Scen.: Charles Chaplin. F.: Roland Totheroh. Int.: Charles Chaplin (assistente trovarobe), Eric Campbell (trovarobe), Edna Purviance (aspirante attrice), Henry Bergman (regista del kolossal storico), Lloyd Bacon (regista del film comico), Albert Austin, John Rand, Leo White (operai), Frank J. Coleman (produttore), Charlotte Mineau, Leota Bryan (attrici), Wesley Ruggles, Tom Wood (attori), James T. Kelley (operatore). Prod.: Charles Chaplin per Lone Star Mutual. Pri pro.: 13 novembre 1916. DCP. 2 bobine / 2 reels.
Behind the Screen is a slapstick comedy about slapstick and Chaplin’s goodbye to the genre once and for all. Set in a film studio like its predecessors’ A Film Johnnie and The Masquerader (Keystone) and His New Job (Essanay), but being at a greater distance, both intime and professionally, from the early days of filmmaking, allows Chaplin to elevate the parody of the earlier comedies to a level of pure satire. Chaplin is David, assistant to Goliath, compelled, as stagehand, to take on all the heavy lifting, while Goliath gets all the credit. There are plenty of visual ideas: Charlie carries eleven chairs at a time and resembles a porcupine; then, with all the care and ability of a hairdresser, he combs the hair on the head of a bearskin rug, caressing it, massaging it, parting it down the middle, and finishing the job with a hot towel. The ending includes his being the target of many pies, and a chase to make Mack Sennett proud, with the usual relentless rhythm, albeit backed by a more cohesive and smooth narrative structure. Thanks to the work of Kevin Brownlow and David Gill we have discovered out-takes of Edna Purviance playing the harp, and others in which she tries to strum a guitar, only to crack up laughing in multiple takes while Chaplin dodges an axe with his foot (accomplished by shooting in reverse). As is often cited, Chaplin described his months at Mutual as “the happiest time of my life.”