The Kid (1921)

The Kid (1921) movie poster

director Charles Chaplin
viewed: 01/14/2011

Charlie Chaplin’s first feature-length film, The Kid, highlights as much of Chaplin’s pathos as much as his humor.  Who knows, maybe even more?

My kids, when queried what they were up for on movie night, said “a classic.”  I’d long been holding back on this, figuring it would do well with them.  It did.

What struck me most were the images of poverty portrayed in the film.  This isn’t the Great Depression, but the stark images of the poor are very  much of their time yet strikingly timeless as well.  Poignant for today’s world perhaps more than one might initially realize.  Most striking for me were images shot on location on downtown Los Angeles’ Olvera Street (I’m a sucker for location shoots, capturing landscapes in place and time as they do.)  More than however dressed up the sets were or the cast was is how the images of need are as commonplace as they are, as simply readable.  From Chaplin’s Tramp’s clothes to the begging, scamming, and other hardscrabble means that people are portrayed as living by.

“The Kid” is Jackie Coogan (who would go on to becoming one of film’s first child stars and eventually become a well-known character actor as well, including notably Uncle Fester from TV’s The Addams Family.)  Coogan’s story is interesting in itself, how his parents spent all his money and left him broke, something that eventually led to laws changing the way that child actors’ money is managed.  But Coogan is as cute as they come and a wily, lively, miniature of Chaplin with his knack for physical humor.

Oddly, and it could just have been the time I was watching it, but I think it’s my favorite of Chaplin’s features that I’ve seen while tracking such things in this film diary.  Not to say that it’s necessarily “the best” of those films, just my favorite.