Tuesday 14 June 2011

The Kid [1921]

The Kid was Charlie Chaplin’s first direction of a feature-length film. Film lovers might argue as to which among Gold Rush, City Lights, Modern Times, etc. was the greatest work of the inimitable genius, but this bittersweet comedy sure remains among his most popular films; in fact, one might even make a case for it by stating that this was the movie that made “The Tramp” a part of pop-culture lexicon. A poor woman abandons her newborn son, born out of wedlock, and as luck would have it, he ends up in the arms of the Tramp, an unemployed, smartly-dressed vagabond with a large heart. Five years later, the two have become inseparable companions – he takes care of the kid like a loving foster father, while the kid in turn helps him earn a few bucks (courtesy some ingenious, if crooked, ideation). The film is filled with dollops of sentimentalism. But, instead of that acting as a hindrance to the movie, it actually works for it by being a potent balancing force for Chaplin’s signature slapstick sequences. The movie boasts of a much talked about dream sequence which, though, I felt, seemed a tad incoherent vis-à-vis the rest of the film. Special mention must be made of the performance of “The Kid” – it is impossible to fathom how Chaplin, despite the genius that he was, managed to elicit such an incredible performance from the 7-year old Jackie Coogan. Though largely bereft of the kind of searing socio-political observations present in his later films, The Kid does remain an indelible part of Chaplin’s vaunted oeuvre.

Director: Charlie Chaplin
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Slapstick
Language: Silent
Country: US


Alex said...

Lovely post. I really have to see this one, I've always heard such great things about it!

Jon said...

Shubhajit, this is a short and sweet film from Chaplin, presaging his better films to come. I have a hard time deciding for myself which film of his is the greatest. I would have to throw The Great Dictator in the mix as well, though it's not silent.

Shubhajit said...


Thanks buddy. I'd be interested to read your take on it once you've watched it.

Shubhajit said...


Yes indeed. Monsieur Verdoux too ought to be part of it, as also Limelight, though I haven't seen the latter yet. My favourite Chaplin films, as of now, remains Gold Rush, followed by Modern Times & City Lights (in that order).

Alex DeLarge said...

Thanks for posting another great review of Chaplin:) I love THE KID and am especially awed by the rooftop chase scene. A just adore the little little tramp mimicking our hero.

The young girl in the dream sequence would become Mrs. Chaplin in a few years.

I have LIMELIGHT on blu-ray and it's waiting on my shelf so I hope to watch it soon. MONSIEUR VERDOUX is near the top of my Netflix queue so that's coming also. For me though, CITY LIGHTS is my fave and in my Top 10 of all time.

Shubhajit said...


Thanks a lot. Yes, the rooftop chase sequence was nothing short of spectacular. And as for the girl in the dream sequence, I didn't know she would later become Mrs. Chaplin!

Well, I guess you'll be in the majority with City Lights as most tend to agree that it was his best film. But I steadfastly stand by Gold Rush. Interestingly, Gold Rush would be in my Top 10 of all time. :)

Chris said...

Some of the plot elements, the angels with wings, were confusing for me with so little dialogue. (I didn't read anything beforehand, and see you call them dream sequences)

The scenes with the policeman, Chaplin, and the kid I thought were very funny, non-verbal slapstick humour done well.

Shubhajit said...

Yeah, the non-verbal humour was spot on. That was the beauty (and universality) of silent cinema, and the genius of Charlie Chaplin. Thanks for stopping by.

Unknown said...

This is another Chaplin masterpiece that really surprised me with its emotion on my first viewing. Good review.

Shubhajit said...

Quite a delectable film indeed - certainly one of Chaplin's most enduring movies, if not one of his best. Thanks.