A Dog's Life, The Idle Class, and Shoulder Arms

Three shorts highlight elements of social commentary that would recur throughout Chaplin's career. Chaplin always identified with the underdog, and A Dog's Life is a literal expression of this principle. The Little Tramp and Scraps the mutt share impoverished circumstances, stolen meals, and even a pair of pants-identification taken to comically alarming lengths. The Tramp tees off in The Idle Class, arriving at a luxe resort on the same train as the elite-or, rather, underneath the train. He happens to be a dead ringer for another, much richer (and drunker) man, also played by Chaplin, leading to a case of mistaken identity that defines class as masquerade. Released just a few weeks before the Armistice, Shoulder Arms is a Tramp's-eye view of World War I in which the all-too-plausible comedy of self-preservation, like trying to sleep in a flooded trench, is conjoined with flights of patriotic fantasy.

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