THE KID (1921)
Article 4732 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Charles Chaplin
Featuring Charles Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Jackie Coogan
What it is: Heartwarming comedy
A single mother abandons her child in a limousine in a moment of desperation, but the limo is stolen by thieves and the baby is left out in the street. A wandering tramp discovers the child, and eventually decides to raise it as his own. However, later in life, the woman becomes a successful actress, and she begins to long for the child she abandoned…
No, this movie is in essence not a genre movie, but the Walt Lee guide includes the film for a single sequence; late in the movie, the tramp falls asleep in a doorway and dreams that he is in heaven, which is a wonderful place until some devils show up to make mischief. Though it’s a fun sequence, it feels a bit out of place with the rest of the movie, and its purpose is to serve as a transition scene that eventually leads to the final ending. Still, I’m really glad for the opportunity to cover one of Chaplin’s major early works, where he turned away from pure slapstick and started adding an emotional resonance to his work that made it a deeper cinematic experience. Yes, Chaplin does have some great comic moments in this one (I love how he can sometimes with a single look or action reveal what is going through his mind), but the core of the movie is his relationship with the child, who was played by a 7-year old Jackie Coogan, who gives an excellent performance as well. We end up caring for all of the major characters, and this includes the mother, who almost immediately regrets her abandonment of the child and returns to the place she left him, only to find the child gone. This is a wonderful movie, and it’s a good example of the maturity of Chaplin’s craft; it’s one of the reasons he became one of the most respected comedians of this era.