One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley was already reporting on Charlie Chaplin’s next film, which he started shooting on May 28th:
Yesterday he completed the casting of his picture. While the fact may or may not be considered a clue, still it is known that ten children, ranging from 3 years old to 12, have been engaged to appear in the picture with Chaplin; all day yesterday the Chaplin studio was besieged by youngsters who had heard about the chance that ten happy kids were to have to work with their idol. Kids to the right of Charlie, kids to the left, they swarmed up the steps, and two of three of the bravest even tumbled over the fence.
Chaplin’s publicist certainly did a good job of keeping him in the paper between films. As usual, Chaplin was cagey about the new film’s plot:
’So the new picture may turn out to be an educational feature,’ Mr. Chaplin smiled quizzically, ‘or it may be a war feature. Who knows?’
It was indeed a war film, Shoulder Arms. Chaplin played a private who dreams of doing heroic deeds. Unfortunately for the eager children, they didn’t appear in the final version. Chaplin said in his autobiography that originally planned to have three sections: home life, the war and a post-war banquet, but in the end he cut all but the war. He did shoot some of the first part, which included three of the boys. The Chaplin Office has footage on their web site.
Boardman and Lee were almost in a Chaplin movie
Even without the deleted scenes, when it was released in October it was around 40 minutes long, or double the usual length a comedy short. It seems like it was time for him to start making feature length films.
Kingsley’s favorite film this week pleased her simply because it was different. “William Farnum appears at Miller’s this week in a story as un-hackneyed as any the screen has seen in some time. It is entitled True Blue and presents half a dozen fresh angles.” Farnum played Bob, “the disowned cowboy son of an English lord.” He runs in to his half-brother racking up gambling debts, so he drags him to his ranch to work them off. Hard work does reform him, and their father the lord is impressed enough to make Bob his heir. He refuses, preferring to stay on his ranch. Kingsley concluded that it was “a very refreshing story,” and she was right–it isn’t a plot that turns up often. It’s a lost film.
Triangle’s glory days
The beginning of the last phase of Triangle Pictures was in Kingsley’s columns this week. On Monday Kingsley mentioned that lay-offs were coming, and the next day the company announced “radical changes” including firing their 30-member stock company and hiring actors for only one film at a time. They also replaced studio manager and the head of the publicity department.
Triangle Motion Picture Corporation had quickly gone from being a major studio with directors like Griffith, Sennett and Ince and stars like Hart, Fairbanks and Arbuckle to being on the brink of bankruptcy after they left for better contracts. They completely stopped producing films in 1919 and sold the studio facilities to Goldwyn. It’s stunning how quickly fortunes can change in Hollywood.