Filmed mostly in 1920, The Kid utilizes more historic settings and extant locations than any other Chaplin film. 95 years later you can still visit Edna Purviance’s Dickensian maternity ward, the mansion (later owned by Muhammad Ali) where she abandons her baby, and the Hollywood alley where Charlie first encounters the abandoned child. To celebrate the Criterion Collection’s Blu-ray release of The Kid, this post provides a broad overview of the film, covered more fully in my book Silent Traces. (More great news – the Janus Films restoration of The Kid will premiere at this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival.)
The Kid remains my favorite film – it best harmonizes Chaplin’s themes with real-life settings – at the downtown plaza, where Hispanic descendants from California’s former ruling class found themselves ostracized in their own home, and in nearby Chinatown, where restrictive laws and immigration policies kept descendants of Chinese railroad laborers from owning property or sending home for family members. Alienation and adversity echo from the very bricks and stones where Chaplin chose to shoot. That many of these places still exist after 95 years is a small miracle. You can read much more about these and many other settings from the film in my Chaplin book Silent Traces. There are also many related posts on my blog.
Above left, looking west down Apablasa, Huntington Digital Library, with a composite image of Charlie being picked up by the cops towards the end of the movie. Charlie’s view looks south from the corner of Cayetano, across Apablasa, towards a narrow alley visible in the photo. This setting is marked with an asterisk (*) to the right of the words “Chin Woo” in the west view aerial photo a few images above.
All images from Chaplin films made from 1918 onwards, copyright © Roy Export Company Establishment. CHARLES CHAPLIN, CHAPLIN, and the LITTLE TRAMP, photographs from and the names of Mr. Chaplin’s films are trademarks and/or service marks of Bubbles Incorporated SA and/or Roy Export Company Establishment. Used with permission.
The filming site on Olvera Street.