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The Kid (1921) starring Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Coogan, Edna Purviance

The Kid, produced & directed by Charlie Chaplin. Starring Charlie Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Jackie Coogan

Synopsis of Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid:

Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan in an iconic photo from The Kid

The Kid was Charlie Chaplin’s first full-length movie. It, more than anything else to that date, made Chaplin a living legend. It took over a year to produce, and was an incredible success for Chaplin. The opening title reads: “A comedy with a smile — €and perhaps a tear.”  As a woman (Edna Purviance) leaves a charity hospital with a newborn.  She passes a church wedding, leaving her baby with a pleading note in a limousine. Then she goes off to commit suicide. She turns from suicide at the last moment to return to her child, only to find him missing. The limo had been stolen by thieves who dumped the baby by a garbage can.  Charlie the Tramp finds the baby. After failing to pass the child on to someone more suitable, raises the child himself.

Five years later

Jackie Coogan as The Kid

Five years later Edna has become an opera star. But she does charity work for slum youngsters in hope of finding her lost boy. Charlie and The Kid make an interesting pair. The Kid breaks windows with a rock, which Charlie then comes by to repair. This routine was taken from the life of Charlie Chaplin’s old boss, Fred Karno. Who actually did this as a boy. A doctor called by Edna discovers the note with the truth about The Kid and reports it to the authorities. They come to take him away from Charlie. In one of the most touching moments of the film, the Kid has to be pulled out of Charlie’s arms by the authorities.

Charlie Chaplin hugging The Kid

This incident came directly from Charlie Chaplin’s own childhood. He was torn from his mother’s arms as he entered a workhouse. Before he arrives at the Orphan Asylum Charlie steals him back and takes him to a flophouse. The proprietor reads of a reward for the Kid and takes him from a sleeping Charlie to Edna. Charlie is later awakened from a dream by a kind policeman who reunites him with the Kid at Edna’s mansion.

I rate it 4 clowns on a 5-clown scale.

Notes on Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid:

  • Police officer, Charlie, and the Kid peeking around the cornerThe production company tried to cheat Charlie Chaplin by paying him for this six-reel film what they would ordinarily pay him for two-reel film. About half a million dollars. Chaplin took the unassembled film out of state until they agreed to the one-and-a-half million he demanded. Plus half the surplus profits on rentals, plus reversion of the film to him after five years on the rental market.
  • Jackie Coogan, young star of the movie, went on to become the first great childhood star. Whose guardians spent his entire fortune before he could reach the age of 18. This led to the ‘Coogan Law’ protecting minor children’s assets
  • Jackie Coogan, child star, later grew up to be one of the well-beloved stars of a classic TV series. Uncle Fester on ‘The Addams Family

Originally published at Famous Clowns, used with permission

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