Charlie Chaplin’s THE KID (1921) has a unique place among his feature films, and among all silent era comedy films. While not the first-ever feature-length slapstick comedy, it’s the one that opened the door and paved the way for the other silent clowns to move out of short subjects. Chaplin’s interweaving and balancing elements of drama and slapstick was pioneering, at a time when the baggy-pants-and-mustache comic was only considered as short-subject appetizer material for the feature-length main course of a cinema’s marquee. Chaplin found a way to ground the slapstick comedian’s screen character in an emotional way, so that he or she could sustain a one hour narrative while still engaging in the physical comedy they were born to do. Whether THE KID is your favorite Chaplin feature or not, it’s still a ground-breaking moment in comedy cinema, and it’s still hilarious.
The edition live-streamed on this program is the original edit of the film from January 1921. For this program, an out-of-print DVD of the film was sourced, and new intertitles were created based on footage from an incomplete print from the original release that is included as an extra on the Crtierion Collection’s recent restoration of the film. The Criterion Blu-ray and DVD release reflects the edition of the film as re-edited, scored and re-released by Charlie Chaplin in 1971.
Any difference in running time between these two editions is due to the revisions made by Chaplin, and because the 1971 edition runs at 24 frames per second, the standard projection speed for sound film. This was done because the film is seen on the Criterion edition with the musical score Chaplin composed for the 1971 re-issue. The older DVD presented the film, according to David Shepard (who produced that version) at 20 fps. This is more in line with how the film would have been seen by audiences during its original release. At that time, also, it was up to local musicians and conductors to compile and/or create their own score, or to work with a cue sheet of mood music that had been sent out, but which Chaplin did not have input on.
Links to items mentioned during the livestream:
- The Cinema Arts Centre’s show page for the live-stream is here
- Please consider supporting this live-stream program by making a donation to the Cinema Arts Centre or by becoming a member.
- The Criterion Collection restoration Blu-ray/DVD of Chaplin’s The Kid is available on Amazon and many other retailers.
- The disc extra that I did for Criterion about filming and projeciton speeds in silent films and especially comedies is called A Study in Undercranking. It’s on the disc and anywhere Criterion’s releases are streamed.
- David Robinson’s biography of Charlie Chaplin is Chaplin: His Life and Art and is available on Amazon and other fine bookstores.
- The main page for my weekly live-streamed comedy shorts show, The Silent Comedy Watch Party is here or on my YouTube channel here.
- Steve Massa’s essay for Criterion about the ensemble players in Charlie Chaplin’s films is on their blog here.