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THE KID (First National Pictures, 1921), a comedy-drama written,
directed and starring Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977), plays an important
part his screen career. Aside from Chaplin cast opposite Marie Dressler
in TILLIE'S PUNCTURED ROMANCE (1914), a Mack Sennett production hailed
as the first feature length comedy, THE KID starts Chaplin with a whole
new cycle of feature comedies, but releases coming once every two to
three years. A comic genius who got his start in comedy shorts starting
in 1914, eventually under the supervision and direction of himself,
Chaplin's methods in movie making improved with each passing film. Like
himself, Jackie Coogan, Chaplin's littlest co-star and title character,
made such an impression with his initial performance, nearly upstaging
his impresario, that he immediately found himself starring in movies on
his own, becoming Hollywood's first important child star.
THE KID starts off with inter-titles, "A picture with a smile and perhaps a tear," followed by "The woman whose sin was motherhood," titles much to the liking of a D.W. Griffith directorial tearjerker starring Lillian Gish, yet, in fact, might have seemed more logical for a Griffith film than Chaplin's, whose very name personifies comedy. A young girl (Edna Purviance) leaves a charity hospital with a baby in her arms. who turns out to be an unwed mother whose father (Carl Miller), a young artist, never returns to her life. The mother places her baby in the back of a limousine and walks away. Crooks enter the scene, stealing the car, discover the baby and place it in a trash bin in the poor district of town. Noticing the infant wrapped in a blanket, Charlie tries to pass it off to someone else, but after stumbling upon a note which reads, "Please love and care for this orphan child," he decides to raise the child himself. Five years pass. The kid (whose name is believed to be John), now Charlie's adopted son and sidekick, start off each day with brand new adventures in raising money. As for the kid's mother, she's become "a star of great prominence," devoting her spare time with charitable work handing out gifts to the children of poor districts, where lives the kid. The paths of the kid and his mother meet on numerous occasions, unaware of each other's identities. When the kid becomes seriously ill and in need of immediate medical attention, a middle-aged country doctor, having discovered Charlie not the boy's true father, sends for the authorities from the County Orphan Asylum to take the child away.
THE KID consists of many ingredients to make this an everlasting product, especially for a silent movie made so long ago. Chaplin, who constructs his gags to perfection, has one difficult scene that comes off naturally, this being where Charlie cuts out diapers from a sheet for the infant as he's lying beside him in a miniature hammock crying out for his milk. The baby immediately stops after Charlie directs the nipple attached to a coffee pot (a substitute for a baby bottle) back into his mouth. Another classic moment, on a serious nature, is when Charlie is being held back by authorities, being forced to watch his crying "son" taken away from him. Charlie breaks away and goes after the truck as he's being chased by a policeman from the slanted roof-tops. The close-up where father and son tearful reunite is as touching as anything ever captured on film.
Chaplin and little Jackie (billed Jack Coogan in the opening credits) display their talents as both funny characters and dramatic actors. Little Jackie is especially cute as a miniature sized Chaplin, right down to his baggy pants. Chaplin giving one of his most sensitive performances, is so convincing that it doesn't take away his screen persona as the lovable funny tramp. From this point onward, he would become less characteristic as a slapstick comedian and more agreeable as an serious actor, at the same time, adding more plot, pathos and truly great comedy routines.
As much as the present showing of THE KID barely reaches the one hour mark, Chaplin includes enough gags and pathos to make it work. The dream sequence where he finds himself in Heaven surrounded by angels might appear trite and unnecessary for some, but actually makes it essential to the plot which fits into the scene that follows.
THE KID, which had been unavailable for public viewing for many years, was resurrected in the 1970s in revival movie houses with a brand new and wonderful orchestral score conducted by Chaplin himself in 1971. It would be nearly another decade for many to fully get to see and appreciate this little masterpiece when distributed to video cassette in 1989 as part of the Charlie Chaplin centennial collection, double billed along with a comedy short, THE IDLE CLASS (1921). In the DVD format, the two disc set includes rare out-takes and deleted scenes. Turner Classic Movies has brought forth THE KID as part of its movie library, where it made its debut December 15, 2003, during its weekly Silent Sunday Nights, hosted by Robert Osborne, and later in March 2004 when Charlie Chaplin was selected as its "Star of the Month."
For its age, THE KID holds up extremely well, thanks to the convincing performances of both Chaplin and Coogan. There's no doubt Jackie Coogan (1914-1984) became an overnight star with this one film. He was a natural. While the paths of Chaplin and Coogan would never meet again, on screen anyway, without them, there would never have been such a true classic from the silent screen era as THE KID. (****)
While perhaps not as celebrated now as some of Chaplin's later features,
"The Kid" is an excellent achievement and a thoroughly enjoyable film.
Charlie and young Jackie Coogan make an entertaining and unforgettable pair,
and there is a lot of good slapstick plus a story that moves quickly and
makes you want to know what will happen. Chaplin also wrote a particularly
good score for this one, and most of the time the music sets off the action
While it's a fairly simple story, this is one of Chaplin's most efficiently designed movies. Every scene either is necessary to the plot, or is very funny for its own sake, or both. Except for Chaplin and Coogan, most of the other characters (even frequent Chaplin leading lady Edna Purviance) are just there to advance the plot when needed, and the two leads are allowed to carry the show, which they both do extremely well.
"The Kid" is also impressive in that, while the story is a sentimental one, it strikes an ideal balance, maintaining sympathy for the characters while never overdoing it with the pathos, which Chaplin occasionally lapsed into even in some of his greatest movies. Here, the careful balance makes the few moments of real emotion all the more effective and memorable.
This is one of Chaplin's very best movies by any measure. If you enjoy silent comedies, don't miss it.
It is hard to find such delightful and adorable movies these days as "The Kid". It is a silent movie but so rich, winning and beautiful that you don´t nead words. Chaplin and 6-year old Coogan are possibly the most charming pair I have ever seen in my life. The film succees to be nicely light and full of joy but also overwhelmingly sad and sentimental. I always get my eyes full with tears of saddness and happiness. And I really never cry in movies. And the music...its simply Oscar-level! The movie is sympathetic, full of feeling, touchingly funny moments. It is truly a masterpiece showing how extraordinary talented person Charlie Chaplin was considering this film is respectively over 80 years old! So don´t you miss it because of it´s age, don´t miss it.
Wow, is this a memorable film! It is one of the most famous silent
movies ever and justifiably so. That fact that it still entertains over
80 years after it was made is quite a testimony.
It is a wonderful blend of humor and drama. Charlie Chaplin's unique humor, combined with an involving storyline and strong sentimentality make this one to remember. Chaplin's humor ranges from pure slapstick to some clever stunts.
The "kid" - Jackie Coogan - is just as memorable, maybe even more so. He is unbelievably cute, especially in those old-time clothes he wore. Watching the expressions on his face, even as a baby, are fascinating and facial expressions certainly were a trademark of the silent era.
So, between Chaplin and Coogan, and a very involving story that can break your heart one minute and have you laughing out loud the next, it's an amazing piece of work. This is a very fast-paced story which lasts less than an hour.
The special edition two-disc DVD has a restored version of the print so the picture is very clear, actually astounding for its age. Excellent entertainment.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Kid" is a powerfully emotional and wonderfully hilarious motion
picture and was a tremendous breakthrough in Charlie Chaplin's oeuvre.
Chaplin hadn't filled a film so fully with pathos since "The Vagabond"
(1916), and then it was in a very limited way, subject to the confines
of two-reel length. Additionally, "Sunnyside" (1919) was a failure. The
feature length of "The Kid" also allows Chaplin to elaborate and refine
the gags, pranks and set pieces, and with the support of Jackie Coogan,
it's one of his funniest comedies.
The parent-child relationship has proved potential as sentimental entertainment, and, for me, not many have neared Chaplin in exploiting that formula in "The Kid". The sequence where they take the kid, for a workhouse, away from the tramp is probably the most powerful and endearing tearjerker moment in the film--or of all film. In addition to Chaplin and Coogan, Edna Purviance is also quite effective in the dramatic side of the picture. Furthermore, Chaplin and cinematographer Roland Totheroh's photography had by then improved vastly over their work at Mutual, and Chaplin was already an eccentric perfectionist, but the musical score added to the 1971 release, composed by Chaplin, taken from Tchaikovsky, gives the sentimental parts its most verve.
Of the slapstick, one of my favorite scenes involves the tramp in fear of a bully. It's reminiscent of his Mutual short "Easy Street" (1917), which is made especially clear when the bully bends a lamppost with one punch. There are many other great moments of humorous pantomime and farce in this film. Yet, "The Kid" is much more than that, which makes it such a breakthrough; the slapstick fills the plot, and there is more of a developed plot here than in Chaplin's previous work. This was the beginning of the tramp as the sympathetic, pitiful hero, as well as clown, that's so recognizable and beloved to this day.
Moreover, the dream sequence is an ingenious plot device; it adds dimensionally to the narrative and asserts its themes while delaying the inevitable conclusion of the outer narrative to poignant effect. It's also funny in a silly way. It's somewhat analogous to the outer reality story, although with much ambiguity. I wasn't always sure Chaplin was making any clear point, such as with the Christ image earlier in the film, but that seems unimportant; "The Kid" affects the emotions and isn't especially aimed at engaging the mind. At six reels, with more sets and a developed plot, this film was already an expansion compared to Chaplin's previous films; the dream sequence satisfyingly expands the narrative depth, thus making "The Kid" Chaplin's first complete feature.
Is there a way to name the greatest filmmaker of all time? Probably not, to
different people it's gonna be different person, so I can speak only for
myself. Let me try to describe my favorite contestant for this award:
This man is the true embodiment of the "American Dream": Having grown up in poverty and misery and virtually without parents (without a father and with insane mother), moving to America with basically nothing but his ability to speak English (in the era of the silent movies), this man manages to establish his own film company (United Artists) and becomes one of the creators of Hollywood. He produces, directs, writes, plays the leading role and composes the music for his movies. He is the creator of the most famous movie image on the earth-the Little Tramp. As you all probably know I am talking about sir Charles Spencer Chaplin.
There are attempts, sometimes I read, to make Buster Keaton candidate for the Chaplin's throne. Well, I won't comment on that for I am not familiar with Keaton's work; I grew up with Chaplin so you could say I am being biased, however I would mention only one fact here: the only time the two meet on the screen is in a Chaplin's movie "Limelight." I think this says a lot.
Why did I choose the movie "The Kid" as a podium for my tribute to the great Charlie? I have to say I like all of his movies, mistake, I love all of his movies, but this one is the true purl in his work to me. I don't think of any other movie, not only Chaplin's, that made me cry, I mean really cry, and laugh, I mean really laugh, like "The Kid." The closest I can think of now is another Chaplin's masterpiece "City Lights" but unlike the later one in the former one that is only him, the tramp, and the kid; and everything is silent. Think about it: the movie making at its purest.
I don't know whether I could make my point with this review-probably not. There are not enough words to describe the respect and gratitude I feel towards Chaplin. To me he is simply the greatest filmmaker of all time.
I've always thought there's a great beauty and poignancy to the best
slapstick comedies, even unsentimental ones like Keaton's "The General"
or Laurel and Hardy's "Way Out West." The latter comedy has a scene
where L&H perform a soft-shoe dance; it always brings me to tears. Why?
Maybe physical comedy has the same kind of effect on me as a dance
performance. Both art forms are very expressive; the fact that I'm
laughing doesn't dilute the emotional charge.
One of many things that made Chaplin a genius was his understanding of how close slapstick is to pathos already. Why not marry the two things? That's what he did in some of his early short films, and that's what he does in this feature comedy. The Little Tramp finds an abandoned baby and raises him into boyhood. But the authorities find out and want to take little Jackie (Jackie Coogan) away. Meanwhile, the mother who abandoned him has since become a wealthy singer and doesn't know if she'll ever find out what became of him.
Jackie Coogan (about five in this film), with his charming manners, his talents as a mimic and his adeptness at physical comedy, is one of the all-time great child actors. Want more evidence of Chaplin's genius? Coogan doesn't steal the film from him. This is true even though Chaplin, as producer, star and director, makes every evident attempt to spotlight the boy's talents. Coogan is even better here than he is in his own vehicles, like "My Boy" and "Oliver Twist."
Chaplin's storytellingeven with the foolish sub-Dickensian plot twists, such as Jackie suddenly taking illdeftly draws out the comedy and pathos for maximum effect. The individual scenes themselves are flawlessly constructed. The window-breaking scene, the flophouse scene, the dream sequence, the trying-to-get-rid-of-the-baby scenethey're perfect. Chaplin's celebrated pantomimic skills are examples of storytelling in themselves.
Want me to criticize something? How about those thudding attempts to link the mother with Jesus? But you know, I can't even complain about that. It's too sweetly naïve. And the movie as a whole is too good to allow us to sneer at the (very) few flaws.
One important note: children love this movie. Show it to them while they're young, and you'll make Chaplin fans of them. And that's better than their becoming fans of almost anything that's being peddled to them.
Charlie Chaplin was perhaps the most innovative auteur of the silent
era and certainly the most famous. His character, the Tramp, is now a
cultural icon and will forever be a symbol of poverty and travesty that
was American society in the early 20th century, but something all of us
In one of his first roles with this character, he played opposite a very young Jackie Coogan, who would go on to play Uncle Fester in the cult TV series The Addams Family. Taking himself and this very talented young boy, Chaplin made a masterwork; one that he truly could call his own as he wrote, directed, starred in and composed the score for this film.
Here, Chaplin feeds to one of the most basic of all human desires: to care for a child and be needed and loved by one another. The Tramp finds an abandoned baby in an alley and in order to not be caught by a policeman he takes the child in as his own. He hasn't got much but he does have love, which is more than can be said for the child's mother.
Flash forward five years, and now the mother wants her son back. Circumstances arise and soon the Tramp is fighting for the right to keep his little companion. Even so, the story is thin but I believe Chaplin was going for something more deep and meaningful. This also gave him a chance to work on some different visual styles and comedic gimmicks, things not used much at the time in the movies. Using these little tricks and ideas, Chaplin creates a real persona not just for himself but also the supporting cast and involving us in the story.
However, at the heart of the story are the emotions about fighting for the right to be a parent/guardian; someone the kid can look up to and sleep beside and confide in. It tugs at your heart all while making you laugh, sometimes in the same scene. This shows the work of a true genius; someone who knew what he wanted to create and the style in which he wanted to portray it.
It's easy to call Charlie Chaplin a genius, but I'll say it once again:
the man was a genius, if only at doing a certain particular kind of
film. You wouldn't ever see Charlie Chaplin doing a silent horror film,
or at least one like out of Germany, or even a big epic that ran
Griffith lengths. His artistry was concerned with those who could just
about afford the price of a ticket back in the 20s and 30s to see his
films and he combined pathos that was incredible and unique in and of
its spectrum of humor and compassion. Some may call films like the Kid
and even City Lights sentimental, but they may miss the greater picture
at work which is that any sentiment is orchestrated and (the usual
kicked-around word) manipulated amid the comedic set-ups. Earned
sentiment is different than faux sentimentality chucked on to the
viewer, and if any case could show this distinction better it would be
hard to find a better example then the Kid.
As it stands even at 50 minutes, which was trimmed by Chaplin himself 50 years after its original release and including a new musical score, it's just about a perfectly told tale. It is short in either cut form but its so simple a story to tell that anything else would just likely be padding; even that 'Dreamland' sequence towards the end of the film is crucial and allows for Chaplin to let loose on a wonderful light-and-dark examination of all the major characters in the picture- now with angel wings and devil horns! What it's about, in complete basics, is that a woman leaves her baby in the backseat of a car thinking she won't be able to take care of him, and the baby winds up by chance in an alleyway the Tramp is at, and the Tramp decides to take care of him (he even names him, in one amusing aside, John). Then it cuts to 5 years later, and the two are an intrepid duo as they break and fix windows, eat lots of pancake, and the Tramp nearly gets pummeled by an "Older Brother" of a kid John gets in a fight with. Meanwhile, the mother is now a success, not knowing her child is somewhere- right in front of her nose.
This may sound like a bit of story, but it's told briskly and without a missed beat in editing, and Chaplin's re-edit tightens it to a point where we're mostly with the Kid and the Tramp. Their scenes are everything that Chaplin wants them to be: playful, absurd, cute, and bittersweet to a degree. We know this can't exactly last, but the moment the poor maybe-sick Kid is taken away to the orphanage becomes one of the most tragic (and yet partially triumphant) sequences in the movies. It's in a case like this, where we as the audience tear up, more or less, as the Kid is being carted away crying his eyes out, and then inter-cut with Chaplin's daring dash across the roof-tops to save him, that we see the genius of comedy and tragedy combined and working off each other. This is assisted greatly throughout by child actor Jackie Coogan who may be one of the very best child actors in any film, silent or otherwise; that it's silent adds to the challenge and success of pure pantomime that without fault feels true: even a beat with the Kid playing with toys, an obviously "cute" bit, is great, and up for the task of playing off a quintessential clown like Chaplin.
Featuring some excellent set-pieces just unto themselves (aside from Dreamland there is the fight between Chaplin and the Brother with that belly-laugh part with the repetitive brick-hit to the head, or when Tramp and the Kid stop to sleep for the night at the home and have to sneak around to try and not pay an extra coin), an absolutely beautiful musical track from Chaplin, and excellent performances from all supporting cast (including frequent Chaplin star Edna Purvivance), it's altogether an awe-inspiring feat. To see this or City Lights or Modern Times to an extent is to see ideas and character outlasting far beyond their time and place as something far more valuable to the public consciousness.
Charlie Chaplin's study of a tramp teaming up with a street kid (the cute little Jackie Coogan) has a fine line to tread between humour and pathos, and true to what you would expect of his best work, does it superbly. The tramp always manages to wring the hearts of his viewers and adding a little boy to the mix was the finishing touch. Look out too for little Lita Grey in the angel sequence, who would become Chaplin's 2nd wife four years after this film was made.
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