Chaplin’s Little Tramp

Those of us lucky to view the recent documentary “Venice Lost and Found” were also treated to the 1914 short 5-minute film “Kid’s Auto Races in Venice.” Filmed in Venice on January 10, 1914, it‘s the first film in which Charlie Chaplin introduces to the world his signature ‘Little Tramp’ character.

Chaplin created the Little Tramp in 45 minutes in order to take advantage of a children’s car race at the then fashionable vacation resort of Venice. The film is crude and the plot is simple: Chaplin constantly tries to get in front of the camera while a cameraman tries to film an auto race. The action takes place on Main Street in the vicinity of Westminster Avenue. It’s hard today to visualize the whereabouts of the actual track, knowing the present geography, but there’s a photo capture from the film that shows Charlie facing south-east with the east side of the four-story brick apartment building at 120 Westminster, in the background. And there’s a whole gang of arrogant youth in the background, egging – or cheering – Chaplin on.

Who would have thought that the impish character annoyingly in the way of the camera at a kid’s auto race, would turn out to become the beloved figure of silent screen legend? And who would have imagined, that Chaplin’s Little Tramp, was first introduced here in Venice.