Charlie Chaplin’s Big Moment in Venice

Kid Auto

Jan. 10, 1914, Auto Races I was intrigued by Sunday’s Then and Now piece by Anthony Mostrom on Charlie Chaplin’s “Kid Auto Races at Venice” and I thought I’d do a little digging.

Here’s what I found.

The film includes footage of two races. One of them is a pushmobile/soapbox derby race in which vehicles start from a ramp. The other race features half-size, gasoline-powered cars.

Judging by the film, the race course was set up on the streets of Venice and was fairly informal. Notice the loose dogs in the top photo.

The film makes freely cuts back and forth between the two races.

And I suppose nobody in 1914 was watching for continuity gaffes.


Kid Auto Races

Some of the shots are taken at the beginning of the soapbox derby race and I must say that’s a pretty healthy ramp. Notice the news photographer on the left. In the film, he pans to follow a car (a photographer’s trick in capturing moving objects) but did he also get Chaplin?

Kid Auto

In the shoestring plot, Chaplin plays a camera hog who continually interferes with a film crew. Notice an actual police officer trying to keep people back from the race course.

Kid Auto

This is one of the gas-powered vehicles that took part in the second race. Yes, that is genuine horse flop in the street.

Junior Stutz

I wonder if it could be Alex Pabst’s Stutz Junior, a half-size version of a Stutz, as shown in the May 7, 1914, issue of Motor Age?  According Motor Age, Pabst won the April 26, 1914, Gran Prix at Ascot Park in Los Angeles with an average speed of 45 mph. His fastest lap was 51 mph. A March 28, 1948, article in The Times refers to Alex Pabst racing cars in the Southern California Midget Assn. but it’s unclear whether this is the same fellow.

People in Los Angeles love cars and they love to go fast, don’t they?

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1914, Film, Hollywood, Libraries, Photography, Transportation and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Charlie Chaplin’s Big Moment in Venice

  1. Gary Martin says:

    I recently did a Chaplin retrospective through Netflix and I was delighted to discover this film. A real case of putting an actor in front of a camera at an event and letting him be “creative”.


  2. Mary Mallory says:

    Director Henry “Pathe” Lehrman is wearing the hat with a mustache and is talking to Chaplin. That news photographer might actually be a studio stills photographer. Let me check about photos on this and the Vanity Fair Girls. Also, Mack Sennett plays a small part in this as well. So many of the films of this period were just improvised on the streets, and you often see neighborhood dogs run into the frame. That’s one of the things I love about films of this period.


  3. Celsius1414 says:

    He’s funny even just standing around. 😀


  4. LOVE! Thanks so much for posting this! We’ve been making a short film/video re: Chaplin and was just reading his bio by David Robinson. This film was just mentioned last chapter- nice to actually see it! Thanks much again, pleasure to meet you all!


  5. RJ says:

    Teddy Tetzlaff who is mentioned in the newspaper announcement was an early race car driver, drove in several Indianapolis 500’s. His son was Ted Tetzlaff, the cinematographer of many Lombard films (her favorite cinematographer) who later became a director. ( He directed George Raft in a few films, that’s the only reason I know this bit of trivia lol)


  6. Sam Flowers says:

    i don’t think the “Copper” was controling the crowd, he has shoulder boards on and that signifies a ranking oficer. Probably there to further his self importance and hob nob with the movie people.


  7. Chaplinssmile says:

    In my copy of Kid Auto Races it ends with Charlie making faces at the camera!


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