This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001




A Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) and an abandoned child (Jackie Coogan) form a family in THE KID

THE KID (Charlie Chaplin, 1921)
Film Forum
209 West Houston St.
Sunday, May 5, $7, 11:00 am
Series continues through August 11

Charlie Chaplin’s first feature, The Kid, was a breakthrough for the British-born silent-film star, a touching and tender sixty-eight-minute triumph about a poor soul getting a second chance at life. When a baby arrives at his doorstep, a Tramp (Chaplin) first tries to ditch the boy, but he ends up taking him to his ramshackle apartment and raising him as if he were his own flesh and blood. Although he has so little, the Tramp makes sure the child, eventually played by Jackie Coogan, has food to eat, clothes to wear, and books to read. Meanwhile, the mother (Edna Purviance, Chaplin’s former lover), who has become a big star, regrets her earlier decision and wonders where her son is, setting up a heartbreaking finale. In addition to playing the starring role, Chaplin wrote, produced, directed, and edited the film and composed the score for his company, First National, wonderfully blending slapstick comedy, including a hysterical street fight with an angry neighbor, with touching melodrama as he examines poverty in post-WWI America, especially as seen through the eyes of the orphan boy, played beautifully by Coogan, who went on to marry Betty Grable, among others, and star as Uncle Fester in The Addams Family. Chaplin’s innate ability to tell a moving story primarily through images reveals his understanding of cinema’s possibilities, and The Kid holds up as one of his best, alongside such other silent classics as 1925’s The Gold Rush and 1931’s City Lights. The Kid is screening on May 5 at 11:00 am as part of the Film Forum Jr. series for kids and families and will be preceded by a Little Rascals short and a Chaplin Dress-Alike Contest; the series continues May 12 with Alfred Hitchcock’s 1956 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much and May 19 with François Truffaut’s Small Change.

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