By Lars Dalseide | December 16 2013 17:13

Rifle from the Silver Screen plays same role in 1990s bio-pic

Action of an 1878 Beaumont rifle used in the Charlie Chaplin movie Shoulder Arms

Fairfax, Virginia - You can never trust what you see in the movies.

No matter what the flick, I'll bet you that the guy on the screen is taller, shorter, fatter, dumber or not even a guy in real life. Same thing can be said about the props. It's not the right car, the right lamp or, in our case the right gun.

For today's edition of Curator's Corner, it both is and it isn't.

"This is a very famous rifle from World War I," said NRA National Firearms Museum Senior Curator Philip Schreier. "It is an 1878 Beaumont. You might be thinking that Phil is messed up in the head because an 1878 Beaumont has a gigantic magazine that extends and it wasn't used in World War I.

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That's where the backstory comes into play.

See, this gun actually is an 1878 Beaumont. At least it was before a certain prop house got hold of it. Let's go back about 100 years. Not a full hundred, but close to it.

In 1918, director and star Charlie Chaplin was working on his World War I comedy Shoulder Arms.

"It was very controversial at the time because they didn't think a comedy about World War I during World War I was appropriate."

But Charlie had more problems than making a comedy about an event that most found horrific and scary. Top on his list was the fact that he couldn't find the right guns for his protagonists to carry. So, with a little modification, the 1878 Beaumont made its debut.

Plug used to hid the magazine well of an 1878 Beaumont rifle used in the Charlie Chaplin movie Shoulder Arms

Lasky Company, the prop house of the day, stamped on the barrel and stock. And to replicate the german rifles, the Beaumont's magazine was cut out and plugged with a piece of wood.

Fast forward to 1991.Richard Attenborough was directing the Robert Downey, Jr. flick Chaplin. While most of the film centered on the personal life of the silent screen star, there were portions that focused on his movies … including Shoulder Arms.

Attenborough wanted the same guns used in the 1918 film for his 1991 bio-pic. Then a funny thing happened. When his people called the prop house to order the guns, it turned out the last time those rifles were rented out was in 1918 for Chaplin's very movie. So out they came, played their part and went back to the shelf. Now one resides here a the National Firearms Museum.

Bu if you'd like to hear the full story on this exceptional Hollywood gun, tune into NRANews on Sportsman Channel this Monday at 5:40pm for this week's edition of Curator's Corner.

Stamp on the barrel of an 1878 Beaumont rifle used in the Charlie Chaplin movie Shoulder Arms

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