Filmsite Movie Review
The Kid (1921)
Pages: (1) (2)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

The Breakfast Scene:

During breakfast-time, the Kid demonstrated that he was capable of making pancakes for the two of them. Standing on a stool at the stove, he scooped out batter onto the skillet, taste-tested one of the cooked pancakes like a gourmet chef, and brought a stack of the pancakes to the table. The Kid ordered the Tramp to quit being lazy and get up (the Tramp was reclined on his bed, reading and smoking). To emphatically emphasize his demands, he took the Tramp's reading material away, and brought a chair to the table.

As the Tramp stretched one of his legs, one foot surprisingly emerged from a hole in the blanket. He pulled the bed blanket toward him, and stuck his head through the hole to make an instant covering. As he rose up from his prostrate position, the ragged blanket naturally draped over his shoulders and suddenly became an improvised lounging robe or poncho. He scooted to the edge of the bed, stood up, inserted his feet into his floppy, untied open shoes, and proceeded to the table.

At the table, the Tramp divided the pancakes onto two identically-sized plates (after scrupulously counting out the number of pancakes to keep them even, and splitting one in half). They paused to dutifully say grace before their meal, before plunging in. The Tramp realized he had to instruct the Kid to practice proper table manners and to correct him for only consuming the sweet pancake syrup. The Kid was also dipping his knife into the syrup and using it as a spoon. The Tramp corrected him - showing him that he must turn the knife so that he wouldn't cut his mouth with its sharp edge. Meanwhile, the Tramp was also acting like a child - wrapping an enormous block of butter inside his top pancake. After a quick dissolve to black, the two sat before empty plates, satiated by the large meal - the vulgar Tramp was belching.

A Confrontation with The Bully:

Out in the street, a tough Kid Brother (Raymond Lee) grabbed and ran off with the Kid's favorite dog toy, and the two of them got into a fight in the middle of the complex. The two combatants attracted a crowd of onlookers (young and old). The Tramp arrived to intervene in the conflict, but let them fight it out when the Kid appeared to be winning with well-placed hits and kicks. The Tramp provided some coaching tips after the first 'round,' to advise the Kid how to outsmart the brutish boy by ducking punches and hitting and running.

However, the tough's muscle-bound, fearsome, roughneck big Irish brother, a real big Bully (Charles Reisner), showed up. He strutted into the scene and struck one of the onlookers to get him out of his way. During a short conference between the Bully and the Tramp, the two coaches for the respective boys, the Bully urged his younger brother: "Go lick 'im." As the second 'round' of the fight was about to commence, the intimidating Bully warned the Tramp: "If your kid beats my brother, then I'm going to beat you." The Tramp began to sweat when the Kid gave the Bully's brother a real beating - he intervened, stopped the one-sided fight and fearfully declared the Bully's brother the winner (by holding up his arm). While congratulating the Bully for the win, the Kid snuck in another punch at his opponent.

In the funny, slapstick sequence, the strong Bully (with a well-padded chest) began rolling up his sleeves to fulfill his threat - to vengefully start a fight with The Tramp. As he backed away, the Tramp vainly protested against any more conflict. To initiate the fight, the Bully knocked out an approaching policeman, and then targeted the Tramp who was cleverly able to fool and evade the Bully by ducking, dancing, and dodging away from him. A few of the Bully's missed punches struck a "BEDS - 10 CENTS" sign, part of a brick wall archway, and a lamp-post. When the Tramp hid for refuge in a building, the Bully grabbed him and pulled him through one of the open windows, and hoisted him up by the hair in order to strike him.

Just then, the Woman came upon the scene and tried to reason and plead with the two to end their fighting. She took the Bully by the hand and urged him to show more Christian-like compassion. She spoke to the Tramp, asking: "And you wouldn't strike this man, would you?" She urged them both to surrender their fight and shake hands. During her successful intervention, she quoted a Bible verse to the Bully: "Remember - if he smites you on one cheek, offer him the other." Then, to illustrate his acceptance of her pacifist message, the Bully gestured to the Tramp to strike him on the cheek. The Tramp took advantage of the situation with a well-aimed punch at the Bully's jaw, followed by repeatedly smacking the Bully over the head with a brick, and more kicks, before the Tramp made "a successful retreat" back to his home. After being struck in the head numerous times, the Bully began to show signs of disorientation, and when he knocked on the Tramp's door and there was no answer, he staggered away as he thought to himself: "Oh, well, I guess he's not in."

The Physician's Visit:

After the fight, the Woman brought the Kid in her arms to the Tramp's front door, and informed him that she was worried that the collapsed young boy was seriously ill with a fever - she was not aware that the boy was her own son. She urged the Tramp to call a Physician: "This child is ill. Get a doctor at once!" She handed over the ailing Kid, and promised: "I must go now, but I'll return."

When the pompous, overzealous, hard-of-hearing "country doctor" (Jules Hanft) arrived, he mistakenly thought that the Tramp was the patient and stuck a thermometer into his mouth. At the Kid's bedside, he examined the boy - he took the Kid's pulse and listened with a stethoscope (and gave instructions to "Say, 'ah'") -- the Tramp responded instead of the boy. After collapsing when sitting down onto the chair with the cut-out circle in the seat, the Physician inquired whether the Tramp was the Kid's father ("Are you the father of this child?"). When the Tramp answered, "Well - practically," the Physician demanded: "Explain yourself." The Tramp responded by showing him the Woman's note and the circumstances of the orphan's rescue. Duty-bound to report what he thought was child abuse, he advised: "This child needs proper care and attention" after seeing the shabby, dirty and ramshackle conditions under which the Kid was living. He took the note with him as he left and promised: "I'll attend to the matter." Worried about his threatened future with the Kid, the sad Tramp sat next to the boy resting on the bed and felt for his pulse from his tiny wrist.

After a short period of convalescence from September 1 to September 4, the Kid had recovered and was sitting up in bed reading a copy of The Police Gazette. In the kitchen, the Tramp was heating up and preparing a mustard plaster.

The Official Intervention of the Social Welfare System - The Abduction and Rescue of the Kid:

The subsequent sequence was introduced with an inter-title: "The proper care and attention." During the Physician's visit, he had learned that the Kid was not the Tramp's biological son. Off-screen, he reported the suspected child abuse case to the Country Orphan Asylum. They were commissioned to protectively take the Kid away from his de facto foster parent and 'father' - the Tramp.

A open-backed truck from the COUNTY ORPHAN ASYLUM pulled up in front of the Tramp's front door, steered by the asylum's driver (Edward Biby). The cigar-smoking welfare officer (Frank Campeau) and the driver entered the small garret residence of the Tramp to seize the Kid. The two men barged in, and the driver ran interference for the officer, interceding between him and the Tramp. The driver wanted to interrogate the Tramp: "Ask him where the kid is," even though the boy was visibly propped up on the bed behind them and convalescing. He also wanted to inquire: "Ask him if he's got any belongings." The Tramp responded to the driver to alert the officer: "Tell him it's none of his business." During their conversation, the officer burned his knuckles on the hot mustard plaster on the table.

As the officer sat at the table and concentrated on paperwork, the driver approached the Kid on the bed, grabbed him, and took him to the door as the boy resisted and cried out to the Tramp to rescue him. The Tramp ran to him, stopped the abduction, and reprimanded the driver. A violent struggle ensued as the Tramp found himself fighting off both of the men, but he was soon overpowered. In a corner of the room, the Kid cried out as he watched the conflict, and then snatched a large mallet and struck both officials on the head. The Tramp also threatened to toss his large ceramic bowl from the stove at the officer (as the Kid hung onto his pant-leg), while the driver ran outside and sought the assistance of a policeman.

Although the Tramp heaved the large bowl at the three men assaulting him inside his slum residence, the Tramp and the Kid were eventually separated by force, and the Kid was thrown into the back of the truck by the driver. In a heart-breaking, poignant and emotional scene between father and 'son,' the young boy tearfully outstretched his arms from the open back of the orphanage truck, reaching out toward the Tramp and crying as he was about to be taken away - it was the most publicized and emotionally-wrenching image of the film.

The Tramp broke away from the policeman and the asylum official, and escaped through a skylight within his room. He emerged onto the slippery shingles on the side of the steep rooftop, and was able to steady himself on the ridge of the roof. Meanwhile, the mean asylum officer ignored the boy's tearful pleas, aggressively pushed him back into the truck's rear carriage, and climbed in with the boy.

The Tramp continued his escape from the cop by scrambling over the rooftops. At one point, when the two came face to face at the top of one of the gables, the Tramp swung at the policeman and sent him tumbling backward. During a frantic race to catch up to the departing truck, the Tramp balanced himself along the many rooftops, while keeping an eye on the truck winding through the street below. He took a short-cut, jumped onto the top of a small shed, and then boldly lunged into the rear of the moving truck. He kicked at the asylum officer and tossed him out of the vehicle's back end, and then hugged his dearly-beloved son. After the truck's driver pulled to a stop and parked, he was startled to see the two tearfully embracing, kissing (mouth-to-mouth), and smiling at each other. The driver was chased away by the Tramp - who pretended to pursue him by momentarily jumping up and starting to run after him a few times. The sequence ended with the two reunited as father-and-son - but now, they were compelled to run away together.

Meanwhile, in front of the Tramp's home, the exasperated Physician told the Woman that the child welfare authorities had failed in their attempt to take the ill child away to the County Asylum. He presented the Woman with the crumpled note that she had written about five years earlier when she gave up her baby - the one that implored someone to love and care for her orphaned child. She realized that the Kid was indeed her own long-lost son, and was overwhelmed with joy, mouthing the words: "My son!"

The Flophouse - and The Woman's Reunion with Her Child:

At "Night," the two outcast fugitives were forced to take cover and refuge by overnighting in a boarding flop-house among other slum indigents. The Tramp entered by himself (the Kid observed through a window) - and paid the 10 cent fee (his last bit of money) to the bearded, flophouse night manager (Henry Bergman). He then tried to hide and sneak the Kid into his bed at the shelter so that they could share his bed for a dime. He opened the nearby window and had the boy jump under the blanket of his bed to hide.

As the Tramp slowly undressed by the side of his bed (with a lump visible under the blanket in front of him), the snake-like hand of a sleeping pickpocket (Jack Coogan Sr.) from the neighboring bed behind him reached out and began to search all of the Tramp's pants and vest pockets. When another dime was found in one of the pockets, the Tramp was gratefully surprised and snatched back the coin. He then grabbed the pickpocket's hand and stuffed it back into more pockets, hoping to fortuitously find more money. He only ended up awakening his bed neighbor and angering him. Then, the Tramp joined the Kid in bed, kissed him, but allowed his young son to kneel by the bedside to dutifully say his nightly prayers.

When the suspicious manager waddled over to the Tramp's bed to investigate, the Kid scrambled to hide under the bed, as the Tramp pretended to soulfully pray heavenward. As the Tramp laid back and the manager briefly stooped down to look under the bed, the Tramp lifted both of his feet under the blanket to create a space for the Kid to appear at the end of the bed and conceal himself under the blanket. The manager's suspicions were heightened by the unusual sight of the Tramp's 'knees' extended high above the bed - while hiding the Kid underneath. He discovered the ruse, and then demanded another dime. The Tramp tried to dissuade him and hugged his child, asking: "You don't charge for a baby in arms?", but was forced to give up his final dime.

While the two slept (and their reflexes twitched and jumped in unison), the opportunistic flophouse manager was reading a Yiddish newspaper, and noticed an advertisement - offering a $1,000 reward for a lost child.

[Note: For a split second, a fly crawled up the page, emphasizing the squalor and filth of the flophouse.]

$1000 REWARD

Boy - Age 5 - Last seen with a
little man with large flat feet
and small moustache.
If he or any other person will
bring the child to Police Head-
quarters, the above reward will
be paid.
No questions asked.
Chief of Police

To help in the recovery and reclamation of her missing child, the Woman had placed an ad in the newspaper offering a $1,000 dollar reward to locate him. From the description in the notice, the flophouse manager recognized that the Tramp and the Kid were the two fugitives. While the two were sleeping, he pondered what to do. He turned off the overhead gaslights, and surreptitiously stole the boy from his bed in the darkness. When the Tramp awakened and saw that the boy was missing, he called out his name but there was no answer. Looking for his son, he tore off all the blankets of the other sleeping men in the room, and then raced outside. The manager arrived at the local police station and forcibly delivered the struggling boy to collect the reward. The Tramp wandered the deserted streets, fruitlessly searching for his son until dawn.

At "Dawn," the Woman was notified by the police about the apprehension of her boy. Wearing a fur coat, she arrived by chauffeured limousine at the police station, where she was thrillingly reunited with her sad-faced, unsmiling, and passive son - a single tear rolled down her left cheek. She took his hand and embraced him.

After becoming thoroughly exhausted and discouraged, the Tramp returned to his now locked-up slum dwelling's doorstep, fell asleep, and began to dream. The dream signified two opposing goals - (1) his wish-fulfillment to end his troubles through fantasy, or (2) his willingness to trade his current reality for the preferable option of death.


In a charming yet slightly-misplaced fantasy known as the "Dreamland" sequence, the saddened, disconsolate vagrant Tramp sat on his own skid-row doorway stoop in front of his locked front door, started to doze, and dreamt of a blissful, happier life in Heaven. He was briefly able to escape from his sordid, Earthly existence for a few moments of love, harmony, wealth and happiness. After a precise dissolve, the slum was transformed or transfigured into a fairyland, utopian Paradise. The Tramp saw his slum street and its dilapidated houses, now immaculately white and decorated with garlands of flowers. In the street bedecked with flowering vines, his nightshirt-wearing neighbors festively danced. The poor were transformed into white, feather-winged angels who joyfully played harps - the heavenly angel inhabitants included both his friends and enemies, such as the Kid, the Bully, and the Policeman. There was even a flying Dog-angel.

The Kid-angel emerged from the front door and awakened the sleeping Tramp by tickling his nose with an angel’s feather. After the inter-title: "Shopping," the Tramp emerged from a shopkeeper's store with his own set of angel-wings (acquired for free), although he was irrirated by the feathers and made efforts to scratch his wings - sending some of the feathers flying. "Off for a spin" -- after joining hands with the Kid, the two flew across the length of the courtyard.

"Sin creeps in" -- at the outer gate, a watchman (St. Peter?) slept and during his nap, he unwittingly allowed three black-clad Devil figures - represented with pitchforks, horns (pointed ears), and forked (or stinger) tails - to sneak in and enter paradise's gate.

[Note: Their satanic intentions were to disrupt the perfect peacefulness of 'Dreamland' - it was Chaplin's comic version of "The Fall" of man, due to humanity's corruptible nature.]

The heaven-dwelling Tramp, who was playing a harp and sitting under a tree, watched as the Bully-angel strolled along with his Girlfriend-angel (Chaplin's future wife, 12 year-old Lita Grey), and kissed her. "The trouble begins" -- one of the Devil characters (Jack Coogan, Sr.) popped up behind the girl, to disrupt the blissful harmony of Dreamland. The Devil's evil and nightmarish objective was to encourage and instigate flirtations, temptations, and jealousies via sexual desire and lust.

The Devil's first act was to cause the Tramp-angel to be tempted. He whispered in the young girl's ear ("Vamp him"), and then disappeared. The Devil also briefly appeared behind The Tramp-angel, who soon was unable to resist her cute dance-twirling, her smile, and her coquettish "innocence." He chased after her when she skipped away and played hide and seek behind a building, and then flashed her ankle at him. He couldn't ignore her flirtations, flew after her ("Getting flighty"), and reached out to tickle her neck with the tip of one of his angel-wings. He moved closer and kissed the young woman, just as "her sweetheart arrives."

The friendly Bully-angel came up to the Tramp-angel and cheerfully grabbed both of his hands. Then he allowed his girlfriend to wink at the Tramp and kiss him, without any recrimination. However, after the Devil whispered the word "Jealousy" in the Bully-angel's ear, he became provoked and immediately, a fight developed between the two. The other angels raced over and gathered around the two brawlers, as feathers flew into the air. The Policeman-angel arrived, broke up the fight, and hauled off the Tramp-angel for an arrest. However, the Tramp-angel resisted and evaded being caught by attempting to fly away, forcing the Policeman-angel to ruthlessly shoot him dead in mid-air. The Tramp-angel crashed to the ground and landed on his front doorstep - he had become a fallen angel with crumpled feather-wings. The Kid-angel rushed to his side to try to revive him, and then disappeared. The Policeman-angel also attempted to pick up the Tramp-angel, and shake him to see if he was still alive. The dream suddenly ended.

The Film's Resolution - Reunited with the Kid:

Still on his doorstep, the Tramp awoke from his troubling dream into the real-world (a rebirth of sorts) as he was being jostled by the forces of the law. The Policeman pulled him to his feet by the collar. The cop gestured to follow him, and the Tramp, now fearing the worst, was led away and hustled through an alleyway toward an awaiting patrol car. After a short drive, the car pulled up in front of a large mansion in a fashionable neighborhood, and the Tramp-bum was escorted to the front door.

On the front doorstep, to his utter surprise and astonishment, the door opened and he was warmly greeted by the wealthy Woman, and by his own elated, adoptive Kid, who joyfully jumped into his arms and grabbed him around the neck. He realized that the Policeman had been dispatched to find him, and to deliver him to her home. The cop smiled and laughed heartily, shook hands with the Tramp, patted him on the back, and left.

In the unrealistic and abrupt happy ending, the Tramp was welcomed in and invited into the home as the door shut and the film faded to black - it was now an earthly Paradise, with the hopeful possibility that they would live together as a family.

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