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The film takes place in a silent movie studio. Charlie Chaplin plays stagehand named David who has an enormous supervisor named Goliath (Eric Campbell). David is overworked but is still labelled as a loafer by the lazy Goliath and his supervisor. A country girl (Edna Purviance) arrives at the studio in hopes of becoming an actress, but is quickly turned away by Goliath. Most of the other stagehands go on wildcat strike to protest their sleep being interrupted during their lunch break. Only David and Goliath remain on the job.The girl returns and stealthily dresses in one of the striking stagehand’s work clothes. Disguised as a man, she gets a job as a stagehand too. David discovers that the new stagehand is actually a female. When he gives her a series of quick kisses, the action is seen by Goliath who makes effeminate gestures at David. Edna overhears the strikers’ plans to blow up the studio with dynamite and helps thwart their villainous plot.

Much of the film is slapstick comedy involving Chaplin manhandling large props, mishandling the control to a trap door, and engaging in a raucous pie-throwing fight which spills over into another studio where a period drama is being shot. In one scene Chaplin deftly carries 11 chairs over his back in his left hand and lifts a piano in his right hand.

Behind the Screen was the last of Chaplin’s comedies to use a movie studio as a backdrop. Earlier Chaplin films, such as A Film Johnnie, His New Job, and The Masquerader had also been set, at least partly, in a silent movie studio. In Behind the Screen, Chaplin pokes gentle fun at Keystone Studios where he broke into the movies in 1914 and worked under contract for Mack Sennett for a year. The pie-throwing sequence is an obvious allusion to the Keystone style of slapstick comedies where such skirmishes were overly common. One intertitle humorously refers to the pie-throwing gimmick as “a new idea.”

Charlie Chaplain
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Mutual Film Corporation
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