Guide to Charlie Chaplin’s First National Studios Films

One good thing about Chaplin’s career was he never missed out any opportunity. Starting out as a rookie – Chaplin learned to write and direct his own films. After a profitable contract with Mutual Studios – Chaplin signed a new contract with First National Pictures, which became one of the first million-dollars deals in the history of film.

First National Pictures – formerly known as First National Exhibitors’ Circuit, Inc. – was founded in 1917. Another large theatre company in the early 1900s, until Warner Bros was granted full control of them in September 1928 – then was fully absorbed on November 4, 1929.

In First National, Chaplin debuted in producing films. Spanning five years of work with First National, Chaplin released a total of nine films – all of them are starred, produced, directed, and written by Chaplin. 

April 14, 1918A Dog’s Life was released. Chaplin’s first film in National Pictures – where he once again appeared as the Tramp. A new concept by Chaplin, where he included a dog – named Scraps – in the film.

September 29, 1918The Bond was released. Chaplin appeared as Tramp, alongside his leading lady – Edna. The film was released by Chaplin – using his own expenses – to help sell U.S. Liberty Bonds during World War I.

October 20, 1918Shoulder Arms was released. Chaplin appeared as the Doughboy, where he was in a boot camp in France – during World War I. This was Chaplin’s shortest feature film – and considered as the first feature film directed by him. 

May 15, 1919Sunnyside was released. Chaplin appeared as a farm handyman – who works in the farm during the day, and in the hotel at night. 

December 15, 1919A Day’s Pleasure was released. A film made in the Chaplin Studio. Chaplin appeared as a father, then went on an outing with his wife and kids – where things didn’t go smoothly. 

February 6, 1921The Kid was released. This was the first time Charlie directed a full-length film. The film was successful, and was the second highest grossing film in 1921 – it was considered as one of the greatest films of the silent era. The film is about an orphan boy who was found by Chaplin – the Tramp. The film is a mixture of comedy and drama, where the boy – named John – lived with Chaplin. 

September 25, 1921The Idle Class was released. In this movie, Chaplin appeared as the little Tramp. The main story took place in a golf course, where Chaplin struggled – causing mishap all-through-out the course.

April 2, 1922Pay Day was released. A film starred by Chaplin – where he appeared as a labourer. It is considered the final short-film made by Chaplin. 

February 26, 1923The Pilgrim was released. The final film made by Chaplin in First National. The film is a feature-length, with a running time of forty-six minutes – released in four reels. Also, the film is the last time Chaplin co-starred with his leading lady Edna – where Chaplin appeared as an ex-convict. This film was included as one of three films comprising The Chaplin Revue, in 1959.

Chaplin had a strong and productive term in First National. With a span of five years, he showcased his talent – and started producing his own films.