chapter  2
31 Pages

To shoulder arms? Charlie and the First World War

ByRichard Carr

Beginning at Keystone at the tail end of 1913, Charlie Chaplin would jump to Essanay, Mutual and First National film production companies during the First World War – all of which increased his salary exponentially but, just as crucially, his level of artistic control. Artistic evolution aside, Chaplin's level of fame during the First World War was truly astonishing. For a world for whom Hollywood now means big stars, big trailers and big business it is difficult to recapture the atmosphere of the early cinematic world in which Chaplin dipped his toes. As British and American soldiers were engaged in the final push to defeat the Kaiser's Army, Chaplin was getting married to his first wife, Mildred Harris. Chaplin would face antipathy for a stance on both sides of the Atlantic, and his 'liberalism' rather neatly straddles the differing American and British interpretations of the term.