It’s national classic movie day so I thought I’d continue telling you about my adventures at the TCM Film Fest by talking about Charlie Chaplin’s 1921 film The Kid. The Kid is a great example for why the TCM Film Festival is so important. It was on my list of must see films as soon as it was announced. Still, as excited as I was, I felt hesitant. Silent films require a concentration different from sound films. Everything is visual. If you look down or nod off, you miss something.
I’m happy to say that concentration was not at all a problem during The Kid. Rounding out at only 68 minutes, The Kid follows “the woman” played by Edna Purviance who leaves her baby in the backseat of a car, only to regret it a few minutes later. Eventually, the kid falls into Chaplin’s hands and he decides to raise the child as his own. At five, the kid is played by Jackie Coogan who is probably cuter than any kid in any film ever made. I know. That’s a big statement, but he really is THAT CUTE. He helps Chaplin steal and they get into fun antics together.
Funnily enough, the parallel I saw was to another film, made twelve years later called The Torch Singer. That film starred Claudette Colbert and was about a woman (Colbert) who had a child out of wedlock and gave up the child, only to become a famous singer/entertainer years later. The same happens in The Kid. The woman becomes a successful actress and wants to find her child.
Before the film, the presenters pointed out something I had already heard, but forgotten. Jackie Coogan is the reason for the Coogan act. He made boatloads of money as a child actor (literal millions), but his mother and step-father spent it all. He sued them once he was of age, but only got pennies compared to what he earned. But, because of him, there are now laws in place so that child performers receive their money.
I’ve seen a number of Chaplin films but know I still haven’t touched the bulk of his work. However, The Kid is really the best example of why Chaplin’s films were so popular. The energy is frenetic, the comedy gags are on point, and the emotion is palpable (I was crying!). I had so much fun watching it that I honestly forgot it was a silent film. I think if more people saw it they would understand that not all silent films are scary (boring).
Chaplin understood something other auteurs now could take a page from. For instance, 68 minutes is more than enough time for a feature film. Why are all films 2+ hours now? And it’s wasted time, most of the time. Also, Chaplin understood that the visuals are paramount. Obviously, Chaplin started in silent films so all he had was visuals in the beginning, but something’s gotten lost today. There are far too many films in which the visuals serve little to no purpose – which, in film, is kinda a waste! Okay, RANT OVER. 😬
Sitting with a full audience around me laughing and reacting was an amazing experience. It was hard to believe this film was made 95 years ago. It kind of gives you a warm and happy feeling though. Good films are timeless. 😍
Oh, and uh, you can watch the whole film on Youtube. So, what are you waiting for??