100 years of The Kid – The first feature film by the British genius forever changed cinema by using humor as a tool for social criticism. A review of the keys to the film, the importance of ‘the vagabond’ and the sad life of its other protagonists.
“Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.” – Charles Chaplin
100 years of The Kid
A century ago, The Kid (1921), the first feature film by Charles Chaplin, the silent film genius who, after the arrival of sound, never wanted his great character, the vagabond or Charlot, to speak because “he would break magic forever”.
Chaplin participated in an endless number of films, but The Kid along with The Gold Rush (1925), City Lights (1931), Modern Times (1936) and The Great Dictator (1940) should be mandatory for any lover not only of cinema, of art in general.
Officially Chaplin, he was born in London in 1889, although a letter published in 2011 claims that he was in a gypsy camp in Smethwick, near Birmingham. He had a life worthy of a myth, from poverty to success in the US, from praise to McCarthyite political persecution for being considered a communist and exile in Switzerland. His love life, he was married four times, also plagued the pages of the newspapers for his scandalous marriages with minors and various accusations.
But most of all, Charles Spencer Chaplin was a total movie genius. Not only a brilliant performer, but also a master of the script, the direction and the musical composition, all talents that can be enjoyed in what was The Kid, his first feature film. Since the mid-’10s, he directed most of his films, by ’16 he was in charge of the production, and from ’18 he composed the music.
When The Kid hit theaters, the character of the tramp was already known to the public – his debut was in 1914, in Racing cars for children – and his interpreter was a celebrity. Chaplin can compete with Buster Keaton for the title of King of the slapstick (excuse me, Mack Sennett), physical comedy, although there is a big difference between the two.
Keaton was a film engineer, an architect who put the body in the very difficult risk shots, and who also elaborated a whole tradition with a live set as part of the gag, while Chaplin brought a more psychological side, put the emotions in front . Both carried out what Thomas Hobbes called the “theory of superiority”, which suggests that people enjoy the misfortunes of others as a way of feeling superior: schadenfreude or malicious joy.
Throughout his filmography, the British artist not only displayed an immense capacity for humor, but also a look with strong social and humanist criticism, through an edition full of symbolism, with a layout that sought to make his position clear. The Kid is a great example of that commitment.
The Kid, 1921
- Director: Charles Chaplin
- Writer: Charles Chaplin
- Stars: Charles Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Jackie Coogan
The project had an initial cost of $ 500,000 that could be financed thanks to a loan that Chaplin requested from an Italian bank. The production company tried to trick him by paying him the equivalent of a salary for a two-reel film for this six-reel film, which was around half a million dollars. Chaplin pulled the unassembled film out of state until the company accepted the $ 1.5 million it was supposed to pay him, plus half of the operating profits, and along with the reversion of the film’s rights to him, after five years on the market.