The Kid

1921 movie

If you haven’t seen it:

thekidThe Kid is the funny and moving story of the little tramp who finds himself raising a small child.

This movie is my favourite silent comedy of all time. Even if you usually hate silent comedy, I urge you to give it a try. Even if you hate silent comedy so much that the repeated use of the phrase “silent comedy” in this paragraph alone is making you feel a little nauseous right now, I am confident that The Kid will win you over.

The film is very poignant in places. Chaplin started work on it just ten days after his own son had died, at just three days old. Furthermore, it includes several traumatic scenes that were based on Chaplin’s own tragic childhood in Victorian England. Despite this, The Kid is full of warmth and love, and also contains some of the funniest scenes ever filmed. Do yourself a favour and seek it out.

If you have seen it:

Scroll down past the trailer for more.

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SPOILER ALERT: The plot summary and comments below contain details that might spoil your enjoyment of the movie if you have not already seen it.

Plot:

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Baby and the Tramp

Edna, an unmarried mother, abandons her baby in an expensive car, hoping that the rich owner will look after it. Soon afterwards, she regrets her decision, and tries to get the baby back. However, the car has been stolen, and the unscrupulous thieves leave the baby on a street corner, where it is found by our hero, Charlie. At first, Charlie tries to find the baby’s mother, but eventually he gives up. He sets about raising the child himself, and names him John.

Five years later, Charlie and John are working together as a pair of con artists; John smashes windows, then Charlie turns up and offers his services as a glazier. Meanwhile, Edna has become a famous opera star, but has never given up looking for her son.

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“Er…Are you sure you are a real doctor? I thought the heart was on the left.”

John gets into a fight with a bully, and Charlie ends up fighting the bully’s big brother too. Soon afterwards John falls ill, and a doctor is called. The doctor decides John must be taken to an orphanage, which leads to the terrified little boy being dragged away, and Charlie giving chase across the rooftops, before rescuing the kid. There is an emotional reunion, then the pair go on the run together.

 

Meanwhile, Edna has deduced from a conversation with the doctor, that John is her son. She puts an advert in the newspaper offering a reward for his return. The owner of the hostel where Charlie and John are staying sees the advert, and steals the kid in the night, taking him to the police station.

When Charlie wakes up he searches, panic stricken, for John. Eventually he gives in to despair, and collapses in a doorway. He dreams that he and John are both angels, and they have adventures together with other angels (and devils). He is eventually woken up by a policeman, who takes him to Edna’s mansion, where the Edna and John give him a warm welcome.

 

Trivia Trish Says:

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Dear John

  • When Charlie Chaplin saw Jackie Coogan singing and dancing on stage, he realized that the boy had star quality, and made this movie for him. He was right to do so, Jackie is brilliant.
  • Jackie Coogan was the first ever child movie star. Later, as an adult (after some ups and downs), he played Uncle Fester in the successful TV show The Adams Family.
  • Edna Purviance was Chaplin’s regular leading lady for 33 films, and was romantically involved with him for several years.
  • The idea of the broken window scam came from Fred Karno, who was Charlie’s old boss in his music-hall days. Karno would often talk about how he and his gang used to operate just such a ruse.
  • When filming was completed, Chaplin, who was going through a messy divorce, learned that his wife’s lawyers were threatening to grab the footage as part of the settlement. Chaplin went into hiding, taking all 500 rolls of footage with him, and edited the movie in a hotel room in Utah.

Steve Sunday Says:

I first saw The Kid on an obscure British TV channel about five or six years ago, and I could not believe how funny Charlie Chaplin was. Since then I have watched quite a few of his movies, and guess what?…They were all great too. Charlie Chaplin is definitely one of the main reasons I created this website – I feel as though I discovered him myself and I want to share him with the rest of the world. Yes, I know how ludicrous that sounds when you know that he was the most famous man in the world at one point, but most people today don’t watch his movies. They are missing out in a big way – I think he was the funniest movie star ever, and The Kid will always be my favourite of his films.

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Charlie’s Angel

For the purposes of this review I watched it again recently with my own five year old child, Jem. She loved it too. She laughed at the slapstick, worried about what was going on at the orphanage, and asked some tricky questions during the angel / devil / temptation dream sequence towards the end. I do have to admit that I feel the dream sequence is rather out of place; Jem asked me why he was having a happy dream if he was so unhappy, and I could not really tell her the answer. She also wanted to know why the lady angel wanted Charlie to be naughty, which brought me dangerously close to some theological (and indeed biological) issues that I was hoping to avoid discussing for at least a few years!

 

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The long arm of the law

 

Chris the Critic says:

The Kid is Chaplin’s most autobiographical film. Many of the streets and buildings resemble the area where he grew up, including the attic room with the sloping roof where John and the little tramp live. Chaplin was raised by a single mother, and he was traumatized when he was separated from her at a young age to be sent to a school for orphans and destitute children. Perhaps the pompous doctors and orphanage officials in the movie are based on Charlie’s childhood memories too?

What makes The Kid really special though, is that it was the first ever feature length comedy film, and it was the first film ever to combine slapstick with sentiment. In his autobiography, Charlie wrote that he had been warned beforehand not to mix the two forms – he was told that it simply would not work – but his instincts told him otherwise. History has proved him right; on its release in 1921 audiences and critics were united, and The Kid was proclaimed a tragicomic masterpiece.

Top Ten Movies about raising children

The Kid is our favourite, of course, but here are ten more:

10. Parenthood
9. Lord of the Teething Rings
8. Nappy Gilmore
7. The Pram Busters
6. From Rusk till Dawn
5. Dumb and Dummy
4. The Rattle of Britain
3. Shanghai Sleepless Nights
2. A Buggy’s Life
1. From Here to Maternity

Main Cast and Crew:

Directed by, and starring, Charles Chaplin.
With Jackie Coogan as the kid.
Edna Purviance as the woman.
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