[ full film at the bottom ]

Chaplin's film legacy:

... Acting ?

Story or/and Hero?

... filmplus.org/video -- storytelling [ Kid ] narrative


"Chaplin Lessons" [jumpcut.com/anatolant]

2007 -- Dog's Life (jumpcut.com/anatolant) : comments
The first of the shorts, A Dog's Life (1918), effectively paralleled the Tramp's hand-to-mouth urban existence with that of a plucky mongrel named Scraps. The dog has as much trouble wresting a loose morsel from a roving pack of mutts as Charlie has elbowing his way past the other bindlestiffs to the employment office window. The tramp ultimately takes the pooch under his protection, and the duo soon become intertwined with another unfortunate leading "a dog's life," a dance-hall singer (Edna Purviance) encouraged to flirt with the customers in order to retain her job. A chance for the trio to escape their circumstances crops up when Scraps unearths a buried wallet, but there's the matter of dealing with the hulking muggers who hid it in the first place.

The short's idyllic finale, where Chaplin and Purviance lovingly hover over a bassinet until the pan down reveals it to contain Scraps and a litter of pups, speaks to a time when continuity wasn't the greatest concern for filmmakers. Through the course of the film, the footage of the male canine co-star patently proves that Scraps just wasn't equipped to be a mother.

Charles Chaplin took a big step forward with the short, A Dog's Life (1918), both artistically, historically and commercially. It was both the longest Chaplin production to that time and, he would later claim, the first in which he seriously considered comic plot construction. Historically, the film was the first to come from his new studios at Sunset and La Brea. Commercially, it was his biggest hit to date, often advertised as his first film to make $1 million.

Chaplin told the press he had been considering the comic possibilities of working with a dog for over a year before making the film, though his brother Syd had introduced canine comedy to Fred Karno's Troupe, the vaudeville company in which both had performed as young men. With the opening of his new studios, he decided this was the perfect time for his dog film. Only he had to find the right dog. He tried a dachshund, a Pomeranian, a poodle, a Boston bull terrier and an English bulldog before realizing that what he needed was just a mongrel. The film was already in production when he picked up 21 dogs from the Los Angeles pound and brought them to the set. When neighbors complained, he cut the number to 12 and finally picked one adorable creature, Mutt, to be his new co-star.

The plot was simple, but revealed much more thought than many of his previous films. Once again cast as his popular tramp character, Chaplin saves a stray from a group of attacking dogs, then fights to keep them both alive despite unemployment and starvation. When he sneaks the dog into a dance hall, it helps him save singer Edna Purviance (Chaplin's principal leading lady at the time) from mobsters and recovers a stolen wallet that gives them the money to start a new life. Throughout all this, Chaplin linked the tramp's and the singer's actions to the dog's, often cutting between scenes in which they appeared in similar dilemmas. This use of association as the basis for plot construction gave him a way to string together what in earlier films had been simply a series of disparate gags. Years later, he would say that though it restricted his ability to use any gag he thought of, it ultimately made his films funnier and deeper. In addition, he used his comedy to explore some harsh realities of life: poverty, unemployment and prostitution among them.

The opening of a new film studio for one of the world's most famous actors was a major news event, and Chaplin's studio was flooded with visitors. At first, he imposed no restrictions on the guest list. Then two men claiming to be journalists were caught eavesdropping on a production meeting. A quick search revealed that in three days they had stolen sketches of sets for A Dog's Life, notes from story meetings and character descriptions. From then on Chaplin had to approve of visitors, though there was still a stream of guests, including Scottish stage comic Harry Lauder, who shared gags with Chaplin as cameras recorded the meeting of two comic legends. By some accounts, it was Lauder who suggested the film's title. Chaplin had started production under the title I Should Worry, but Lauder's statement, "It's a dog's life you're leadin' these days, Charlie" fit the film perfectly. Many critics have noted that the film contrasts the dog's life led not just by Mutt, but by Chaplin and Purviance's characters as well.

The dogs themselves posed some problems in production. Some were more independent than most human actors, leading to fights on set. Along with receipts for dog's meat, the props department's records include orders for a large syringe and 65 cents' worth of ammonia to be used to break up dog fights.

Chaplin's new studio included a standard set used in many of his films, a T-shaped street similar to the one he had first used at Mutual Films while making Easy Street (1917). Variously dressed, the street would turn up in several of his films representing cities from around the world. The technicians did such a good job of making the street look real that Chaplin had no problem cutting in scenes shot at various street locations around Los Angeles. For A Dog's Life, he shot for a day in front of the Palace Market, which became part of the studio street during editing.

A Dog's Life was a big hit for Chaplin, allowing him to continue working at his own studio and encouraging him to try ever-longer films. He would produce his first feature, The Kid (1921), three years later. Purviance would continue starring for Chaplin until 1923, when the failure of his A Woman of Paris and her desire to move into dramatic roles led him to seek other leading ladies. Nonetheless, he kept her on the payroll for the rest of her life. Even Mutt enjoyed the success of A Dog's Life. He was adopted by Chaplin and spent the rest of his life as a valued staff member at the star's studio.

Producer-Director: Charles Chaplin Screenplay: Charles Chaplin Cinematography: R.H. Totheroh Art Direction: Charles D. Hall Music: Charles Chaplin Principal Cast: Charles Chaplin (Tramp), Edna Purviance (Bar Singer), Mutt (Scraps), Syd Chaplin (Lunchwagon Owner), Charles Reisner (Employment Agency Clerk), Granville Redmond (Dance Hall Proprietor), Alf Reeves (Man at Bar). BW-33m.

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* flickr.com/people/vtheatre images 2006 + del.icio.us/anatolant/film links Film-North Blog

Charlie Chaplin: Dog's Life

This and other (new) "info" pages are on the titles I use for the class. Some basic facts (historical background), for more -- search yourself. Plus, my notes on how to use those films and movies for discussion of theory (film language).
* the Little Tramp = hero (type), how it's "composed" (elements)?

Comedy: situation, character? Physical comedy (British - American origins)

History BG: A Dog's Life, the first film for Chaplin's new company, is generally acknowledged as his first true masterpiece. Originally released in 1918, it is also the first film featured in The Chaplin Revue.

Comments on:

[ * ]

A Dog's Life opens on accompanying iris shots, one of the Little Tramp sleeping by a fence, the other of Spot, the mutt hero of the story. That day, the Tramp finds himself in his usual trouble after the local cop spies him snatching sausages to eat. A funny chase scene ensues. Later, having eluded the cop, the Tramp tries his luck in an employment line only to get repetitively shoved aside by other bigger men picking up their job slips. By the time the Tramp reaches the front, there are no more jobs for the day. Despondent, he mopes around and suddenly sees Spot, clinging to a morsel of food while being attacked by a pack of bigger, hungry dogs. The Tramp rescues Spot, and it is the beginning of a perfect friendship - two homeless, similarly down-on-their-luck vagabonds. Together, they harass a local food vendor for some sausages and sweet cakes (Sydney Chaplin makes his first hilarious appearance in a Chaplin film as the woe-begotten vendor), and later, it's off to a local pub and dance hall, the Green Lantern.

It is here that we meet Edna Purviance's character, a singer. The Tramp, after a hilariously clumsy dance, naturally falls in love with her. But, when he can't afford to buy a drink for her, the bartender unceremoniously tosses him out. Courtesy of Spot, who digs up some money, the Tramp confidently returns to the Green Lantern to re-woo the singer. Naturally, he's robbed silly by some thieves and, being penniless once more, gets thrown out again. Ever determined, he returns a third time, retrieves his money with Spot's help, and this time is only chased away! All's well that ends well, however, as the Little Tramp can now afford to win Edna's heart and settle away together with Edna and Spot in a nice country home.

A Dog's Life is filled with wonderful touches of comedy throughout. The con job by which the Little Tramp retrieves his money from the thieves is pure comic genius. Every scene with Sydney Chaplin is also a hoot, as Sydney's exasperated food vendor tries in vain to keep the Little Tramp or Spot or a pack of hungry dogs from devouring his sausages. Interestingly, Sydney Chaplin, being an accomplished comedian himself, was once considered the more talented of the two brothers!

http://www.turnerclassicmovies.com Robert Osborne on Charlie Chaplin


the silent film era -- documentary style & expressionism (Film History) 1897-1929

"Life's a bitch" (message) --

Poverty -- Charlie's answer -- "happy loser" (Big Lobovsky), see Mac "Cuckoo's Nest" (Forman).

Friendship & Love -- "I need a dog, or a woman"...

WWI and comedy?

Acting Tradition of Chaplin: who? Names? Jim Carry and Woody Alan (you list)

Specific assignments: Writer, Actor, Director

Urban Life = details (shots), activities, situations, human types

"Western" and the City

Concept "reconstruction" (1 min presentation)

Analysis: dramatic and visual composition (class exrc.)

* Chaplin is the "MOVIES" (he is using the film medium for storytelling). MASS "art" as cultural phenomena (the ideology of Petemkin is on the surface, in movies ir is deep!) Foucault is needed to talk about the "brainwashing" done the movies (but does 2D man have any brains, or his mind is "programmed" by pop-culture?)...

* Charlie Chaplin by Theodore Huff; Henry Schuman, 1951 :

XI. "A Dog's Life"--first masterpiece

"The gags and comedy routines in "A Dog's Life" are classic. The scene in the employment office, with Charlie always missing out, is pure ballet and extraordinary for its precision. Hilarious and beautifully timed, also, is the surreptitious cake-devouring scene at the lunch stand. Sidney Chaplin's pantomime here, as the proprietor, equals his brother's. The "puppet" sequence where Chaplin from behind a curtain, by deft manipulations of his hands under the arms of a knocked-out crook, continues negotiations with his partner, is outstanding. Incidentally, this gag has been much imitated. Harold Lloyd worked a variation of it in "The Freshman" ( 1925) and years later Laurel and Hardy repeated it in "Chumps at Oxford" ( 1940). Whether Chaplin invented it or it originated in circus clowning, this was its first screen use-and its most effective use, the camera facilitating its closest and most intimate presentation." -96-

[ the ending to discuss in class -- ] "When dreams come true." The camera irises in on the interior of a picturesque little farm. In the cottage Edna prepares tea at the fireplace. Out in a large field the straw-hatted Charlie is planting a long furrow, digging little holes with his finger and inserting a seed in each hole, one at a time. His wife calls. Gathering up his fork and rake, he enters and the couple kiss playfully. Then he carries her on his back to a basket by the fire; they kiss and sigh as they look fondly down. The camera tilts to reveal a litter of puppies, and Scraps, the proud parent. " -100-


NEXT: Godfather in class (and part 3. "Film Language" Monaco)

Chaplin paper due. (test back)

* When to return to Chaplin, the way I come back to Eisenstein so many times?


Charlie Chaplin: Modern Times See who's visiting this page.

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Somebody played with Chaplin's footage (must be from jumpcut.com) -- an assignment for students in film analysis class [at least, film directing]?
Other Chaplin's clips -- film.vtheatre.net main (list)

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segments in directing class -- fixed, moving, traveling camera (The Element of Film Language)

Stationary (static) camera (primary motion) = mise-en-scene (directing pages vs. analysis directory?)

del.icio.us/anatolant/film links (new 2006)

I do not have time to put my comments to the film (sidetalking in class)...

1. Watch for cuts

2. for shots (count CUs)

3. Camera movements

... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Dog's_Life

post your analysis to the group!

com.txt -- directing.filmplus.org