Charlie Chaplin is widely recognised as one of the masters of cinematic comedy, known for his marvellous achievements in beloved silent classics such as City Lights and Modern Times among many others. His filmography reflects the transition and the evolution of cinema, moving from the silent realm to later sound features.
While his eventual ventures into sound film are often considered to be inferior to his brilliance in the silent era, some of Chaplin’s most well-known works came in the latter half of his career. Films such as Monsieur Verdoux and Limelight are still enjoyed by fans all around the world because Chaplin’s art is simply timeless.
Among his early works, the 1918 silent film A Dog’s Life is one of the finest short films Chaplin ever made. The first project that Chaplin made for First National Films, the film stars Chaplin as the iconic Tramp who is subjected to poverty due to unemployment but things turn around when he manages to befriend an extremely cute dog.
First National Films actually signed both Chaplin and Mary Pickford as a part of huge deals which became the first million-dollar deals in the history of the industry. As a part of the deal, Chaplin got a little more freedom since he was allowed to produce the films he wanted to without the requirement of sticking to a schedule.
A Dog’s Life is a fantastic example of what Chaplin was capable of even in the early stages of his career, coming up with ingenious gags and truly heartwarming moments that can get through to the toughest of audiences. Although the title suggests otherwise, the film explores the human condition in a beautiful way.
There’s one particular scene in the film where Chaplin’s canine friend is bullied by bigger dogs and it is mirrored by the same thing happening to Chaplin. He insists that the hierarchies of oppression exist in all parts of the world and even though we claim we are the products of culture and civilisation, we haven’t freed ourselves from those omnipresent structures.
Watch the film below.