Next up, we have the classic 1921 Charlie Chaplin comedy The Kid!
After leaving a charity hospital, the Woman (Edna Purviance) tries to leave her baby in the car of someone well-to-do, in the hope that they can take better care of her baby than she could. She soon reconsiders that decision, but she is too late, as the car was stolen right after she put the baby in. The baby is abandoned in an alley by the car thieves, where he is found by the tramp (Charlie Chaplin). At first, he is reluctant to take care of the baby, but, upon reading the note the mother had left with him, decides to take the baby in. Five years later, the Kid (Jackie Coogan) and the tramp are still together. For work, the Kid goes around breaking windows, which the tramp repairs. Meanwhile, the Woman has become a big star, and very charitable, going around giving gifts to kids and helping other mothers, including in the neighborhood that the tramp and the Kid live in. When the Kid falls ill, the tramp calls for a doctor. When the doctor comes, the tramp is forced to tell him about the Kid and shows him the original note from the mother. The doctor then decides to tell the proper authorities and have the Kid sent to an orphanage. When the authorities come for the Kid, the tramp fights back, and they go on the run, and the Woman finds out too late from the doctor when he shows her the note that the Kid is her son. The question remains: will the Woman and the Kid be reunited?
After several years of doing shorts, which were gradually getting longer, Charlie Chaplin went with a full length feature. The movie apparently came about partly as a result of him losing his own newborn, combined with seeing a vaudeville performance with Jack Coogan and his son, Jackie. Jackie’s performance had impressed Chaplin so much, that he wrote The Kid as a vehicle to feature young Jackie’s talent. Jack Coogan helped coach his son’s performance for the movie (and was paid well for doing it), and Chaplin apparently got along pretty well with Jackie just as much offscreen as on.
Now, I know George Lucas tends to receive a lot of flack for his alterations to the original Star Wars trilogy, but he was hardly the first person to mess around with his movies. Particularly once he finally made the switch to sound, Charlie Chaplin made some alterations to a number of his films, making some cuts, adding stuff (usually just the score for some of his silents). Originally, The Kid ran one hour, eight minutes in length. In 1972, Chaplin released a newly edited version that shortened the movie to fifty-three minutes. The new, edited version reduced the part of The Man, as played by Carl Miller, to a quick appearance near the beginning of the movie to show him essentially rejecting The Woman, instead of allowing him a chance to reconcile with her, as in the original version. The Woman’s part is also reduced, although not by as much. The change allows for more emphasis on the relationship between Chaplin’s tramp and the Kid, and almost makes it seem like the tramp and the Woman become the Kid’s family, instead of allowing for the Man to be involved.
This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection. Their version is the shortened fifty-three minute 1972 re-release, which is Chaplin’s official version of the movie. I have seen both versions (although it’s been long enough I couldn’t tell you exactly what was cut), but whichever version, the movie still works great to me! An intertitle that starts the movie by saying that it is “A picture with a smile — and perhaps, a tear.” I can say that it does live up to that promise, as there are certainly laughs to be found here, and Chaplin and Jackie Coogan’s performances will definitely make you cry, when they are being pulled part! Certainly a great movie, and one I would easily recommend trying, whichever version you can see!
My Rating: 9/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Charlie Chaplin – The Gold Rush (1925)
2 thoughts on “Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2020) on… The Kid (1921)”
Oh yes, that scene where Coogan is taken away from Chaplin is sad and unforgettable.
This is a wonderful film. I know Chaplin wasn’t the first to blend humour and pathos, but he was certainly one of the best, in my opinion.
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Can’t disagree with you there! That blend certainly makes his movies a lot better!
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