Chaplin's last and most popular film for Mutual, The Adventurer (1917), has two parts. The first part, in effect a reversion to Keystone methods, has convict Charlie chased up and down the Santa Monica hills by a posse of trigger-happy warders. In the second part, Charlie masquerades as a wealthy yachtsman at a party given in his honour by the heroine, whose mother he has saved from drowning. Suspicions are soon aroused, and the warders arrive. Placing a lampshade on his head, Charlie stands stock still as the hot pursuit swirls around him, and away, at the motionless centre of motion. He removes the lampshade, in order to assault the villain, but then replaces it on his own head, as though he now cannot do without it, and walks out onto the veranda. He would like above all to extend the enchanted interval. But other perils await, and he cannot expect the trick to work again, in another place at another time. He tosses the lampshade aside.
The Man in the Lampshade
The voice is pure club-car American, rumbling through bourbon and cigar smoke, shaking with hoarse laughter. It sounds like a man imitating what he once feared he might become: a fat-ribbed salesman for his papa's turbine plant. Rumbles James Gilmore Backus: "I left Cleveland to get away from His and Her towels, people who call cocktail parties 'pours' and the guy who always breaks it up by wearing a lampshade on his head."...
[After high school,] Backus hurtled off to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan, emerged in Depression-ridden 1933 when there were only six plays on Broadway. He ate one daily meal at an actors' soup kitchen, posed for sinister pictures in True Story Magazine. After several lean years, he got steady work in radio soap operas. He soon played in three shows a day at $30 apiece, often did 25 a week.
For 14 years the work was profitable but depressingly anonymous. What finally got Backus better known was turning the lampshade boor into a radio character. Name: Hubert Updyke III, a hilarious snob who insisted that his ancestors landed at Cadillac Rock. Hubert bought cars by the gross, drove around with Guy Lombardo's Royal "Canoodians" instead of a radio, had a little man on the hood to work as a windshield wiper.
"...possibly derived from a old stage comedy convention where a character hides from another character on the same stage, while remaining visible to the audience, by hanging a lampshade on his head and, presumably, disguising himself as a lamp. Apparently people do not notice large human-shaped lamp stands appearing from nowhere. This itself was referenced in some early Looney Tunes that had the hiding characters say "click" or light up like a bulb when someone tried to turn the light on."