Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cue Sheet for Shoulder Arms

I picked this and some other cue sheets up a couple of weeks ago on Ebay. This cue sheet comes from a rerelease of Chaplin's Shoulder Arms, which originally appeared in 1918. The other cue sheets available from this supplier all dated from 1926 and 1927, so my guess is that this cue sheet also comes from that period, though I haven't researched the rerelease dates. The film itself is available for (free) download via the Internet Archive.

According to the cue sheet, the runtime of the film should be a bit over 34 minutes, which is quite a lot faster than the 46 minutes for the 1959 reissue (with a musical score Chaplin composed) that was part of The Chaplin Revue. Whether the 1926/1927 version was abridged or it was exhibited at a very fast clip is unclear: I couldn't find an accurate footage count for the film, but the 46 minutes of the 1959 release would be consistent with a little more than 4000 feet run at 24 frames per second (about 11 1/8 minutes per 1000 feet). To run 4000 feet in about 34 minutes would require an extremely fast frame rate (8 1/2 minutes per 1000 feet, which if I'm doing the math right would be above 30 fps). On the other hand, I have not yet watched the film with the cue sheet and stop watch, where any significant abridgment should become evident.

For information on silent film projection speed, this article by Kevin Brownlow is a classic. See also this chart of conversions speeds. The March and April 1998 entries from the Silent Film Bookshelf have a number of other articles on the topic of variable projection speed.


Having done a bit more research, I learned that the film was originally shot as a five-reel feature but released in three reels. At three reels, 34 minutes would mean about 24 fps and 46 minutes somewhere in the neighborhood of 16 fps. I'm still not sure if the 1959 version is an extended cut, projected at a slower speed, or a combination of the two.