The Spartan Chronicles
The Lady, the Tramp, and the KidTuesday, May 25, 2010 By Imoh G. Griffith
If I were told I was going to die in two hours and I could only see one Charlie Chaplin film before I died it would be, without a moments thought, his silent masterpiece The Kid. Just let me get through all the way to the last credit and then you can pull the plug. The fundamental nature of this film constantly feels like struggle, affection, slapstick, and tragedy or as the opening title gale “A picture with a smile, and perhaps a tear …” Chaplin exhibits his comic pantomime character of the Little Tramp, for which he plays, once again in his apparel of a toothbrush mustache, outsized pants, lengthy cane, and crowned by his bowler hat. The tramp is always a peculiar individual, I wonder what going through the mind of Chaplin as he created this alter ego, the way waddles down the streets in his gigantic clown shoes like every step touches a cloud and the way he twirls that cane up, down, forward, and back and speaks to you without the utter of a word. The Tramp doesn’t walk through the door forward on his feet, but backwards on his hands blindfolded with roller-skates. His body is weighted to the ground but his heads in the clouds. This tramp is like the tramp in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp, he lives in the streets without a penny to his name, he lives like a dog (maybe even worse), but he’s got no band of friends to run with and he definitely has no lady. But this character is no thug and he’s no trouble intentional trouble maker he’s just a poor honest; a low class outsider, just a no name spectator ironically existing in the prosperous times of the Roaring 20’s. While looking for that next buck he instead finds a baby, abandoned by unfit mother, and the Tramp raises the boy unconditionally regardless of already being in a living of poor quality. The story gives off the immense premise of the father and son relationship and poverty and Chaplin’s admiration for the poor, which is perhaps and allusion to Chaplin’s own childhood living in uncertain poverty in England and having an estranged alcoholic father figure in life. Through Chaplin’s consummate acting gives the perfect definition the silent era: telling a story with the absorbing movements of the body and the eyes so poignant. The tramp and the kid, five years old in the film, are peas in a pod living happily in an old grimy hovel, where you can almost smell the stench of poverty, working the streets together with comic scenes where the boy goes around throwing rocks through resident’s windows and Chaplin without that bashful happy salesman’s smile of his tries to sell the victim a new window and making distasteful pancakes in the morning. But from Chaplin’s directing of this film there’s an overtone of innocents in all the characters and good intention whether it’s the kid’s mother years later, know a wealthy opera singer, searching with regret for the child she had to discarded or child welfare place trying to take the kid away, Chaplin makes no one the adversary. Comedy embellishes through the film; little kids amateur boxing in the mucky road, the Tramp running from the always patrolling policeman, and the Tramp cowardly fighting off foul brutes. Chaplin’s comedy is of the truly uncanny. When you watch this five foot nothing persists through barriers that say “No!” it’s a vision of brilliance. You can easily compare Chaplin to his contemporary, an icon in his own right, film actor and director Buster Keaton. Both men told great story and could formulate outstanding stories and made audiences laugh without even a spoken word just the twitch of their noses. Keaton was more of a technical filmmaker focusing on the look of the film but Chaplin looked to characters and making them human; always going for the pathos. I feel that these two people Chaplin and the Tramp, the Tramp and Chaplin are the same being just in different cloths he isn’t acting at all it seems he’s just being Chaplin throughout the whole picture. The tragedy rises and finds an impulsive climax in the film; it doesn’t struggle to jerk your tears or even politely ask. Like the selfless Tramp you give, you offer a tear to this picture. The Tramp loves this kid without a doubt. In a scene where the kid is ill you can see the gelatinous eyes of the Tramp as he holds on to the boy’s scrawny arm. He sneak this kid in the shelter with him when he has no money to pay, he’ll fend off the child welfare folks with bowl of flour, and maybe scale roof tops just to catch the orphanage truck taking the kid away; he’s a sullied angel whose been shot down still clinching to that serene moral value with a broken halo. Chaplin has made boundless masterpieces in his days Modern Times, The Gold Rush, and City Lights but known of them ,I feel, let you know Chaplin more as a grand being, not a saint, but grand. The film I will reiterate a quote from Chaplin, “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.” pure, plain, and simple.