The Kid (1921)

 

Director: Charlie Chaplin

Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Carl Miller, Edna Purviance and Jackie Coogan

Written, produced, directed by and starring Charlie Chaplin, The Kid is a true classic and one of Chaplin’s greatest and most enchanting works. It follows the story of an abandoned orphan, who is reluctantly adopted by Chaplin’s vagabond, known merely as The Tramp. Their relationship, however, blossoms and grows as the kid does – bringing us one of the most captivating screen relationships of cinematic history due in large part to the warm chemistry between Chaplin and his endearing  young lead, Jackie Coogan.

The legend emblazoned across the screen at the beginning – “a picture with a smile – and perhaps, a tear” – perfectly encapsulates the emotion of the film. It is a superbly crafted comedy that continues to inspire filmmakers today. However, the real genius of Chaplin is how he seamlessly blends various charming elements into his film instead of hitting on one thing that works and stretching it out for the entire duration of the film. The beginning of the film is frustratingly funny, as everything that can go wrong does go wrong, with the Tramp fruitlessly trying to get rid of the misbegotten baby he has stumbled upon. Later, as the Tramp brings us into his home, a delightful gift for invention is unveiled: he uses a kettle as a bottle for the baby and a torn blanket turns into a makeshift cloak. It is subtle touches such as these that reveal Chaplin’s creativity and his mastery of physical comedy, blending all these aspects to become part of the characters.

Chaplin knew that audiences (then as well as today) need to stay riveted to a story, as well as be captivated by what is going on. He accomplished this through his characters – with whom you inevitably fall in love – and also through his masterful action scenes, which are thrilling while also faithfully adhering to the heart of the story. There are moments in the film, particularly at the start, that are surprisingly dark and at times even cynical, but as The Tramp and the kid’s relationship continues to grow it is a story that is equally heart-breaking and heart-warming.

Short yet sweet, it’s not hard to understand why a classic like this – brimming with emotion and completely devoid of pretension – endures and why a film such as last year’s The Artist was so well received.

 

[box] Written By: Claudia Hauter[/box]

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