"A picture with a smile - and perhaps, a tear."
After watching The Thief of Bagdad, it put me in the mood to watch some more silent movies. I haven’t seen The Kid in years and I’d actually been obsessing about watching it for about a month now. My sister is a big Charlie Chaplin fan and several years ago we went through a Chaplin phase that included this delightful movie. And what made this viewing even better was watching it with Venessa (who actually remembered the Tramp character from a couple years ago when we watched The Gold Rush! Her exact words were, “Hey, I remember that funny guy.” And on a side note: I've been known to call Venessa, Kid. The nickname came about because of this movie.)
The Kid is the story of a single mother who leaves her baby in a car parked outside a home of a wealthy family. Unfortunately, the car is stolen and the baby is abandoned by the car thieves in an alley where the Tramp finds him. In a series of silly encounters with passersby, where the Tramp tries to leave the baby with someone else, he ends up taking responsibility for the baby to raise as his own.
I think the quote above should be something more like this: “A picture with a smile – and FOR REALS, LOTS OF TEARS!” I was actually smiling AND tearing up as I wrote this.
If you’ve never seen a Charlie Chaplin film, please find a way to do so. And if The Kid is your first, even better! Chaplin is wonderful as the Tramp. There is a reason the character is iconic. His physical comedy, facial expressions and timing is perfect. He makes it look so easy.
The Kid, played by Jackie Coogan, is probably one of the best child actors then and now. This little boy expresses so much, whether it’s mischief, joy, sadness, you feel it all. And he does it all without dialog! It’s all in the eyes and body language. One of my favorite scenes is when the Kid is caught, just as he's about to throw a rock at a window, by a police officer. He tosses the rock away quickly, starts kicking the dirt around, leans against a wall, trying to act like he's not up to something. Then he points at something to distract the officer, then runs away. It's one of the funniest and well performed moments in the movie and Jackie Coogan just shines on his own.
The connection between the Kid and the Tramp is so real; there is nothing artificial in this father/son dynamic. Keep tissues at hand! The scene when the Kid is taken away and he’s crying out for the Tramp is heartbreaking! You don't need to be a parent to understand. When you see the bond that has formed between these two, you'll see why the Tramp runs across the rooftops to get this little boy back.
Sometimes it’s just nice to step away from the big budget movies and crude slapstick comedies. Don’t get me wrong, I love it all but it’s nice to get back in touch with where it all began, with simple storytelling done right, that can still leave an impression on you. This movie really does. You won’t forget it after you’ve seen it. It packs in a lot in such a short amount of time with the comedy and the drama. It really is something special and shouldn’t be missed.