65. Shoulder Arms (1918)

First National 1918-23

Film still for Shoulder Arms


Charlie is a tramp turned doughboy (American WW1 infantryman) on his way to the trenches of the Great War. His drill routines are the worst of all the 'awkward squad'. Falling asleep exhausted, Charlie dreams of the trenches in faraway France.

Charlie, housed in dugout number 13 is equipped with an extraordinary range of implements hanging from his uniform. As well as the traditional trench tools he has an egg whisk and cheese grater. He is bullied by a diminutive officer and does sentry duty with shells exploding around him as he dreams of home. Red cross food parcels arrive from home but Charlie receives none. He reads a letter over a comrade's shoulder, reacting to the contents as if it were his own. He claims a leftover package, which contains hard biscuits and cheese. A title exclaims 'Limburger!' as Charlie dons a gas mask and throws the evil-smelling cheese into the German trenches to gas them out. Charlie goes into his dugout, now flooded, and lies down in his waterlogged bunk plumping up his sodden pillow. The only light is from a candle floating on a piece of wood and Charlie pushes it along to singe his comrade's foot, which is hanging over the bunk. Using a gramophone horn as a snorkel Charlie goes to sleep under water.

Next morning the men are ordered over the top. Lighting cigarettes before the off, superstitious Charlie remembers the old trench rules about three on a match and refrains from lighting his own. Adopting a heroic pose he courteously allows his fellows to go over the top first. The German trench is captured and Charlie hands round cigarettes, which are taken enthusiastically by all except the officer, who is roundly spanked by Charlie for his pomposity.

A title 'Poor France' indicates a ruined cottage where Edna is sitting. In the trench Charlie shows a friend how to open a bottle by holding it high enough for a bullet to blow the top off. He then surveys the other side through a periscope before firing at the enemy. He chalks up his hits, erases one that unexpectedly fires back and carries on shooting. He is volunteered for a mission in which he is disguised as a tree in no-man's land. He evades the German troops trying to cut him down for firewood and saves a comrade from the firing squad, escaping through a pipe which their rotund German pursuer cannot fit through. Charlie makes it through to the ruined cottage where Edna tends his wounds before the Germans arrive. Charlie turns their own gun on them and makes off but returns later for Edna, now under arrest. Armed with a red-hot poker he rescues Edna, but at that moment the Kaiser and Crown prince arrive on a tour of inspection. She hides Charlie in the cupboard and he emerges just in time, in a borrowed uniform. He orders the German guards away and flees with Edna, dressed as a German soldier with painted on moustache. The Kaiser is captured and Edna kisses Charlie, they are cheered and all seems well until Charlie - still in his bunk - is awakened.


Charles Chaplin (Recruit)
Edna Purviance (French Girl)
Sydney Chaplin (Sergeant and the Kaiser)
Jack Wilson (German Crown Prince)
Henry Bergman (Fat German Sergeant and Field Marshal von Hindenburg)
Albert Austin (American Soldier and German Soldier and Kaiser's Chauffeur)
Tom Wilson (Training Camp Sergeant)
John Rand (American Soldier)
Park Jones (American Soldier)
Loyal Underwood (Small German Officer)
W. G. Wagner, J. T. Powell, W. Herron, W. Cross, G. E. Marygold (Motorcyclists)
C. L. Dice, G. A. Godfrey, L. A. Blaisdell, W. E. Allen, J. H. Warne (Motorcyclists - alternative group*)
Roscoe Ward, Ed Hunt, M. J. Donovan, E. B. Johnson Fred Graham, Louis Ort, AI Blake, Ray Hanford, Cliff Brouwer, Claude McAtee, F. S. Colby, Jack Shalford, Joe Van Meter, Guy Eakins, Jack Willis, Charles Cole, T. Madden (American and German Soldiers) Harry Goldman, Jack Willis, Mark Faber, E. H. Devere, Fred Everman, A. North, Charles Knuske, 0. E. Haskins, Tom Hawley, W. E. Graham, James Griffin, W. A. Hackett, E. Brucker, J. H. Shewry, Sam Lewis, R. B. McKenzie, K. Herlinger, A. J. Hartwell (Additional players in street set, with Kaiser's car)
In Cut Sequences
Marion Feducha (Small Boy)
Alf Reeves (Draft Board Sergeant)
Albert Austin (Draft Board Doctor)
Peggy Prevost (Draft Board Clerk)
Nina Trask (Draft Board Clerk)
*Since the motorcyclists wore goggles, different groups could be used for different days' shooting. The motorcyclists were paid $5 a day, except for Wagner and Powell, who provided their own bikes and so received $7.50 a day.
Production started:
27 May 1918
Production finished:
16 September 1918
20 October 1918
3142 ft