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A Dog's Life (1918)

 -  Short | Comedy  -  14 April 1918 (USA)
7.8
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 3,353 users  
Reviews: 16 user | 12 critic

The Little Tramp and his dog companion struggle to survive in the inner city.

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(uncredited)

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Title: A Dog's Life (1918)

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Cast

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Storyline

Poor Charlie lives in a vacant lot. He tries to get a job but when he gets to the head of the employment line the jobs are gone. Back "home" he rescues Scraps, a bitch being attacked by other strays. Together they manage to steal some sausages from a lunch wagon. They enter a dance hall where Edna is a singer and unwilling companion to the clientele. He is thrown out when he can't pay. Back "home" Scraps digs up a money-filled wallet buried by crooks. They return to the dance hall to find Edna fired. The wallet goes back and forth between Charlie and the crooks. Charlie, Edna and Scraps end up very happily. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

In his First Million Dollar Picture See more »

Genres:

Short | Comedy

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

14 April 1918 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Dog's Life  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

(TCM print)

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System) (1959 re-issue)|

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The dog in this film, Scraps (real name Mut), became so attached to Charles Chaplin during filming that when Chaplin went on a Liberty Bond tour immediately after production, the dog died three weeks later of a supposed broken heart. See more »

Connections

Featured in Chaplin Today: The Kid (2003) See more »

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User Reviews

 
"Thoroughbred mongrel"
15 June 2010 | by (Ruritania) – See all my reviews

Just like his little tramp alter ego, Charlie Chaplin liked to think big, and had always aimed to extend the scale and scope of his pictures, never content to be a two-reel sideshow. At 35 minutes, A Dog's Life could hardly be described as his first full-length feature, but it arguably represents his break away from shorts.

Just the opening shot of A Dog's Life shows how Chaplin is starting to inject some grand sweep into his storytelling. The camera begins amid city rooftops, tilting down to reveal Charlie sleeping amid the rubbish behind a ramshackle fence. The way this purpose-built set is shot demonstrates how Chaplin was as much a "proper" director as a comic. He several times has a shabby sign advertising "rooms" visible in the background – a subtle reminder that the tramp is too poor even for the cheapest accommodation.

It's a nice touch how Charlie's canine friend is introduced in a handful of cutaways during this opening scene – treating him as a real character rather than just a plot device. But this is not to the detriment to his human companions, and indeed leading lady Edna Purviance gets a more substantial part than she did in many of the shorts. She makes a really great character here, giving an impression of a naïve but feisty youngster, certainly more than just a token female. It's this kind of characterisation that gives A Dog's Life the kind of comprehensive structure of a feature film, as opposed to a comedy short in which people just turn up on screen for a bit of funny business.

On a quick side-note, this is the earliest Chaplin picture which features a score written by him (although since he wrote the music in retrospect some decades later it's not the first he wrote). It's another testament to the breadth of his genius, showing both considerable musical ability as well as his own irreverent personality. Numbers like the dance hall rag are of course very "silent comedy", but pieces like the opening theme have a truly deep and epic feel to them. Even here though, the Chaplin cheekiness shines through, with different parts of the orchestra playing off each other in a kind of question-and-answer routine.

Chaplin would repeat this "little companion" routine, swapping dog for tot in his first genuine full-length feature The Kid. A Dog's Life remains a worthy predecessor, part of the comedian's ever upward trajectory at this point in his career. It would take more battling with studio heads for Chaplin to get his ideas fully realised, but it was pictures like this that began to get silent comedy taken seriously.


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