The opening title of Chaplin's first film says that it's, "A picture with a smile and perhaps a tear." "The Kid" proves itself of this statement. It will move people to uproarious laughter and keep them in a state of unstoppable delight, it also will touch their hearts and win sympathy. 'The Kid' was Chaplin's first full-length feature, which was instantly hailed as a masterpiece. This movie established Chaplin as a major player in the movie business.
The story is very simple. Chaplin, as usual, plays the tramp. But in this one, his co-star of five years old, Coogan upstages Chaplin in every scene. 'The Kid' is about the tramp's relationship to Jackie, a five-year old kid who has been abandoned by his unwed mother. Jackie was found and raised by the Tramp as his own surrogate son. The Tramp teaches the kid to help them make a living as con artists, the child throwing rocks through people's windows and the tramp coming along to repair them.
In the mean time, the mother rises to prominence as a stage entertainer, all the while regretting her giving up her child and looking constantly for him. The blissful father and son relationship is endangered when a nosy doctor gets the people from the orphanage to attempt to take away the kid, by force. But they have to fight the Tramp for that first.
Chaplin transferred his own comedic skills, and many of his tramp's traits, to little Jackie Coogan. Coogan's magnificent performance, responsible for much of the success and popularity of the film, was the first by another performer that Chaplin totally controlled and dominated, in effect creating an alternative Chaplin in a different physical guise. Apart from the fictional material in the film, one can also strongly sense the influence of Chaplin's own personal experiences - his own life as an abandoned child of the London slums. the death of his first own child, born prematurely, and the collapse of his own first marriage, at least partially resulting from the child's death.
Critics often praise the film for its effortless combination of comedy and pathos, which is not as easy as it looks. Even today, film-makers are trying to come up with that winning combination and failing more often than not. The Kid's memorable spotlights include breaking and selling of the window panes, Chaplin's fight with the neighborhood bully, and the truly bizarre dream sequence with the fairy. The most celebrated clip is the one in which the kid cries and calls to Charlie from the back of the orphanage truck, and it's a truly sensational, heartbreaking moment.
While Chaplin and Coogan form the center core of 'The Kid,' Edna Purviance effectively plays the woman whose 'only sin was motherhood.' Even though her part is relatively small and melodramatic, she remains memorable as the goodhearted forced to give up her child that later redeems herself, providing the kind of ending that Chaplin would have wished for himself.
"The Kid," with its old-fashioned yet adorable combination of pathos and humor, is a film for all ages. The movie presents the quintessential Chaplin spirit, and it probably does more in its sixty-odd minutes to convince us of the man's genius than anything he ever did. "The Kid" is a true breakthrough from the comic genius.
The Kid - IMDb