Plot: A stagehand (Charlie Chaplin) is working on a movie set and while that sounds exciting, he finds it to be more trouble than its worth. He clashes all the time with his oversized boss (Eric Campbell) and even when he tries to do things right, he often winds up in one sticky situation or another. This proves to be a real problem when his boss takes the brunt of the chaos, such as when a trapdoor keeps slamming shut on his head, thanks to the stagehand’s missteps. At the same time, a young woman (Edna Purviance) wants to get some work on the set as well, but she is denied since she is female, so she disguises herself as a man to join the crew. This leads to even more disasters, as the stagehand not only gets into his usual trouble, but even more as he tries to woo the beautiful, albeit disguised young woman.
Entertainment Value: I’ve read that Behind the Screen was Chaplin taking a shot at the movie business, in specific the studios that he didn’t enjoy working with and that makes sense, given the content here. But you don’t need to know the backstory to have fun here, as this is a fast paced, enjoyable short from his Mutual Film series, packed with slapstick magic. The film runs just over twenty minutes and wastes no time, with a number of memorable set pieces and some classic scenes with Chaplin and Edna Purviance. The two always had great chemistry, but I really like the way they work together here, some of my personal favorites of their shared moments. In the middle of this sometimes manic slapstick short, Chaplin and Purviance have these tender, romantic moments and to me, it is cinematic gold. There’s also a wealth of laughs to be had in Behind the Screen, with Chaplin’s antics opposite Eric Campbell and Albert Austin as other highlights, but the entire short is a wonderful experience.