A tramp cares for a boy after he’s abandoned as a newborn by his mother. Later the mother has a change of heart and aches to be reunited with her son.
- A Tramp: Charlie Chaplin
- The Kid: Jackie Coogan
- The Woman: Edna Purviance
- The Man: Carl Miller
- Man in Shelter (uncredited): Albert Austin
- Bully (uncredited): Charles Reisner
- Flirtatious Angel (uncredited): Lita Grey
- Bride (uncredited): Beulah Bains
- Slum Nurse (uncredited): Nellie Bly Baker
- Professor Guido / Night Shelter Keeper (uncredited): Henry Bergman
- Orphan Asylum Driver (uncredited): Edward Biby
- Assistant (uncredited): F. Blinn
- Bride’s Mother (uncredited): Kitty Bradbury
- Welfare Officer (uncredited): Frank Campeau
- Extra in Wedding Scene (uncredited): Bliss Chevalier
- Extra in Reception Scene (uncredited): Frances Cochran
- Extra in Alley Scene (uncredited): Elsie Codd
- Pickpocket / Guest / Devil (uncredited): Jack Coogan Sr.
- Extra in Wedding Scene (uncredited): Estelle Cook
- Extra in Wedding Scene (uncredited): Lillian Crane
- Bum (uncredited): Dan Dillon
- Extra in Wedding Scene (uncredited): Philip D’Oench
- Bridegroom (uncredited): Robert Dunbar
- Extra in Heaven Scene (uncredited): Sadie Gordon
- Physician (uncredited): Jules Hanft
- Maid (uncredited): Kathleen Kay
- His Kid Brother (uncredited): Raymond Lee
- Extra in Reception Scene (uncredited): Clyde McAtee
- Chief of Police (uncredited): John McKinnon
- Extra in Heaven Scene (uncredited): Lew Parker
- Extra in Heaven Scene (uncredited): Esther Ralston
- The Man’s Friend (uncredited): Granville Redmond
- Priest (uncredited): Edgar Sherrod
- Cop (uncredited): S.D. Wilcox
- Policeman (uncredited): Tom Wilson
- Art Direction: Charles D. Hall
- Writer: Charlie Chaplin
- Director of Photography: Roland Totheroh
- Unit Publicist: Elsie Codd
- Assistant Director: A. Edward Sutherland
- Assistant Director: Charles Reisner
- Camera Operator: Jack Wilson
- Driver: Toraichi Kono
- Andres Gomez: Cute and funny. It is difficult to say anything new from this movie or Charles Chaplin. He just delivers a complete story with a lot of different elements. Remarkable is also the performance of Jackie Coogan.
- barrymost: If you enjoy this review, please check out my blog, Old Hat Cinema, at https://oldhatcinema.medium.com/ for more reviews and other cool content.
Two Little Tramps
The most amazing thing about Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid is that it was released in January of 1921. That makes this film 100 years old! A century has gone by since it was made, released, and first viewed, and yet it’s still available to be appreciated anew today. The DVD print that I watched was in very good shape, the picture was great, and I felt that I was watching an important piece of cinema history.
However, The Kid is by no means one of my favorite Chaplin films. In fact, two out of my top three aren’t even silent films, but prime examples of Chaplin’s later work: Monsieur Verdoux (1947) and Limelight (1952). And my third favorite, the 1936 masterpiece Modern Times, is only two-thirds silent!
The plot of the film is quite simple: our beloved Little Tramp finds another little tramp, and and raises the foundling as his own. Years pass, and together, they rise above their life of poverty through the power of love and comedy.
“Professionally funny” is a phrase that I thought a fitting description of Chaplin. He was an artistic genius, and he knew what he was doing and how to engage an audience. In fact, this was his first feature-length film, and he took a whopping five-and-a-half months to shoot it, which was an incredible amount of time for a film production in 1921. Chaplin, of course, not only starred, but wrote, directed, produced, and scored the film!
Jackie Coogan was fantastic as “the Kid”, displaying a wide range of emotion and deftly tugging at the viewer’s heartstrings. His father, Jack Coogan, Sr., coached his son during filming and was paid $125 a week by Chaplin, and also played several small parts within the movie.
Chaplin and Coogan in The Kid (1921)
It is said that Chaplin and Coogan were as close off-screen as on, and every Sunday during the first few weeks of filming, Chaplin would take the boy to the amusement park or other fun activities. This relationship was seen as either an attempt on Chaplin’s part to reclaim his own unhappy childhood, or possibly he was just thinking about his own son whom he had lost, having died three days after birth.
The Kid features a truly bizarre dream sequence in which the Tramp falls asleep on his doorstep and dreams of everyone — including himself — as an angel or demon.
He envisions himself as an angel, with white, feathery wings spread out behind him, and a harp in his hand. Others, including a neighborhood bully, appear as demons, depicted traditionally in dark (presumably red) attire and horns atop their heads. Even a little dog, suspended on wires, comes floating by in a little angel costume!
It’s one of the strangest and most inexplicable dream sequences I’ve seen in a film, and yet it is oddly captivating.
The technical aspects in this film — both in the dream sequence and in the rest of the movie — are marvelous when one considers that it was made a hundred years ago, when the movie medium itself was less than thirty years old.
Whether or not it is one of Chaplin’s greatest works is up to the individual viewer, but you cannot deny that it is a landmark movie, and holds an important place in the history of American cinema. It deserves a look, maybe even more than one. As the opening title card reads, it’s “a picture with a smile — and perhaps, a tear.”