is chased by German soldiers. Look closely, and you will spot a highway in the background, with cars. 1917 Germany didn`t have this accomodation. The California mountains are also visible (and possibly the same spot where Willow Rosenberg would try to destroy the world about eighty years later).
  • Couldn't Find a Lighter: Charlie holds his cigarette above the trench, and a German sniper lights it with a bullet.
  • Gray Rain of Depression: As Charlie stands guard in the trench during a torrential rainstorm, he thinks about life back home and the bar he used to patronize.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Kaiser Wilhelm II!
  • Literal Ass Kicking: It's not often one gets the chance to kick the Emperor of Germany in the butt.
  • Mobile Shrubbery: Charlie is sent behind German lines, disguised as a tree, in order to gain intelligence. Unfortunately, a German soldier decides to chop him down for firewood.
  • Nameless Narrative: Typical for Chaplin's films.
  • The Neidermeyer: The obnoxious, diminutive German officer who berates and abuses his men. When Charlie turns the officer over his knee and spanks him, the German soldiers cheer.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The American assault on the German trench results in Charlie capturing thirteen enemy soldiers. When his astonished CO asks how he did it, Charlie answers "I surrounded them."
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: The French girl dresses up as a German soldier to help Charlie and Charlie's buddy get past the guards. Charlie smears axle grease on her lip to simulate a mustache.
WilsonUsefulNotes/World War IDoughboys
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