Lila Miller, A&E Editor
“A picture with a smile—and perhaps, a tear,” reads the opening image of the film “The Kid.” Charlie Chaplin made his first cinematic debut as director, producer and starring role in “The Kid.” The film was released in 1921 as a silent film with cuts and was in a traditional black and white composition with subtitled imagery and classical scores for background music.
The film screening of “The Kid” brought new appreciation to the film as students and members of the public gathered at the historic Lucas Theatre in downtown Savannah Friday, Feb. 22.
The film opens with The Woman, played by Edna Purviance, carrying a baby and exiting a charity hospital. The scene is then juxtaposed with a cut to an image of “Jesus” carrying the Christian cross. The scene fades to black and then centers onto The Man, played by Carl Miller, burning a photograph of The Woman.
The film blacks out once again, revealing just the word “Alone.” The woman sits on a park bench, looks towards the heavens and prays.
Subsequently, she leaves the newborn baby in the backseat of a well-to-do family’s car.
Automobile thieves thwart her plans to give the baby a good life and upon their discovery, they leave the baby in a non-descript alley.
The screen then reads, “His morning promenade,” signifying the arrival of The Tramp, starring Charlie Chaplin. The Tramp walks along the alley and looks befuddled as he hears a baby crying. He spies a woman with a baby carriage and says,
“Pardon me, you dropped something.” The woman then beats him with an umbrella for what she mistakenly assumes is The Tramp pawning the baby to off to her. After several unsuccessful attempts to leave the baby off elsewhere, The Tramp takes the infant into his own care. It is then when a letter is revealed in the folds of the baby’s blanket, “Please love and care for this orphan child.” With the note, The Tramp is convinced to foster the child.
The film then cuts to the sorrowful mother as she is shown regretting her hasty decision and shows her running back to where she left baby. As she realizes what has happened, she faints in the doorway of the wealthy family’s home that she had meant the child to live with.
“The Kid” then jumps five years in time later. The Tramp has created a makeshift home for The Kid whom he has named “John” and himself.
The middle of the film follows the daily routine of The Tramp and The Kid. They make a modest living by working as a pair by conning local shopkeepers and citizens by breaking windows and then repairing them.
Meanwhile, The Woman, after becoming a wildly successful actress, also becomes a benefactor to the public as a way of making amends of the abandonment of her baby. The screen flashes,
“Charity-to-some a duty, to others a joy.”
As she hugs orphaned children, she sits on the steps right at the front door of the rooming house of John and The Tramp. She and John exchange smiles, woefully ignorant of the nature of their true relationship and she gifts him a stuffed animal.
The Man, John’s biological father, is now a painter of “great prominence” and by chance or “Fate” as the screen displays; The Woman and The Man meet again.
The ending contains a plot twist but remains a happy one. In Chaplin’s later films, he does not offer happy endings, but rather opts for more somber tones as he shifts from comedy-drama to mostly drama.
“The Kid” is a must-watch for film buffs and Chaplin lovers alike. For those unable to make the local showing, “The Kid” is also available to stream for free on Amazon Prime or can be found elsewhere online.
“The Kid” is just one film in a series provided by the Lucas Theatre. For more information contact lucastheatre.com or call their box office at (912) 525-5050.