The Kid (1921)

Charlie Chaplin is one of cinema’s truly great icons. Chaplin’s creation of The Tramp defined silent cinema with a readily familiar image to countless generations, whether aware of the origin or not. From the silly moustache to the waddle with a cane, Chaplin captured film goers hearts thanks to a simpleton with a heart of gold. The Kid is perhaps one of the most touching adventures. The narrative of The Kid is simple, the Tramp discovers an abandoned baby and decides to raise the boy as his own son. Five years later, the two have bonded and survive on scams, but interference from child welfare and the biological mother threaten their world.

Chaplin’s idiosyncratic style of silent comedy has survived numerous decades and changes in cinema. Chaplin engages in slapstick but far from the idiotic and overly buffoonish antics of lesser comics. No pies in face or rolling of eyes here. Chaplin instead participates with surrounding environments and characters, creating comedy within the confines of that existence, no matter how simple. Chaplin can make us laugh with preparing breakfast. Chaplin’s pitch perfect deadpan reaction is the subtle and reserved remedy to slapstick, harmonising the ridiculous with the real. However, Chaplin does enjoy some of the fantastic in this piece, a dream sequence involving angles and demons feels a little out of place, but is so playful and funny it can be forgiven for its otherwise intrusion.

Chaplin’s great comedic virtue is his ability to turn a misunderstanding into a bad situation, within the opening sequence alone, the Tramp attempts to rid himself of the newborn and minutes later is pursued by an octogenarian, a policeman and a very angry mother, not to mention resulting in caring for a child not his own.

Annex - Coogan, Jackie (Kid, The)_03

Sequences and jokes throughout this wonderful piece further the plot or explore the characters, energising the pace of the film. However, Chaplin is both a master comedian and storyteller, balancing the humour with pathos. Several sequences are equally heartfelt and hilarious through the dynamic duo of Chaplin and a young Jackie Coogan. The chemistry between father and adopted son is beautifully realised. Time and again, The Kid and Chaplin engage in precisely timed skits which deserve to fall into the category of balletic. From a fight with a bully and the angry, much bigger, older brother, to trying to pay for only one bed for the two, Chaplin and Coogan dominate this piece with a comedic partnership established duos would kill for.

The opening title card of The Kid – “A comedy with a smile… and perhaps a tear” may win the award for greatest modesty (although that is slightly paradoxical). In perhaps the most heart-breaking sequence of any Chaplin film, the Tramp battles through welfare officers and across rooftop to his sobbing child. The embrace between the triumphant Tramp and rescued son is an image of enormous compassion and almost overwhelming relief and joy. It is one of cinema’s great moving images from one of the great comedians.

The Kid is a perfect Chaplin film. A film of love between father and son. A timeless theme and movie.

Classic Moment… 

The Tramp wonders around town with his kit to repair windows whilst The Kid quickly demolishes any insight. A policeman is quickly wise to the scam and follows the pair. Chaplin and The Kid attempt to act casual as they walk away, the Tramp kicking his son from his side all the while until they break into a frantic run. Chaplin has created a film to fall in love with, full of  innocent fun, sentimentality and true love.

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