Behind the Screen (1916)

Film Review

BEHIND THE SCREEN

Release Date: 13 November, 1916

Studio: Mutual Film Corporation

Director: Charles Chaplin

Starring: Charles Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Eric Campbell

Related Topic: Essanay Silent Film Museum

We saw this film at the Essanay Silent Film Museum in Niles, CA. Learn about the museum here.

Synopsis

Charlie is the assistant property man at the film studio. He does all the work while the property man (Campbell) rests. Purviance, looking for a job, disguises herself as a boy and is hired as a property assistant. A variety of mishaps befall actors and directors as Charlie decorates the sets for scenes in several films. The director of a comedy turns the property men, Charlie and Campbell, into actors throwing pies at each other. As a result, pies are flying throughout the studio. Charlie hugs Purviance. Disgruntled strikers attempt to bomb the studio, but Charlie dumps them, their bombs, and Campbell through a trapdoor into the cellar.

Discussion

By 1916, Chaplin was producing very funny, well-planned films. This film recalls Chaplin’s days with Max Sennett at Keystone Studio. Many gags are basic Keystone-style slapstick: people hit on the head with various objects, pratfalls, and pie fights. Topical references reflect cliched social attitudes of the time. The years before World War I were a time of increasing labor agitation and frequent strikes. Striking workers setting off dynamite also occurs in the final gag of Dough and Dynamite (Keystone, 1914). Seeing Charlie and Purviance embracing, Campbell, who thinks that Purviance is a boy, dances about in an exaggerated feminine style, a gay stereotype intended to amuse.

Further Reading

Read our articles about these Chaplin films:

Easy Street (1917)

A Dog's Life (1918)

The Kid (1921)