‘A Dog’s Life’: Charlie Chaplin’s First Studio Film

Charlie Chaplin, long beloved for his comedic and often poignant silent films, directed and appeared in 35 movies during the span of his career. His first studio film was “A Dog’s Life,” made with the production company First National Films. Not only did Chaplin write and direct it, he also starred in it! This half-hour film explores a man’s quest to find a better life (and win the girl in the process). Making it in his own studio gave Chaplin full control over the end product.

Who Was Charlie Chaplin?

Charlie Chaplin made a name for himself in the silent film era, most notably with his persona the Tramp, a character who frequently found himself in funny and sometimes dangerous situations. Chaplin was born in 1889. A childhood of hardship and poverty caused him to seek the creative outlet of the stage, where he was eventually discovered by the New York Motion Picture Company. From there, he went on to create or star in close to three dozen films until his death in 1977.

Plot of ‘A Dog’s Life’

The film “A Dog’s Life” begins with the Tramp struggling to survive on the streets of a busy city. He soon rescues his canine companion, a dog named Scraps, from a pack of strays. The two of them meet a struggling singer (played by Edna Purviance), and the Tramp quickly falls in love. Scraps digs up a stolen wallet, and the Tramp brings the money to the singer with plans of buying a farm — however, the crooks are also in the music hall and try to get the money back. They bet on the wrong horse, of course, because the Tramp always has a trick up his sleeve! After a comedy of errors, the Tramp, the singer — and even Scraps — find a happy ending.

What Came Next?

After taking a gamble on his first studio film, Charlie Chaplin was able to exercise his creative control over other, bigger projects. Some of his most famous films were “The Kid” (1921), “The Gold Rush” (1925), “City Lights” (1931) and “Modern Times” (1936). In fact, these were all selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

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