Saturday, January 9, 2010

Charles Chaplin "The Kid" (1921)

"The Kid" (1921) is a silent comedy drama written, directed, and starring Charles Chaplin. Not only is it Chaplin's first feature length film, but it also made him a living legend. "The Kid" begins with an unwed mother, played by Edna Purviance, leaving a charity hospital with a newborn baby in her arms. The mother leaves her baby with a pleading note in the back of a limousine and walks away. After sitting alone on a park bench thinking about committing suicide, she decides to return to the limousine and get her baby, only to find him missing. The limousine has been stolen by thieves who dumped the baby by a garbage can in a poor district of town. The tramp, played by Charles Chaplin, finds the baby on the ground wrapped in a blanket. He tries to pass the baby off to someone else, including a mother with her baby carriage, but after coming across a note which reads, "Please love and care for this orphan child," he decides to take him to his one-room shack in the slums.

Five years later, the kid and the tramp make an interesting pair. The kid's job is to break the neighborhood windows so that the tramp could come by to replace them with his selection of window glass. The mother has become an opera star who devotes her spare time with charitable work for children living in the poor neighborhoods in hope of finding her lost boy. The kid and his mother actually meet on various occasions, but they are not aware of each other's identities. The story takes a dramatic twist when the kid becomes seriously ill and in need of medical attention. A doctor called by the mother discovers the note with the truth about the kid and reports it to the authorities who come to take him away from the tramp. Will the tramp lose the kid? "The Kid" (1921) was welcomed with international acclaim when it was released. Chaplin's undisputed master work to date, it still remains one of his finest achievements. The success was not Chaplin's alone. Part of it belonged to six-year-old Jackie Coogan in the title role. Coogan is wonderful as the kid and is easily Chaplin's most memorable costar. By having the little tramp find and raise a child, Chaplin humanized him in a way never seen in his other films. The little tramp may not be the best father in the world, but his love for the kid is genuinely touching and hilarious. The tramp's awkward attempts to care for the kid's needs are a successful combination of comedy and tenderness. One example is the brief scene in which the tramp cuts out diapers from a sheet and attaches a nipple to a coffeepot as a substitute for a baby bottle. The most touching moment of the film is when the kid has to be pulled out of the tramp's arms by the authorities. It is heartbreaking to see the kid taken away from the tramp by force. Partly inspired by Chaplin's own poor upbringing, "The Kid" successfully blends sentimentality, slapstick, and social conscience to create one of the most popular comedies of the silent era.


  1. Silent, Wonderful review and pictures. I can not wait to watch this film.

  2. Dawn, this is one of my favorite Chaplin films. This film can bring laughter and tears at the same time. This film, in my opinion, is one of Chaplin's masterpieces. I love that you can see it on you tube. Thank you for posting the Edna Purviance web site.

  3. Silent, i will post Edna Purviance fun facts, soon.

  4. Purviance also has small, but important roles in two of my favourite Chaplin shorts: Pay Day and Sunnyside. She definitely knew how to adapt to his working methods.

  5. Silent, I just finished watching THE KID. What a wonderful movie. A couple of my favorite scenes were:
    Where she is still haunted by the memory of her lost child, and does charity work in the slums where he now lives. Not realizing that she is giving her son a toy dog.(which he dearly loves..)

    In one of the most heartbreaking scenes, I think I have seen on film: Where the doctor learns of the illegal adoption and has the Orphan Asylum social workers who try to separate Chaplin from his foster son.

    After the landlord sees a newspaper ad offering a reward for the kids return, kidnaps the sleeping boy. Heartbroken, Chaplin falls asleep on his doorstep and dreams a very cute dream, that he has been reunited with the boy in Heaven and a flirtatious angel.
    Loved the ending...


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