The Kid (1921) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Kid (1921)

The Kid (1921)




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Movie Info

The Kid was Charles Chaplin's first self-produced and directed feature film; 1914's 6-reel Tillie's Punctured Romance was a Mack Sennett production in which Chaplin merely co-starred. The story "with a smile and perhaps a tear," begins with unwed mother Edna Purviance leaving the Charity Hospital, babe in arms. Her burden is illustrated with a title card showing Christ bearing the cross. The father of the child is a poor artist who cares little for of his former lover, carelessly knocking her photo into his garret fireplace and cooly returning it there when he sees it is too badly damaged to keep. The mother sorrowfully leaves her baby in the back seat of a millionaire's limousine, with a note imploring whoever finds it to care for and love the child. But thieves steal the limo, and, upon discovering the baby, ditch the tot in an alleyway trash can. Enter Chaplin, out for his morning stroll, carefully selecting a choice cigarette butt from his well used tin. He stumbles upon the squalling infant and, after trying to palm it off on a lady with another baby in a carriage, decides to adopt the kid himself. Meanwhile Purviance has relented, but when she returns to the mansion and is told that the car has been stolen, she collapses in despair. Chaplin outfits his flat for the baby as best he can, using an old coffee pot with a nipple on the spout as a baby bottle and a cane chair with the seat cut out as a potty seat. Chaplin's attic apartment is a representation of the garret he had shared with his mother and brother in London, just as the slum neighborhood is a recreation of the ones he knew as a boy. Five years later, Chaplin has become a glazier, while his adopted son (the remarkable Jackie Coogan) drums up business for his old man by cheerfully breaking windows in the neighborhood. Purviance meanwhile has become a world famous opera singer, still haunted by the memory of her child, who does charity work in the very slums in which he now lives. Ironically, she gives a toy dog to little Coogan. Chaplin and Coogan's close calls with the law and fights with street toughs are easily overcome, but when Coogan falls ill, the attending doctor learns of the illegal adoption and summons the Orphan Asylum social workers who try to separate Chaplin from his foster son. In one of the most moving scenes in all of Chaplin's films, Chaplin and Coogan try to fight the officials, but Chaplin is subdued by the cop they have summoned. Coogan is roughly thrown into the back of the Asylum van, pleading to the welfare official and to God not to be separated from his father. Chaplin, freeing himself from the cop, pursues the orphanage van over the rooftops and, descending into the back of the truck, dispatches the official and tearfully reunites with his "son". Returning to check on the sick boy, Purviance encounters the doctor and is shown the note which she had attached to her baby five years earlier. Chaplin and Coogan, not daring to return home, settle in a flophouse for the night. The proprietor sees a newspaper ad offering a reward for Coogan's return and kidnaps the sleeping boy. After hunting fruitlessly, a grieving Chaplin falls asleep on his tenement doorstep and dreams that he has been reunited with the boy in Heaven (that "flirtatious angel" is Lita Grey, later Chaplin's second wife). Woken from his dream by the cop, he is taken via limousine to Purviance's mansion where he is welcomed by Coogan and Purviance, presumably to stay. Chaplin had difficulties getting The Kid produced. His inspiration, it is suggested was the death of his own first son, Norman Spencer Chaplin a few days after birth in 1919. His determination to make a serio-comic feature was challenged by First National who preferred two reel films, which were more quickly produced and released. Chaplin wisely gained his distributors' approval by inviting them to the studio, where he trotted out the delightful Coogan to entertain them. Chaplin's divorce case from his first wife Mildred Harris also played a part; fearing seizure of the negatives Chaplin and crew escaped to Salt Lake City and later to New York to complete the editing of the film. Chaplin's excellent and moving score for The Kid was composed in 1971 for a theatrical re-release, but used themes that Chaplin had composed in 1921. Chaplin re-edited the film somewhat for the re-release, cutting scenes that he felt were overly sentimental, such as Purviance's observing of a May-December wedding and her portrayal as a saint, outlined by a church's stained glass window.

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Jackie Coogan
as The Child
Edna Purviance
as The Woman
Carl Miller
as The Man
Tom Wilson
as The Policeman
Henry Berman
as Lodging House Proprietor
Charles Reisner
as The Bully
Jack Coogan Sr.
as Pickpocket
Nellie Bly Baker
as Slum Woman
Henry Bergman
as Flophouse Proprietor
Lita Grey Chaplin
as The Flirting Angel
Raymond Lee
as His Kid Brother
Robert Dunbar
as Bridegroom
Kitty Bradbury
as Bride's Mother
Rupert Franklin
as Bride's Father
Walter Lynch
as Tough cop
Jules Hanft
as Physician
Frank Campeau
as Welfare Officer
John McKinnon
as Chief of Police
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Critic Reviews for The Kid

All Critics (24) | Top Critics (1)

While it will move people to uproarious laughter and keep them in a state of uneasing delight, it also will touch their hearts and win sympathy, not only for the star, but for his leading woman, and little Jackie Coogan.

July 22, 2008 | Full Review…

The movie opens with the words "a picture with a smile -- and perhaps, a tear," a mission statement that would serve Chaplin well over the ensuing decades.

February 27, 2016 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

a fantastic and brave work, forging new ground in its mixing of comedy and pathos and fully earning its opening title card, which promises "a picture with a smile-and perhaps, a tear."

February 8, 2016 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

[VIDEO ESSAY] "The Kid" is significant in cinema history because it is one of the first films to combine comedy and drama as a succinct filmic form. It is a nurturing comic movie that never gets old, regardless of how many times you watch it.

October 14, 2014 | Rating: A+ | Full Review…

Timeless silent film blends humor with hardship.

August 5, 2014 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

Critics at the time praised the film for its effortless combination of comedy and pathos, which is not as easy as it looks.

July 7, 2010 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Kid

Not since my favorite Chaplin masterpiece, "City Lights," have I seen comedy and heart blended so well. This film sees the incorrigible Tramp raising a five year old Jackie Coogan, getting into scraps with much bigger blokes, and stealing to get by. The child in question had been lost, years before, and his mother is trying to find him. The Tramp is just trying to do right, and feels that the child is his own. It's sweet the entire way through, showing the bonds of adoptive parenting, and the uncompromising love of a parent for a child. The comedy is as screwball as it gets, with Chaplin acting at his best. Most of the comedy is slapstick and screwball, with the Tramp often coming close to getting beaten up or caught by police. It's an absolute delight, a great film for families, and a tearjerker at times.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

Although I find unnecessary the dream sequence near the end, this is a great 6-reeler that finds the perfect balance between funny and touching - and the highlight is sweet little co-star Jackie Coogan, who steals every scene he is in.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. The chemistry between Chaplin and Jackie Coogan (The Kid) is so beautifully believable. The choreography of the scenes is sublime. When the cop caught the kid (in collusion with glazier Chaplin) breaking windows and they were runnning away and Chaplin kept giving the kid the side-kick I almost split. When the kid was beating up the bigger kid,it was to die for. Magical feel--the heaven scene was wickedly good.

Bathsheba Monk
Bathsheba Monk

Super Reviewer

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