"The Kid" is a powerfully emotional and wonderfully hilarious motion picture and was a tremendous breakthrough in Charlie Chaplin's oeuvre. Chaplin hadn't filled a film so fully with pathos since "The Vagabond" (1916), and then it was in a very limited way, subject to the confines of two-reel length. Additionally, "Sunnyside" (1919) was a failure. The feature length of "The Kid" also allows Chaplin to elaborate and refine the gags, pranks and set pieces, and with the support of Jackie Coogan, it's one of his funniest comedies.
The parent-child relationship has proved potential as sentimental entertainment, and, for me, not many have neared Chaplin in exploiting that formula in "The Kid". The sequence where they take the kid, for a workhouse, away from the tramp is probably the most powerful and endearing tearjerker moment in the film--or of all film. In addition to Chaplin and Coogan, Edna Purviance is also quite effective in the dramatic side of the picture. Furthermore, Chaplin and cinematographer Roland Totheroh's photography had by then improved vastly over their work at Mutual, and Chaplin was already an eccentric perfectionist, but the musical score added to the 1971 release, composed by Chaplin, taken from Tchaikovsky, gives the sentimental parts its most verve.
Of the slapstick, one of my favorite scenes involves the tramp in fear of a bully. It's reminiscent of his Mutual short "Easy Street" (1917), which is made especially clear when the bully bends a lamppost with one punch. There are many other great moments of humorous pantomime and farce in this film. Yet, "The Kid" is much more than that, which makes it such a breakthrough; the slapstick fills the plot, and there is more of a developed plot here than in Chaplin's previous work. This was the beginning of the tramp as the sympathetic, pitiful hero, as well as clown, that's so recognizable and beloved to this day.
Moreover, the dream sequence is an ingenious plot device; it adds dimensionally to the narrative and asserts its themes while delaying the inevitable conclusion of the outer narrative to poignant effect. It's also funny in a silly way. It's somewhat analogous to the outer reality story, although with much ambiguity. I wasn't always sure Chaplin was making any clear point, such as with the Christ image earlier in the film, but that seems unimportant; "The Kid" affects the emotions and isn't especially aimed at engaging the mind. At six reels, with more sets and a developed plot, this film was already an expansion compared to Chaplin's previous films; the dream sequence satisfyingly expands the narrative depth, thus making "The Kid" Chaplin's first complete feature.
Comedy / Drama
Comedy / Drama
The opening title reads: "A comedy with a smile--and perhaps a tear". As she leaves the charity hospital and passes a church wedding, Edna deposits her new baby with a pleading note in a limousine and goes off to commit suicide. The limo is stolen by thieves who dump the baby by a garbage can. Charlie the Tramp finds the baby and makes a home for him. Five years later Edna has become an opera star but does charity work for slum youngsters in hope of finding her boy. A doctor called by Edna discovers the note with the truth about the Kid and reports it to the authorities who come to take him away from Charlie. Before he arrives at the Orphan Asylum Charlie steals him back and takes him to a flophouse. The proprietor reads of a reward for the Kid and takes him to Edna. Charlie is later awakened by a kind policeman who reunites him with the Kid at Edna's mansion.
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October 12, 2011 at 10:46 am