Thursday, October 11, 2018

Charles Chaplin, Second Million Dollar Comedy -- October 11, 2018

Moving Picture World, 26-October-1918
Chaplin's second release through First National, "Shoulder Arms," turned out to be one of his most popular movies at the time.  World War One was a hot topic. "In his only newly movie since 'A Dog's Life.'"  Take that, Essanay.

Moving Picture World, 12-October-1918
"Pre-Release Date October 20th/Regular Release Date October 27th."

Moving Picture World, 19-October-1918
Charlie and his mates in a soggy dugout.  This was a common image of life in the trenches.

Exhibitors Herald, 12-October-1918
Charlie and the trench.

Moving Picture World, 26-October-1918
Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance behind German lines.

Film Daily, 20-October-1918
"For Release in Your Locality as Soon as Conditions Permit."

Moving Picture World, 05-October-1918
",,, to be Published as a Three-Reeler."  You don't usually see the term "published" used for a movie.
Moving Picture World, 19-October-1918
"Here's the Story of Chaplin's 'Shoulder Arms.'"

Moving Picture World, 05-October-1918

Explains Reason for Irregular Releases and Proves His Production Plan the Best to Insure Perfect Comedies

"RUMORS and alleged authentic statements that dissension, politics, dissatisfaction and other difficulties have been responsible for the intermittent release of Chaplin comedies are answered in a statement issued this week from the offices of the First National Exhibitors' Circuit, which carries an explanation from Mr. Chaplin of the exact conditions under which he is working and the policy that actuates his production efforts.

"It was made plain by First National officials that the statement was not prompted by any interest in the text of those few of the hundreds of rumors constantly in circulation which relate directly to Chaplin comedies, but that it was issued for the purpose of making known to exhibitors the protection afforded them under their contracts by the very infrequency of Chaplin re- leases. First National officers declare that there is no difficulty attached to making footage for Chaplin releases. The difficulty is in making footage for Chaplin comedies.

"Under the terms of his contract Mr Chaplin is to make a total of eight comedies. No definite dates of delivery for each subject are specified. This contract became operative last year. Figured on the basis of ordinary comedy production for two or three reel subjects the eight productions could have been made and delivered in four months, averaging tw0 weeks of studio work for each.

"When Mr. Chaplin signed his contract he had just started the construction work on his new studio. This structure he had especially designed for comedy work, and in it he had provided for every improvement and facility which would contribute to the quality of his productions. Many of his ideas for mechanical and technical equipment are innovations.

The suggestion was made to Mr. Chaplin that he rent another studio pending the completion of his own, and begin work at once on the initial comedy This he declined to do, with the explanation that he knew the facilities of his studio would contribute to a much higher quality in his first production than he could get by making it elsewhere. As a consequence he did not begin "A Dog's Life" until late in February, and this was despite the fact that the continuity for it was prepared in rough draft early in January.

"This was a forerunner of the policy which has marked his work since then. Quantity and speed have been sacrificed to quality, with an attendant monetary loss to Chaplin which, if made known, would seem unbelievable.

Pride in the quality of his comedies has outweighed every other consideration. Letters from exhibitors, requesting a greater output have each met with the same response: 'Each Chaplin release has got to have in it the very best work of which I am capable. Comedy situations are much more difficult to work up than the action of dramatic scenes. There is no trick in grinding out scenes that might be called amusing, but to get real laughs and actual humor out of situations demands study, the utmost concentration and eternal experimenting.

"'No one knows better than I do how simple it would be to just grind a camera crank and turn out footage which would constitute a release. The problem in producing successful pictures is no longer one of an output made to meet a regular releasing schedule. That system demands that quality be sacrificed to time and speed. The release date must be met. Half the picture is finished. It is full of good material. It has taken time to produce. Now it must be hurried. The last half of the picture is jammed through hastily. The subject is released on schedule. But is that system fair to the exhibitor? Does it benefit the producer or the star?

"'The public pays its money to be entertained. It demands, as a right, the utmost that the star, the cast, the director and the producer can give in ability, intelligence and entertainment value. When a production falls short of this standard, when it docs not represent every ounce of energy' and enthusiasm of which those responsible for it are capable, then it becomes a burden to the exhibitor. His audience is quick to recognize lack of value. They blame him directly, because it reflects both on his judgment and his sincerity. The star is the next to share the blame. Popularity decreases. And the exhibitor pays the penalty in loss of valuable patronage. He suffers the most.

"'I suppose I could take the first 'shots' of all my scenes and assemble them into releases, saving time, money and effort, but theatre-goers would not see the best that I can do. There is hardly a scene made at the studio that is not rehearsed a dozen times. Very often the final rehearsal will develop a suggestion or an idea for a greatly superior situation, and where only a smile would have resulted from the original action, we make a revision that is certain to bring a hearty laugh.

"'This constant effort to improve every bit of action, to be satisfied that it cannot be made stronger or funnier, is the supreme obligation of every star and producer.

"'I want to be absolutely content that Chaplin comedies contain the very best of my ability, and I won't sanction their release under any other condition. Then I know that the public is going to be entertained and satisfied, that the exhibitor will make money, and that I am not going to be accused of trading on a name to the loss of any threatre owner who books my productions.

"'I would release only one picture in a year if the others I attempted did not measure up to my own personal standard, but that one would have to be right, or it would be shelved. I would be better off with no releases, and the good will of the American public and exhibitors than I would with a score of subjects booking, with any one of them meriting criticism.'

"Directors of the First National Exhibitors' Circuit cite Chaplin's last release. 'A Dog's Life,' as an example of his policy of giving the best of which he is capable. More satisfaction has been expressed over its supreme entertainment value, the novelty and originality of the scores of humorous situations than has characterized any previous Chaplin release of which they can find records. "Exhibitor-directors of First National have encouraged Chaplin in his policy of no releases until he is satisfied that they will be good ones. The result has been that 'Shoulder Arms,' the next Chaplin comedy, now completed, has been months, instead of weeks, in the making. Every scene and every situation in it has had Mr. Chaplin's personal attention. Each of them, with the seemingly infinite possibilities that the action of the story suggests for laughable results, has been worked over repeatedly until the famous comedian was satisfied that there was nothing more that he could do to improve it. "'We believe.' said one of the First National officials, 'that Mr. Chaplin's determination to make quality the master principle in his producing is an epoch in the manufacturing branch of the business of an importance equal to some of the recent evolutions in the exhibiting and distributing departments of the industry. "'He has kept his own counsel for months, rather than to commit himself to a statement of what was about to happen. He preferred instead to put his conclusions into practice, leaving to self-styled wiseacres the apparently welcome task of assigning a score or more of erroneous reasons for the completion of only two comedies since he signed his contract with us. Now he has proven, by nine months of activity, that he is really sincere, and that his decision is not a thing for the future, but that it is for the past as well at the present and future.'"

Moving Picture World, 05-October-1918
Chaplin produced "The Bond" to support the sale of Liberty Bonds to support the war effort.

Moving Picture World, 12-October-1918
Rothacker Film Manufacturing Company, which produced prints for exhibition, boasted of three First National movies it had handled, incluing "Shoulder Arms."

Moving Picture World, 05-October-1918
Meanwhile back at Essanay, they were touting their cut and paste job "Triple Trouble" with the line "Look at this new Chaplin picture yourself."

Motion Picture News, 12-October-1918
Pat Sullivan's studio made the animated "How Charlie Captured the Kaiser." Otto Messmer did most of the work.

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