Charlie is an expert bricklayer. He has lots of fun and work and enjoys himself greatly while at the saloon. As he leaves work his wife takes the pay he has hidden in his hat. But he steals... See full summary »
This tale centers around the love between Baptiste, a theater mime, and Claire Reine, an actress and otherwise woman-about-town who calls herself Garance. Garance, in turn, is loved by ... See full summary »
Father takes his family for a drive in their falling-apart Model T Ford, gets in trouble in traffic, and spends the day on an excursion boat. As the boat is about to leave Charlie rushes ... See full summary »
Charlie works on a farm from 4am to late at night. He gets his food on the run (milking a cow into his coffee, holding an chicken over the frying pan to get fried eggs). He loves the ... See full summary »
Olive Ann Alcorn
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 <email@example.com>
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 »
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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