Dorothy Gale is swept away from a farm in Kansas to a magical land of Oz in a tornado and embarks on a quest with her new friends to see the Wizard who can help her return home in Kansas and help her friends as well.
The opening title reads: "A comedy with a smile--and perhaps a tear". As she leaves the charity hospital and passes a church wedding, Edna deposits her new baby with a pleading note in a limousine and goes off to commit suicide. The limo is stolen by thieves who dump the baby by a garbage can. Charlie the Tramp finds the baby and makes a home for him. Five years later Edna has become an opera star but does charity work for slum youngsters in hope of finding her boy. A doctor called by Edna discovers the note with the truth about the Kid and reports it to the authorities who come to take him away from Charlie. 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 to Edna. Charlie is later awakened by a kind policeman who reunites him with the Kid at Edna's mansion. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
What makes a feature film different to a short? It isn't just length. After all, some of Charlie Chaplin's later shorts were as long as forty-five minutes, while The Kid is barely an hour. No, when Chaplin made his graduation to full-length features, he also strove to broaden the scope, scale and above all the dignity of his work. The Kid is not just the addition of another fifteen minutes of funny business; it is truly a turning point in Chaplin's career.
The Kid begins with a bit of backstory, as a few of Chaplin's shorts do, but never before has he conceived one as professional looking as this. Here we have the opening of a drama, and yet one written and staged with such simplicity that it does not overbalance the rest of the picture, and does not leave us waiting too long to get onto the comedy. Two shots and a title card tell us that the woman in this story is the mother of an illegitimate child. A couple more shots tell us that the father is now out of her life, and revealing him to be an aspiring artist gives us an idea of why she may have been attracted to him, and why perhaps their relationship was passionate yet brief. Of course, such seriousness was the sort of thing to be lampooned in a Chaplin short, but here that wouldn't be appropriate. Instead we are eased gradually into the comedy world, but having the pair of hoodlums who steal the car slightly buffoonish characters they are by no means laugh-out-loud funny, but they certainly don't belong in a straight dramatic setting. And throughout while the drama remains very genuine Chaplin takes care never to allow any environment to become too serious, for example having Henry Bergman turn up as a flamboyant impresario in the dressing room scene.
And never before has the effort gone into directing actors been so evident in a Chaplin picture. The performances in The Kid are full of subtle gesture and timing in ensemble pieces. Edna Purviance demonstrates a good sense of dramatic realism, with a little too much melodramatic exaggeration, but still very natural by the standards of the time. And of course, little Jackie Coogan is astoundingly impressive, his movements, expressions and timings all spot-on, so much so that it almost looks impossible for a child to be acting with such apparent awareness, and he appears more like a human cartoon character. Coogan steals the picture with ease, and for once the normally egotistical Chaplin steps graciously aside.
This too is an important difference with The Kid. Chaplin had always resisted anything verging on a double act, famously severing his partnership with the funny-in-his-own-right Ben Turpin back in 1915. Now however he allows his rapport with Coogan to become the main basis for gags. Notice how there are very few protracted comedy sequences in The Kid that feature Chaplin on his own. The few examples, such as the routine with the policeman's wife and the window ledge, are often hilarious and Chaplin could easily have filled the picture with such material. However, he does the bulk of the comedy in duet with Coogan, in material which is perhaps not quite as funny but also has that endearing touch to it, and Chaplin willingly sacrifices his own time in the limelight to bring this out.
Today The Kid can be looked upon as the ancestor of the successful feature-length spin-off. If you look at something like the 80-minute Christmas special of The Office, it similarly broadened out the scope of the TV series by adding some serious dramatic and emotional elements, and has become recognised as a masterpiece better than the series. By comparison The Simpsons will always be best remembered as a TV show because The Simpsons Movie just felt like an extra long episode. Chaplin's full length features however were far more than just spin-offs, and have always been revered and regarded as the most important body of his work.
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