‘Behind the Screen’ (1916) – Short Film Review

The first of four Charlie Chaplin films featured in The Great Movie Ride is Behind the Screen (1916) in which Chaplin plays basically a stagehand at a film studio where he helps a girl played by Edna Purviance get a job there. While this is happening, the other workers at the studio are striking the owner/their boss, who from the brief time we get to know him onscreen seems, well, awful.

I’m not sure how to review or critique any of the Chaplin films individually because honestly I have sort of similar thoughts on all of them despite the storylines and action being different and despite most of them being shorts and The Gold Rush (1925) beind a full-length film.

Purviance’s character, known just as The Girl according to the film’s credits, disguises herself as a man when he arrives at the studio in hopes of getting a job there. Chaplin clearly recognizes that she is in fact a girl and falls in love with her, which leads to a moment where one of the other workers thinks the two are gay as a result. This whole situation is dated and obviously very 1916, but it reminded me a little bit of how Shakespeare used gender-bending disguises in comedies like As You Like It, and even for such a small moment in the film I guess I just found the artistic choice of it interesting in that respect.

I’m not sure I have too much else to say about this one, other than that I enjoyed watching it. Where I think other films on The Great Movie Ride list struggle with having multiple elements of what I think makes a film enjoyable (plot, character development, writing, etc) I think the Chaplin films generally succeed and this was was no different. Chaplin and Purviance’s characters were entertaining, as were the other shop workers and Goliath, the boss, and the story held my interest for the entire time from the romantic sequences to all of the slapstick-style gags.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *