Today marks the anniversary of the release of Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914), the film which provided the public with its first glimpse of Charlie Chaplin’s “Tramp” character. This was technically his second film as the Tramp, but the first to be released (the first had been Mabel’s Strange Predicament, released a few days later). After floundering a bit in his first film Making a Living, Chaplin found his footing by putting on a derby hat, slapshoes, tiny mustache and carrying a flexible cane. It was an immediate smash with the public. Kid Auto Races at Venice was shot at an actual soap box derby (the titular “kid auto races”) held on the streets of the seaside suburb of Venice. Thousands of onlookers were on hand, and the plot, such as it is, concerns Charlie’s efforts to get in front of a newsreel camera being operated by an increasingly frustrated Henry “Pathe” Lehrman, who directed the film. They are the only two characters in the movie. Watch it here!
For more on silent and slapstick comedy film history, including Charlie Chaplin classics like “Kid Auto Races at Venice” see my book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube