Behind the Screen


Comedy / Romance

IMDb Rating 7 10 2128


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February 06, 2019 at 02:09 AM


Charles Chaplin as David - His Assistant
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222.15 MB
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12hr 23 min
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422.38 MB
23.976 fps
12hr 23 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by tgooderson 6 / 10

Behind the Scenes

Behind the Screen stars Charlie Chaplin as a stagehand on a movie set. Chaplin is overworked and under-appreciated and his boss (Eric Campbell) spends most of the time asleep, leaving Chaplin to do the heavy lifting. Meanwhile a young woman (Edna Purviance) is trying to get her big break as an actress but is turned down so dresses up as a male stagehand in order to have at least some involvement in the movies. At the same time the fellow stagehands go on strike for being woken up by a studio boss and plot their revenge… This isn't one of the funniest Mutual shorts but it certainly has one of the better plots. It's multi layered and features side plot as well as the main narrative. It is also an opportunity to see behind the scenes of an early movie set in much the same way as His New Job, Chaplin's first film for Essanay a year earlier. What the film is most famous for now though is its forthright joke about homosexuality, a subject which was barely mentioned in cinema for another fifty years.

The scene in question comes late on when Chaplin discovers that the new stagehand is actually a woman. In a cute scene, Chaplin sneaks a couple of pecks on the lips. The start of a romantic relationship is interrupted though by the appearance of Eric Campbell who not knowing Edna Purviance is a woman, believes the two hands to be gay men. He starts prancing around in an effeminate way which today feels quite offensive. The fact that homosexuality was even mentioned though, no matter how insignificantly, was very bold. The same scene also features probably the defining image of the film, Chaplin's and Purviance's faces squished together, looking forward towards the camera, Chaplin with a trademark cheeky grin.

In terms of comedy, the film is a little short. There are of course funny moments which include a use of a trap door and a pie throwing finale. For me the funniest scene came when the stagehands were eating lunch. Chaplin was sat next to a man eating onions and to escape the smell put on a knights helmet, lifting the visor briefly to stuff bread into his mouth. During the same meal Chaplin tries to steal the meat which the same man is eating and when discovered, pretends to be a begging dog. There is plenty of slapstick to be found here also with large props producing most of the laughs. One fantastic act sees Chaplin pick up about eleven chairs and sling each one over his arm, giving him the appearance of a hedgehog or porcupine. This isn't enough for the poor stagehand as in his other arm he also carries a prop piano. It's very clever and looks incredibly difficult. The scene felt familiar to me but I don't know if that's because Chaplin repeated the stunt for a later film or because I've seen that clip before.

One interesting thing about Behind the Screen is getting a glimpse of an old movie set. A surprising aspect of this is finding two separate productions sharing the same stage. As noise made little difference to what the final picture looked like it was possible to have multiple movies being filmed in close proximity. Here Chaplin works on a set of what appears to be a medieval palace which is right next to a farcical comedy set in a police station. As you can probably guess, Chaplin ends up interrupting both at various times before completely destroying both towards the end. The final shot itself is also surprising in its violence. Although no blood, body parts or death was seen, it was still not what I was expecting to end a short comedy.

Reviewed by Steffi_P 8 / 10

"Dressing the scene"

Charlie Chaplin sometimes repeated himself when it came to ideas for his comedy shorts, but only when his skill and technique had improved significantly in the meantime. Behind the Screen treads similar ground to Dough and Dynamite (made at Keystone) and His New Job (made at Essanay), being a comical expose on the film-making process itself, but it demonstrates all the development his style had made since those older pictures.

One major difference is the audacity and satiric bite of Chaplin's comedy by this point. Unlike the earlier examples, Behind the Screen bases most of its jokes on the artificiality of cinema, with "marble" pillars being shifted by hand, an "invisible" trapdoor that causes mayhem, and eventually the dramatic department having its dignity invaded by errant custard pies from a comedy set. He also has a sly dig at pompous directors and lazy stagehands. All this from an era before the majority of people in the audience wouldn't have really known exactly what went on behind the cameras. Still there is enough broad slapstick here to entertain the viewers who don't get the in-jokes.

Chaplin's management of the comedy is also now incredibly refined and to-the-point. In the earliest scenes, he shows how he can make himself the centre of attention without necessarily being in the foreground. Whilst everyone else on the set stays fairly still, Charlie bustles about all over the place leaving chaos in his wake. It's funnier this way because we see the little tramp upsetting the order of his environment.

The comedian had by now also accumulated a regular crew of supporting players – comic actors who were more buffoonish and ridiculous than funny in their own right, thus providing suitable antagonists for the little tramp. Eric Campbell is as usual the burly bully – the tyrant of a small pond who it is satisfying to see knocked down. Henry Bergman, in only his second of what would be many appearances with Chaplin is the perfect awkward fat man. He must have been a real find, and Charlie seems to take every opportunity to knock him down to get that undignified and helpless flailing of arms and legs that Bergman was the master of. And of course he now has Edna Purviance – by now often the only one allowed to be a completely straight actress. Her features are too feminine to be a convincing tomboy, but at least she gets the chance to be involved in some of the comedic action this time round.

Which leaves me only to give out the all-important statistic –

Number of kicks up the arse: 7 (5 for, 2 against)

Reviewed by MartinHafer 8 / 10

pretty good Chaplin effort

In 1914 and early 1915, Chaplin did his first comedy shorts. In general, they were pretty awful--with almost no plot and consisting of him mugging it up on camera and hitting people. However, in 1915 he left Keystone Studio and began making better films with Essenay (though there are some exceptions) and finally, in 1916, to Mutual where he made his best comedy shorts. These newer films had more plot and laughs and usually didn't relay on punching or kicking when they ran out of story ideas.

This film is one of these later Mutual Films and has a pretty decent amount of plot. Charlie is a carpenter's assistant on a movie set and his boss mostly sits around doing nothing--making Charlie do all the work. Later, the crew goes on strike and Charlie gets to act (although in real life, Chaplin's sympathies would have definitely been with the workers). In addition, a lady sneaks onto the set and disguises herself as a male laborer. Charlie realizes this and falls for her, though everyone else thinks she's a guy. I particularly liked the scene where Charlie is making out with the lady and really smooching it up good--and his boss looks on with horror! Overall, this is a pretty typical Mutual film--neither better or worse than the average one and worth a look if you get the opportunity.

An interesting scene was the one where Charlie picks up the MANY chairs and then the prop piano. This exact same scene was replicated by Syd Chaplin (Charlie's half-brother) years later in THE BETTER 'OLE.

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