ⓘ The Kid (1921 film)


ⓘ The Kid (1921 film)

The Kid is a 1921 American silent comedy-drama film written by, produced by, directed by, and starring Charlie Chaplin, and features Jackie Coogan as his foundling baby, adopted son and sidekick. This was Chaplins first full-length film as a director. It was a huge success, and was the second-highest-grossing film in 1921, behind The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. In 2011, The Kid was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." Innovative in its combination of comedic and dramatic elements, The Kid is widely considered one of the greatest films of the silent era.


1. Plot

An unmarried mother Edna Purviance leaves a charity hospital with her newborn son; a short scene shows that the babys apparent artist father Carl Miller has lost interest in her. With much anguish the mother abandons the child, placing him in an expensive automobile, with a handwritten note: "Please love and care for this orphan child". Two thieves steal the car and leave the baby in an alley, where he is found by The Tramp Charlie Chaplin. After some slapstick attempts to hand the child off to various passersby, he finds the note and his heart melts. He takes the boy home, names him John and adjusts his household furniture for him. Meanwhile, the mother has a change of heart and returns for her baby but she learns that the car has been stolen and faints.

Five years pass. The Kid Jackie Coogan and the Tramp live in the same tiny room; they have little money but much love. They support themselves in a minor scheme: the Kid throws stones to break windows so that the Tramp, working as a glazier, can earn money repairing them. Meanwhile, the mother has become a wealthy actress. She does charity by giving presents to poor children. By chance, the mother and the Kid cross paths, but of course do not know each other.

The Kid later gets into a fight with another local boy as people in the area gather to watch the spectacle. The Kid wins, drawing the ire of the other boys older brother, who attacks the Tramp as a result. The Mother breaks up the fight, though the Tramp still beats the "Big Brother" over the head with a brick repeatedly until he walks away.

Shortly afterward, the Mother advises the Tramp to call a doctor after the Kid falls ill. The doctor discovers that the Tramp is not the Kids father, and notifies authorities. Two men come to take the boy to an orphanage, but after a fight and a chase, the Tramp and the boy remain side by side. When the Mother comes back to see how the boy is doing she encounters the doctor, who shows her the note which he had taken from the Tramp; she recognizes it as the one she left with her baby years ago.

Now fugitives, the Tramp and the boy spend the night in a flophouse. Its proprietor learns of a $1000 reward offered by the authorities and takes the Kid to the police station, while the Tramp is asleep. As the tearful Mother is reunited with her long-lost child, the Tramp searches frantically for the missing boy. Unsuccessful, he returns to the doorway of their humble home, where he falls asleep. He enters "Dreamland," where his neighbors have turned into angels and devils. He is awakened by a policeman, who leads him away, taking him to a mansion. The door is opened by the Mother and the Kid, who jumps into the Tramps arms. The policeman congratulates the Tramp and the Mother welcomes the Tramp into her home.


2. Casting

  • Edna Purviance as The Woman
  • Jackie Coogan as The Child "John"
  • Charlie Chaplin as The Tramp
  • Carl Miller as The Man
  • Henry Bergman as Night shelter keeper/ Professor Guido
  • Albert Austin as Man in Shelter/ The Car Thief
  • F. Blinn as Welfare officers assistant
  • Esther Ralston as Extra in the Heaven Scene
  • May White as Ednas maid/Apartment owner with broken window
  • Silas Hathaway as Infant The Kid
  • Lita Grey as Flirtatious Angel in Heaven scene
  • Jack H. Coogan Jr. father of Jackie Coogan as Pickpocket/ Guest/ Devil
  • Raymond Lee as Bullys little brother
  • Granville Redmond as The Mans friend
  • Tom Wilson as The Policeman
  • Jules Hanft as the country doctor
  • Frank Campeau as Welfare officer *?questionable, he doesnt look like Campeau
  • Charles Reisner as Neighborhood bully

3. Production

The Kid is notable for combining comedy and drama. As the opening title says: "A picture with a smile - and perhaps, a tear." Its most famous and enduring sequence is the Tramps desperate rooftop pursuit of the truck taking the child to the orphanage, and their emotional reunion.

The film made Coogan, then a vaudeville performer, into the first major child star of the movies. Many of the Chaplin biographers have attributed the relationship portrayed in the film to have resulted from the death of Chaplins firstborn infant son just ten days before the production began. The portrayal of poverty and the cruelty of welfare workers are also directly reminiscent of Chaplins own childhood in London. Several of the street scenes were filmed on Los Angeless famed Olvera Street, almost 10 years before it was converted into a Mexican-themed tourist attraction.

After production was completed in 1920, the film was caught up in the divorce actions of Chaplins first wife Mildred Harris, who sought to attach Chaplins assets. Chaplin and his associates smuggled the raw negative to Salt Lake City reportedly packed in coffee cans and edited the film in a room at the Hotel Utah. Before releasing the film Chaplin negotiated for and received an enhanced financial deal for the film with his distributor, First National Corporation, based on the success of the final film.

Twelve-year-old Lita Grey, who portrays an angel in the film, was Chaplins second wife from 1924 to 1927.

In 1972, Chaplin edited and reissued the film and he composed a new musical score.

Chaplin and Coogan met for the last time in 1972, during Chaplins brief return to America to receive an honorary Academy Award for his lifetime contribution to cinema.


4. Reception

The Kid was acclaimed by film critics upon its release.

A reviewer from Theatre Magazine glowingly wrote, new picture, The Kid, certainly outdoes in humor and the special brand of Chaplin pathos anything this popular film star has yet produced. There are almost as many tears as laughs in the new First National release--which proves the contention that Chaplin as almost as good a tragedian as he is a comedian. The Kid may be counted as a screen masterpiece."


5. Legacy

Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance writes, of the legacy of Chaplins The Kid: The Kid remains an important contribution to the art of film, not only because of Chaplin’s innovative use of dramatic sequences within a feature-length comedy, but also because of the revelations The Kid provides about its creator. Undoubtedly, when Chaplin penned the preface to The Kid," A picture with a smile--and perhaps, a tear,” he had his own artistic credo - and life - in mind." Mary Pickford said of the film, "The Kid is one of the finest examples of the screen language, depending upon its actions rather than upon subtitles".

In December 2011, The Kid was chosen to be preserved in the Library of Congress National Film Registry. The Registry said that the film is "an artful melding of touching drama, social commentary and inventive comedy" and praised Chaplins ability to "sustain his artistry beyond the length of his usual short subjects and could deftly elicit a variety of emotions from his audiences by skillfully blending slapstick and pathos."

As of June 2019, The Kid has earned a rare 100% perfect rating on film review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes based on 30 reviews, with a weighted average of 8.51/10. and a 8.3 user rating on the Internet Movie Database, placing it at number 101 among the sites Top 250 Titles.


6. Remakes

In 1989, Charles Lane directed and starred in Sidewalk Stories, a remake of the film, updated to 1980s New York.

Some have called the 1999 comedy Big Daddy a loose remake of the film as well.

In May 2017, it was announced that FilmNation Entertainment is remaking The Kid as an animated sci-fi movie. "The Kid, an animated adventure" will be directed by Christian Volckman and Rupert Wyatt and is "inspired by the characters and themes in The Kid." As of 2019 it was still in development.

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