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HISTORY

The film begins with the following title card: "A picture with a smile--and perhaps, a tear."
       The Kid marked the first credited onscreen appearance of actor Jack Coogan, popularly known as “Jackie,” who previously appeared in a small, uncredited role in Charlie Chaplin’s 1919 short, A Day’s Pleasure. According to several contemporary sources, Chaplin was so impressed by the five-year-old’s talent for mimicry that he decided to develop his first feature-length picture, The Kid, as a vehicle for Coogan.
       The Dec 1919 Var indicated that production had already been completed, after roughly two years of work, and the Jul--Dec 1920 issue of Photoplay quoted Chaplin as saying he spent $300,000 on the picture, although other listings estimated a budget closer to $1 million.
       In his 2006 book, Silent Traces, film historian John Bengtson tracked down the Southern California locations that Chaplin used and matched them with contemporary and modern photographs. The Charity Hospital in the opening scene was the former Occidental College Hall of Arts and Letters, at the corner of N. Avenue 50 and N. Figueroa Street in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles. The scene in which "Edna" watches a wedding couple leave a church was shot outside the Chaplin Studio on La Brea Boulevard. She leaves her infant in a car sitting in front of 55 Fremont Place, at the corner of W. Eighth Street in the Wilshire District of Los Angeles. After thieves steal the baby, much of the film was shot in the areas around Los Angeles's old Chinatown, which was torn down for the construction of Union Station in ... More Less

The film begins with the following title card: "A picture with a smile--and perhaps, a tear."
       The Kid marked the first credited onscreen appearance of actor Jack Coogan, popularly known as “Jackie,” who previously appeared in a small, uncredited role in Charlie Chaplin’s 1919 short, A Day’s Pleasure. According to several contemporary sources, Chaplin was so impressed by the five-year-old’s talent for mimicry that he decided to develop his first feature-length picture, The Kid, as a vehicle for Coogan.
       The Dec 1919 Var indicated that production had already been completed, after roughly two years of work, and the Jul--Dec 1920 issue of Photoplay quoted Chaplin as saying he spent $300,000 on the picture, although other listings estimated a budget closer to $1 million.
       In his 2006 book, Silent Traces, film historian John Bengtson tracked down the Southern California locations that Chaplin used and matched them with contemporary and modern photographs. The Charity Hospital in the opening scene was the former Occidental College Hall of Arts and Letters, at the corner of N. Avenue 50 and N. Figueroa Street in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles. The scene in which "Edna" watches a wedding couple leave a church was shot outside the Chaplin Studio on La Brea Boulevard. She leaves her infant in a car sitting in front of 55 Fremont Place, at the corner of W. Eighth Street in the Wilshire District of Los Angeles. After thieves steal the baby, much of the film was shot in the areas around Los Angeles's old Chinatown, which was torn down for the construction of Union Station in the 1930s. The "Tramp's" rooftop chase scene was shot on nearby Ducommun Street. Edna's contemplation of suicide was filmed on Pasadena's Colorado Street Bridge. And the Tramp's reunion with the Kid takes place on Olvera Street, just off the Plaza de Los Angeles.
       Although a founding member of the newly formed United Artists Corporation, Chaplin still had an outstanding contract with Associated First National Pictures, which required him to submit several more two-reel shorts. As a result, the Apr 1920 Var reported that Chaplin had entered into negotiations with First National to be released from these terms in exchange for distribution rights to The Kid. However, the 18 Aug 1920 Wid’s Daily and Aug--Oct 1920 Motion Picture News indicated that the deal became entangled with Chaplin’s divorce from his first wife, actress Mildred Harris Chaplin, who attempted to prohibit the sale. To evade process servers, Chaplin sought refuge at the Hotel Utah in Salt Lake City, where he continued post-production under the protection of Utah state law. According to the 26 Feb 1921 Motion Picture News, First National eventually recognized the film’s critical and commercial value and agreed to pay an unprecedented price for the property, which the Feb--Jun 1921 issue of Photoplay reported to be $800,000.
       The 12 Feb 1921 Moving Picture World stated that The Kid also marked the first time Chaplin arranged the score for one of his films, despite being an accomplished musician.
       According to the 15 Jan 1921 Wid’s Daily, the National Board of Review hosted a benefit showing at Carnegie Hall in New York City on 21 Jan 1921, while the 26 Feb 1921 Moving Picture World reported that the film was screened for exhibitors on 1 Feb 1921 at the Kinema Theatre in Los Angeles, CA. A 29 Jan 1921 Motion Picture News item reported that the first public screening took place 23 Jan 1921 at the Randolph Theatre in Chicago, IL. The Kid opened in several cities throughout early Feb 1921, and the 11 Feb 1921 Wid’s Daily stated that New York City and Brooklyn release dates were set to follow a few weeks later, on 28 Feb and 7 Mar 1921.
       In addition to breaking box-office records, critics lauded the picture for balancing Chaplin’s signature style of physical comedy with drama and pathos, which the 27 Mar 1920 Motion Picture News noted had only been only “hinted at” in the filmmaker’s previous shorts. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Exhibitors Herald
6 Nov 1920
p. 40.
Motion Picture News
Aug--Oct 1920
p. 1668.
Motion Picture News
29 Jan 1921
p. 990.
Motion Picture News
29 Jan 1921
p. 1077.
Motion Picture News
26 Feb 1921.
---
Moving Picture World
12 Feb 1921
p. 812.
Moving Picture World
26 Feb 1921
p. 1071.
New York Times
22 Jan 1921
p. 9.
Photoplay
Feb--Jun 1921
p. 72.
Picture-Play Magazine
Sep 1920--Feb 1921
p. 28.
Variety
Dec 1919
p. 3.
Variety
Apr 1920
p. 46.
Variety
21 Jan 1921
p. 40.
Wid's Daily
18 Aug 1920
p. 1.
Wid's Daily
15 Jan 1921
p. 4.
Wid's Daily
11 Feb 1921
p. 1.
DETAILS
Release Date:
6 February 1921
Premiere Information:
New York City benefit screening: 21 Jan 1921; Chicago screening: 23 Jan 1921; New York City opening: 28 Feb 1921
Copyright Claimant:
Charles Chaplin
Copyright Date:
17 January 1921
Copyright Number:
LP16019
Physical Properties:
Silent
Black and White
Length(in feet):
5,300
Length(in reels):
6
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Desperate and alone, a suicidal young woman named Edna decides to abandon her newborn son, leaving him in the back seat of a limousine parked outside an affluent household with a note imploring the reader to love and care for the child. Moments later, two petty criminals steal the car and discard the baby in an alley. A tenement tramp finds the infant and, unsure what to do, names the boy John and raises him as his own. Plagued by guilt, Edna returns to the house, where she learns of the theft and collapses with grief. Five years later, the kid works as the tramp's business partner, throwing rocks through neighborhood windows that the tramp then offers to repair. During this time, Edna has achieved fame as a singer, but struggles to fill the void in her heart left by her child. While performing charity work in a poor neighborhood, she finds the kid lying ill in the street. Unaware he is her long-lost son, she calls upon a country doctor to nurse him back to health. Concerned about the boy's condition, the doctor uncovers the truth about his unknown parentage and orders him to be sent to the county orphan asylum. Distraught, the tramp retrieves the kid from authorities before they reach the orphanage and sneaks him into a cheap lodging house. Meanwhile, the doctor shows Edna the note left by the baby's mother, which she recognizes to be written in her own hand. Realizing that the sick boy is her son, she posts a notice in the newspaper. That night, the lodging house proprietor abducts the child and returns him to the police station in hope of ... +


Desperate and alone, a suicidal young woman named Edna decides to abandon her newborn son, leaving him in the back seat of a limousine parked outside an affluent household with a note imploring the reader to love and care for the child. Moments later, two petty criminals steal the car and discard the baby in an alley. A tenement tramp finds the infant and, unsure what to do, names the boy John and raises him as his own. Plagued by guilt, Edna returns to the house, where she learns of the theft and collapses with grief. Five years later, the kid works as the tramp's business partner, throwing rocks through neighborhood windows that the tramp then offers to repair. During this time, Edna has achieved fame as a singer, but struggles to fill the void in her heart left by her child. While performing charity work in a poor neighborhood, she finds the kid lying ill in the street. Unaware he is her long-lost son, she calls upon a country doctor to nurse him back to health. Concerned about the boy's condition, the doctor uncovers the truth about his unknown parentage and orders him to be sent to the county orphan asylum. Distraught, the tramp retrieves the kid from authorities before they reach the orphanage and sneaks him into a cheap lodging house. Meanwhile, the doctor shows Edna the note left by the baby's mother, which she recognizes to be written in her own hand. Realizing that the sick boy is her son, she posts a notice in the newspaper. That night, the lodging house proprietor abducts the child and returns him to the police station in hope of collecting a reward. Disconsolate over the loss of the kid, the tramp returns home, where he is found by a policeman who reunites him with Edna and the boy. He and the kid embrace, and Edna invites him inside their home. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.