Friday, January 15, 2016

The Kid (1921)

A woman has a baby out of wedlock. The father does not take responsibility, so she leaves the child in a car she thinks is owned by a rich family. Unfortunately, the car was used by thieves, who ditch the baby in an alley. A tramp (Charles Chaplin) finds the baby and raises him as his own.

This is an excellent early example of Chaplin's mastery of visual storytelling, but also an amazing example how a six year old can carry a film. Child Star (and troubled middle-ager) Jackie Coogan steals the show, not just with his cuteness but his stage presence as well. This is no precocious child mugging for the camera. He really seems as if he understood acting.

Coogan would marry Betty Grable (first in a string), have his career falter, do a lot of television, and end up being uncle Fester on The Addams Family. He would die at the ripe old age of Bowie-Rickman years old. He also starred in the wonderfully terrible Mesa of Lost Women. I'll have to remember it next time I'm in the move for schlock.

Baby-Momma was played by Edna Purviance, a frequent co-star and sometimes lover of Chaplin. They may have been happy together had Charlie not kept getting teenage girls pregnant. This time with other co-star Lita Grey, credited as "Flirtatious Angel". Lita would be his second pregnant teen wife. Side note: Chaplin's forth and final wife would be born four years after this films release.

Chaplin had already built a reputation as a quality filmmaker, but The Kid may be his first masterpiece. Short for a feature film, it showed what he could do with time and resources. It, like The General, is a good starter film for people reluctant to try silent movies. It is an impressive and enjoyable film. AMRU 4.

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