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"A picture with a smile, and perhaps a tear..."
Charlie Chaplin finds an abandoned baby in an alley and raises him as his son, naming him John. Together they face poverty, crime, and social workers who would have them separated. And to further complicate matters, the boy's original mother soon regrets ridding herself of the baby, and later on, discovers that Charlie is the one who's been caring for the child she left behind. The film is both a comedy and drama, and is one of the first feature length movies to combine both genres.
The title character was played by Jackie Coogan, who other than this film is best known as Uncle Fester on the original The Addams Family series. After Chaplin received his lifetime achievment award, he told Coogan "I think I would rather see you right now than anyone else."
This film contains examples of the following tropes:
- Brats with Slingshots: John helps Charlie make a living as a glass salesman by breaking people's windows with rocks and running away just before Charlie arrives on the scene with some glass to sell.
- Department of Child Disservices: The evil Social Service workers who want to separate Chaplin from John.
- Dream Sequence: A singularly bizarre one. Charlie falls asleep and has a dream where he's suddenly an angel, and dances with a lot of women dressed as angels until people dressed as demons come in and tempt everyone to evil. It comes out of nowhere and has nothing to do with the actual plot, and of course, sealing the deal, he wakes up and the movie continues as normal. Chaplin's longer films often had randomly inserted nonsensical dream sequences.
- Door Step Baby: Classic example, just the baby wasn't exactly left on someone's porch. His mother left him in what she thought was a car of a rich family, but it was stolen by a couple of criminals. When the criminals discovered the baby, they dropped him off in an alley next to a trash can, where Charlie finds him.
- Dramedy: As mentioned previously, this was one of the first times the two genres were ever blended on film.
- The Fagin: Justified; Charlie was literally unable to get rid of the baby when he found it, for it was returned to him every time he tried to abandon it. Eventually, Charlie became attached to John and became the Papa Wolf variety of this trope.
- Heartwarming Orphan: Poor little John.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: You probably won't recognise the titular kid, but one day he'll grow up to be Uncle Fester.
- Hot Pursuit: The infamous roof-chase scene in which Charlie out-runs a policeman to try and save John from being taken away.
- Missed Him by That Much: John's mother actually comes to the slum John is living in to do charity work and sees him, but has no way of knowing that it's the son she abandoned five years before.
- No Ending: You tell me what happens next. It at least it ends on a happy note (we can presume Chaplin is at the very least on good terms with John's mother), though there is little resolution beyond that.
- Orphan's Ordeal
- Papa Wolf: The Tramp, when an official from a local orphanage takes the Kid away.
- Parental Abandonment, played very sympathetically.
- Roof Hopping: The aforementioned police chase scene taking place on the roofs of buildings.
- Time Skip: Five years pass between the beginning of the film when Chaplin finds the baby to the rest of the film.
- Vanilla Edition: It's pretty easy to find anywhere, and cheap too. Public domain films are like that.