Earlier this year, I noted that it was 100 years since Charlie Chaplin started his acting career. At that point, he was almost 25 years old, which also makes this the 125th year since his birth. His birthday is on Wednesday, April 16, and should properly be celebrated with a classic Chaplin film. Why not one of his best, such as The Kid.
Up to the point of making The Kid, Chaplin’s films had all been short slapsticks. Usually only a single reel, and never more than about 40 minutes in length. His output had initially been enormous (about 20 films as a director in 1914; almost double that as an actor), but the number of new annual releases had decreased as quality had increased. But even though his films became better and better, they were still fairly simple in terms of plot. Chaplin did deal with social themes in many early films but, comparatively speaking, there was not much depth in them.
But Chaplin was not satisfied with making pure slapstick any more. The Kid took over a year to produce (partly because it was delayed by Chaplin’s divorce from his first wife), and became his first full-length feature. It was a great success, and still remains one of Chaplin’s most loved films. I personally hold it as my favourite Chaplin.
The story is not very complex on the surface. Chaplin, as his tradmark tramp character, finds an abandoned baby. Though he is reluctant to take on the role as father, circumstances force him to keep the child and bring it up as his own. From this basic story, Chaplin weaves his magic. There are many little subplots and a good deal of Chaplin’s well-paced slapstick humour. There is also an abundance of warmth and compassion, yet it never becomes pathetic.
In this post I mainly link to the original and complete version of the film. At the Internet Archive there is also an edited version with high resolution and a good soundtrack, though cut down by about a quarter of an hour. Unfortunately, I suspect that this other version is under copyright.
This film is best enjoyed for the excellent interaction between Chaplin and Jackie Coogan as the kid. Through the film, Coogan became the first celebrated child actor, and it is easy to see why.
Running time: 1 h 8 min
Director: Charlie Chaplin
Stars: Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Coogan
Image quality: Acceptable
Resolution: Medium (480×360)
Soundtrack: Poor; random classical music
Sound Quality: Excellent
Best file format: MPEG4 (889 M)