1914: 1 movie

(last updated 21 August 2012)

Kid's Auto Race
Starring Charles Chaplin;
Produced by Mack Sennet; Directed by Henry Lehrman
Shot in Venice Beach, California, USA
for the Keystone Film Company.

   He just wants to be in the shot. A crisp, fresh comedy; crisp and fresh in that it feels more like a scene you would see on the street than on a scene acted out by Max Linder and possibly all other popular comic movie-actors of the day. By simply having a transient, with fashion sense and a delicate ego, stand in front of a camera intent on filming a race, we are introduced to a new kind of movie-making. Yes, it's a single gag, but psychologically, we have the luxury of lingering on the complexity of this new character. We recognize his desire for attention, we regret his impoverished condition, and we laugh cheeringly at his indomitable persistence. All the while, we are also understanding the frustration of the director-character.
   The transient is not in every shot until he becomes aware of the cameras and then somehow we can't shake him loose, even after multiple cuts and panning away. He is in front of the camera which we are watching and he's in front of the camera from which we view. It's quite a thematically-rich effect for the character to take hold of the story-line, the cameras, and the editing, especially since the movie industry was rapidly becoming the cash cow of major corporations. The director so focused on documenting the spectacle of the race, misses the unexpected spectacle of the transient, and that very act of missing the opportunity buzzing around his face is the genius of the movie. The movie represents the underdog truth that humanity would hold a place in the increasingly commercial and formulaic medium even if it would have to steal the spotlight. The actual live crowd and actual live race heightens the excitement and momentousness of the transient's non-violent power grab.
   This is the first appearance of Chaplin as his "little tramp" character, while his first performance in movies came earlier in the same year. That's director Henry Lehrman in the role of the frustrated director.

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