Sunday, August 12, 2012

Silent Sundays: The Kid (1921)

"A comedy with a smile--and perhaps a tear"

            The Kid is undoubtedly one of Charlie Chaplin’s cinematic masterpieces. This was his first full length film after making several shorts and what a great way to start off. Chaplin was able to brilliantly mix slapstick comedy with heartbreaking drama that filmmakers since then have most likely been completely jealous over because no one has been able to do so well.
            A woman (Edna Purviance) whose “only sin was motherhood” has left a charity house with her baby. She has nowhere to go and no means to take care of her infant. She walks around a wealthy neighborhood and puts her baby into a car parked outside a mansion to give him a better life than what she can provide. After she puts her baby in the car she goes for a walk. She contemplates ending her life until a baby walks away from its nanny over to her and wraps itself around her legs. The Woman realizes she cannot live without her baby but unfortunately when she goes back to the mansion the car with the baby inside has been stolen.
            The car thieves drive the car to a rough part of town. They hear the baby crying in the back, take him out of the car, and lay him down on the ground by a garbage can. The baby is not alone long as a Tramp (Chaplin) walks by and picks it up. At first he thinks the baby belongs to a woman pushing her own baby in a carriage. The woman freaks out smacking the Tramp saying the baby is not hers. He goes to put the baby back where he found it but a police officer comes along and thinks better. Then he passes a man, he asks the man to hold the baby and he runs away. The man puts the baby in the carriage and when the Tramp walks past the woman yells at him and hits him. The Tramp finally gives in and takes the baby home.
            Five years later the Tramp and the Kid (Jackie Coogan) are still together. They make a living by a running a little scheme where the Kid breaks the window and the Tramp comes along and repairs it. A cop just happens to walk past the kid getting ready to throw a rock but the Kid is too fast for the cop to catch up. One of the windows they break belongs to the cop and when the cop comes home he sees the Tramp flirting with his wife. The Woman has become a very successful opera singer with lots of money. She goes to the part of town where the Tramp and the Kid live to hand out charity in the possible hope she runs into her son. One day she is handing things out in front of the Tramp’s doorstep where the Kid happens to be sitting. The Man who is the Kid’s father has become a successful painter and he and the Woman see each other at a party. He is sorry what he has caused her to go through but she is still sad about losing her son all those years ago.
            One day the Kid gets his toys stolen by a bigger kid in the neighborhood. The Kid and the brat who stole his toys get into a fist fight. The Tramp does not mind his son getting into a fight the Kid had to defend himself but the brat’s freakishly huge older brother comes along and challenges the Tramp to a fight. This being a Charlie Chaplin films the fight is hysterical with the Tramp out maneuvering a hulk of a guy. The Woman comes along at the point and breaks up this fight. She walks away but comes back a few moments later with the Kid in her arms saying that he is very sick and that she will send for the doctor. The doctor comes by and asks the Tramp if he is the boy’s father. The Tramp replies honestly that he is practically the boy’s father and shows him the note he found on the Kid when he was a baby. The doctor thunders away saying he will get the boy proper treatment.
            A few days later the doctor is back with two men from an orphanage who have come to take the Kid away. Three men have to hold the Tramp back but he finally gets away from their clutches and runs the rooftops looking for the truck carrying his boy away. He finds it and jumps into the truck and fights off the cop. In the mean time the doctor has shown the Woman the note that was on the Kid and realizes he is her son.
            That night they go to a place to sleep. The proprietor sees a wanted ad in the paper for the boy with a reward. As the Tramp and the Kid are sleeping the proprietor runs off with the Kid to the police station. The Woman shows up at the station and is very happy to see her boy she had abandoned long ago.
            The Tramp goes back to his home alone and sad. He has a dream where he and the people around him are angels and temptation and jealousy touch them. He is shot by the cop and falls at his doorstep. All the sudden he is being shaken violently by a chauffeur who takes him to the Woman’s house and he is reunited with the Kid and she invites him in.  
            I absolutely loved this story. The way the tragedy and the comedy were woven together no one else has been able to do so wonderfully since then. The dramatic parts I liked were when the Woman was on the bridge and the baby comes over to and wraps itself around her. She picks the baby up and realizes she has to go back her own and when the Woman and the Man reunite after five years. The Man had been a poor painter when they were together. When he was poor he had looked at her photograph on the ledge of his fireplace. The photograph had fallen into the fire and he let it burn. When they reunite he tells him how sorry he was for what he caused her but nothing can take the hurt away of having lost her son. Both of those scenes were just heartbreaking and so perfectly acted and filmed. My favorite comedic part was when the Tramp is in bed and the Kid is making pancakes. I cannot explain why that was my favorite comedic part I guess it just cracked me up that this little kid is making a grown up breakfast while the grown up is in bed.
            The Kid is one of the best silent films or any kind of film I have seen. Charlie Chaplin just knew how to make film. He knew how to create stories that were funny but made you really feel for the characters. I cannot wait to buy The Kid on DVD so I can show my brother and some of my friends.