How Charlie Chaplin filmed The Kid

On Olvera Street

Coogan and Chaplin on Olvera Street

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.)

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00The 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.

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.

This entry was posted in Charlie Chaplin, The Kid and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to How Charlie Chaplin filmed The Kid

  1. shaunesteele says:

    Fascinating, John! I could spend every single day reading about your discoveries and never grow complacent about your fine work. LOVE!

  2. Congratulations from a spanish fan of Chaplin. Nice post. I bought your Silent Traces book, it`s fantastic
    Regards,
    Valerio

  3. Gregg Davidson says:

    Great post. It is amazing that so much still exists after 95 years. I like to write down some of the locations you write about and then find them when I am downtown.

    Thanks,

    Gregg
    West Hollywood

  4. Jean Carlos Nunes says:

    Estou cada vez mais fascinado pelo teu trabalho. É um deleite para todo fã de cinema mudo!!! Que te enchas de saúde pra continuar fazendo a nossa alegria…

    Jean
    Imbituba – SC
    Brasil

  5. Pingback: The Kid – Charlie Chaplin’s Onscreen Fans | Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more)

  6. I love your insight that the locations harmonize beautifully with the themes of The Kid. So true!

  7. Afonso Rodrigues says:

    I Love tihis Films

  8. Pingback: The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of February 19 - Parallax View

  9. Pingback: Charlie Chaplin – The Kid’s Tearful Olvera Street Reunion | Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more)

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