Charlie Chaplin is known to almost anyone who has ever had a history with pop culture. Even if you haven’t actually sat down and watched one of his features, you have seen his gags and iconic clothing get copied, borrowed, and stolen time and again throughout cinema history. It is strange to think that he almost wasn’t going to venture into features at all. His employers saw his shorts that he had been acting in for seven years as a very lucrative and easy venture. If he had listened to these money men and just did shorts, he probably would have disappeared just like Fatty Arbuckle did. But he stuck to his guns, made the feature, and held it for ransom until he got the money he deserved. He was a strong-willed person who became an unprecedented success with his feature career. And it all started with The Kid.
The Kid features Chaplin as his lovable Tramp character. He finds a baby near a garbage can in the street. Although he tries to give it away, he ends up taking in the baby and raising it as his own. The baby grows up to become the Kid, played by Jackie Coogan. (He will become Uncle Fester in the sixties Addams Family show). The Tramp and the Kid go on misadventures together that causes the Kid to get sick. The doctor shows up in their small one room apartment and sees that the Tramp is not fit to be a parent. He calls the authorities who take the Kid away to the workhouse. Although the Tramp tries his hardest to rescue the Kid from the paddy wagon he is put in, he does not succeed. Meanwhile the destitute woman who gave the Kid up becomes rich and famous. She goes to the slums to do charity work and discovers that the Kid who she had given toys to days before was in fact hers. She rescues both the Kid and the Tramp from destitution and they live happily ever after.
This film is Charlie Chaplin’s most beloved movie for a reason. The kinetic physical comedy scenes, the effortless charisma of the Tramp and the Kid as they play off each other and simple, stripped down storyline all lend themselves to a tight and lovable film. Easily the best scene in the movie the mad dash that the Tramp does to beat the paddy wagon to the workhouse. He is spurred on for his love for the child and the policeman chasing after him. He evades the policeman by climbing up on a roof, jumping on the paddy wagon and throwing off the man who took the Kid. The sorrow on the Kid’s face when he is put on the wagon is contrasted by the earnest jubilation at seeing the Tramp again. Jackie Coogan is easily the best child actor I have seen in a while. He has the same range of emotion that an adult does except he is able to let them out more freely. He is really super cute in his oversized trousers and hat.
This film is the perfect entry point for people who are scared of silent movies. There is little to read, much action to watch and a beautiful story to see unfold. Just a hint though, avoid the YouTube version of this movie, the score is atrocious and doesn’t match the action.