A Dog's Life (1918)

Film Review

A DOG'S LIFE

Release Date: 14 April, 1918

Studio: First National Pictures

Director: Charlie Chaplin

Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Edna Purviance

Special Notes: Great American Films, 1911-1920

This film has been selected to our list of Great American Films, 1911-1920, which focuses on obscure and under-appreciated American film masterpieces.

Synopsis

A Dog's Life chronicles the adventures of the Tramp in the bleak and desolate city. Homeless and penniless, the Tramp awakens huddled in the dirt of a barren yard. He tries to get a job, but is pushed aside by other job seekers. The Tramp saves a small dog from a pack of larger dogs. The dog, named Scraps, becomes his companion, and he carries her into a bar hidden in his pants. In the bar, he dances with Edna who is supposed to flirt with the customers to get them to buy drinks. The Tramp has no money and is thrown out. Robbers take a wallet off a drunken rich man and bury the money in the yard. The dog digs it up. The Tramp takes the money to Edna and proposes an idyllic life in the country. However, the robbers steal the money back. After some more semi-comedic back and forth with the money, the dog brings it to the Tramp. In the end, dreams come true. The Tramp and Edna, perfectly contended on their new farm, look happily in a baby basket that contains the dog and her puppies.

Discussion

A Dog's Life is a poignant comedy that takes place amid the dreary streets of the city. Chaplin finds humor in the desperate situation of the Tramp, Edna, and Scraps. Most of the denizens of the city, including the police, are natural enemies of the homeless Tramp. Even Scraps, the homeless dog, is menaced by the other city dogs. The happiness they find on their farm in the country contrasts with the desperation of their lives in the city. The film has many funny moments that utilize Chaplin's physical abilities, such as the Tramp's pantomime around an unconscious crook, or rolling in and out of a yard under a fence, trying to evade a policeman.

Further Reading

Read our articles about these Chaplin films:

Behind the Screen (1916)

Easy Street (1917)

The Kid (1921)