Release Date: April 14th, 1918
Directed by: Charlie Chaplin
Written by: Charlie Chaplin
Music by: Charlie Chaplin (in 1957 released as part of The Chaplin Revue)
Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Syd Chaplin, Henry Bergman, Charles Reisner, Albert Austin, Tom Wilson, Bud Jamison
First National Pictures, 33 Minutes
A Dog’s Life is a pretty notable film in Charlie Chaplin’s long career. It was his first picture with First National, who would go on to distribute other Chaplin films, as well as a slew of others during the silent era before being absorbed by Warner Bros. in 1929. Also, this film features several of Chaplin’s regulars in various roles. And even though Chaplin was the star of the picture, he played second fiddle in the title behind “Scrappy”, a dog who was the actual hero of the story.
While this film is quite short, it is a quintessential Tramp movie. It focuses on that character, Chaplin’s most famous, and has some of his best gags.
The film, like most of the ones featuring the Tramp, is more a series of gags and funny scenarios strung together with a simple narrative. In this picture, the Tramp falls head over heels for a singer in a dance hall. He also has run-ins with the law and the staff at the dance hall that employs the apple of his eye. With the Tramp is his faithful dog Scrappy, who helps him avoid trouble and ultimately, helps the Tramp achieve a happy ending with his love.
The scene in the film where the Tramp hides the dog in his pants, only to have its tail stick out of his backside and wag, is one of my favorite Chaplin bits of all-time.
While I love most of Chaplin’s work, A Dog’s Life had me laughing pretty much from start to finish. And frankly, I love the short Chaplin pictures for their simplicity and ability to quickly get into the groove and maintain it.
A Dog’s Life ranks up there as one of the best Chaplin pictures for me. If you want a real treat, check out a compilation film called The Chaplin Revue, which features this and a few other shorts edited into a feature length presentation.