Synopsis of The Kid Exactly as written by the Chaplin Studio in 1921
By listing the cast simply as The Man, The Woman, The Tramp and The Policeman, we have already the constituent elements of a drama.
The Story opens with The Woman, “whose sin was Motherhood”, leaving the maternity Hospital with her infant child. As the gates close upon her the attendants smile cynically at the age old tragedy. Wandering about aimlessly the poor distraught mother espies a handsome limousine, and scribbling a hasty note “to love and care for this orphan child”, she places both within the tonneau and hastens off – and then not giving herself time to reconsider, half demented she seeks the river into which she hopes to find oblivion. But as she mounts the parapet, she is restrained by the hands of a little baby who innocently pulls at her skirts. At once the mother love is kindled in her breast and she hurries back to get her abandoned offspring. When she returns, however, the automobile has been stolen and she swoons in pathetic despair.
When the thieves, driving the machine through a slum district, hear the wail of the infant, they carry it out in disgust and leave it beside a garbage can in a sordid alley way. Charlie, debonair in his shabby gentility, comes forth for his morning promenade and after excaping the usual litter dumped from the windows above, hears the baby’s cries, takes up the precious bundle and seeks its mother. In this he is naturally unsuccessful, and after trying in vain to unload his burden, is finally compelled to take the infant to his garret room. Here we see him struggling through all the trials of vicarious motherhood, for, alas, he has to act the part of mother as well as father.
Five years pass by. The child has grown to sturdy boyhood and a great bond has grown up between him and his foster father. In fact, they have become inseparable partners in the affairs of life, Jackie going forth gaily to break the neighboring windows while Charlie follows about, as an itinerant glazier innocently happening by shortly after the accidents. Thus they do a thriving business, in spite of the suspicious police.
But time has wrought other changes. Tried in the crucible of Sorrow, the mother has risen to great heights as an opera singer. In spite of her material success, however, the mother hunger burns so strongly that she finds soul easement in visiting the children of the slums to whom she becomes a veritable godmother.
On one occasion when she is playing with a little child by the curbstone, Jackie opens a door and walks out. She smiles at him and gives him a toy – never knowing the little fellow is her own son. Often thereafter she meets him, quite unconscious of the mystic bond, and once, after a fight with a neighboring boy, she actually carried him in her arms to his “father”, telling Charlie he must send for a doctor.
The doctor duly arrives and when he finds the boy is not Charlie’s, he departs, saying the child must have proper care and attention. His idea of the “proper care and attention” is the County Hospital or Poor House. He retains the slip of paper found on the baby and which Charlie has handed to him.
The officials of the County Hospital arrive but Charlie is furiously averse to their attempts to remove Jackie, who is now convalescing. After a hard struggle the boy is removed and taken away in an automobile but Charlie, by taking a short cut over the roofs, rescues the boy from their clutches.
By this time the doctor has shown the mother the piece of paper and she realizes The Kid is her own long lost boy. She takes up the search.
Charlie and Jackie, being now homeless, not daring to return to their garret, go for the night to a cheap lodging house. The proprietor of the place recognizes the boy from a description of him placed in the paper by his distracted mother, and when all are asleep, steals the boy from the side of the weary Charlie and takes him to the police station. The police send for the mother and Jackie is restored to her.
Charlie wakes to find the boy gone. He is frantic and walks the street the remainder of the night until he falls exhausted on his own doorstep. He dreams….
He sees the wretched slum transformed into a veritable fairyland – plenty of everything to eat and drink, to be had for the asking. There is no payment except love. His former friends and enemies are all friends. All have wings and play harps and other celestial instruments.
Jackie is there and he takes Charlie by the hand and then Charlie himself finds he also has wings, strong white wings. And he finds he can fly. But, alas, Sin creeps in and Charlie becomes involved in a fight with his old enemy. He tries to escape – to fly away – but he is ruthlessly shot down – down – down, and awakens to find himself being shaken by the big policeman whom he had eluded over the house tops.
The policeman takes him by the collar and bundles him unceremoniously around the corner. To his astonishment, he is hustled into a waiting automobile. He rubs his eyes and wonders if he’s still dreaming. No, the car drives to a fashionable neighborhood and draws up at a large mansion. His escort alights, grips him by the arm, leads him to the door and rings the bell. The door opens and – and Jackie and his newly found mother drag Charlie in to stay with them for a while. The door closes on the mother, Charlie and The Kid
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