The next film up in Film Comment, Sept-Oct 1972, is “The Kid.”
The author of the article is Gary Carey. I tried to find some information on him, but only came up with a rather long list of books he’s written, mostly about Hollywood stars and movies. I wanted to find out about him because he takes a strongly negative view of “The Kid,” one of the harshest assessments of the movie I’ve ever seen. Here are some excerpts from his contribution to the Chaplin legacy.
“Legend tells us that Chaplin first conceived the idea for “The Kid” when Jackie Coogan wink at him in a hotel lobby. Perhaps this encounter did give him the specific idea for the film, but Chaplin had for some time been considering a project to win the approbation of American motherhood. “The Kid” has occasionally been dismissed as a shameless ploy to achieve this end…The charge of sentimentality often leveled against “The Kid” could be dismissed were it not for the frame story, which drips off the screen with mawkishness”
He goes on to pretty much rip the entire film. After a description of several scenes, he lets loose with this:
“These scenes are further hampered by indifferent photography, awkward introduction of symbolic inserts, and the inadequacy of Miss Purviance. …”The Kid” also falls short of “A Woman of Paris” in story construction. (This was never Chaplin’s forte: In fact, A Woman of Paris: it arguably his best-constructed film.)”
Carey finds great fault in Chaplin’s inclusion of the “heaven” sequence. He calls the fantasy irrelevant to a plot and takes the idea too far. The article continues with some discussion of Jean Cocteau and how he used Chaplin’s heaven fantasy in one of his plays. Rather unsuccessfully. Then he concludes with this:
“It’s hard to decide how much Chaplin consciously put into his films, and how much sprang from his unconscious - or our own. Cocteau, at least, believed Chaplin was in full control of his art.”
I’ll finish this blog with a few words which appear earlier in his article, and allows me to sign off on a more positive note, since I think “The Kid” is a gem and a promise of the Chaplin that lay ahead.
“Still, even the most antipathetic mother must have succumbed to Chaplin’s genuinely sweet relationship with Coogan - the first and best of the cherubs with dirty faces - and been touched by the pathos of the child’s and the Tramp’s temporary parting. These scenes are imbued with an honest sentiment, something of a rarity in the history of the American film”
If you know anything about the life/career/accomplishments of Gary Carey, please tell me about him. He seems to know what he’s talking about, has an impressive store of information on Hollywood, and isn’t afraid to criticize a Chaplin classic.