"Behind the Screen" (film) is Released

Behind the Screen is a 1916 short silent film written by, directed by, and starring Charlie Chaplin, and also starring Eric Campbell and Edna Purviance.

The film takes place in a movie studio; Chaplin plays a stagehand named David while Campbell, a large man, plays Goliath, his supervisor. Much of the film is slapstick comedy involving Chaplin manhandling large props, but other plotlines include a strike by the stagehands, and Purviance, who is unable to become an actress, dressing as a man and becoming a stagehand.

The film is significant to the history of homosexuality in the cinema, as it contains a joke about the subject, which was relatively unusual at the time. After Chaplin learns that Purviance is really a woman, he kisses her while on the set; at this point, a male stagehand enters and, thinking that Chaplin has kissed a man, starts acting in an overtly effeminate way until Chaplin kicks him.

The documentary series Unknown Chaplin revealed previously unseen footage from this movie, including an alternate take where Purviance's character is shown playing a harp, an outtake in which Edna, playing the guitar, starts laughing (the documentary supports the belief that Purviance and Chaplin were romantically involved at the time), and several takes of a scene in which Chaplin's character narrowly misses having his feet chopped off by an axe (accomplished by filming the scene backwards) -- this scene was never used in the final film.