Kid Auto Races at Venice

Kid Auto Races at Venice (also known as The Pest) is a 1914 American film starring Charles Chaplin in which his "Little Tramp" character makes his first appearance in a film exhibited before the public. The first film to be produced that featured the character was actually Mabel's Strange Predicament; it was shot a few days before Kid Auto Races but released two days after it.

Kid Auto Races at Venice
Theatrical poster for Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914)
Directed byHenry Lehrman
Produced byMack Sennett
Written byHenry Lehrman
Distributed byKeystone Studios
Release date
  • February 7, 1914 (1914-02-07)
Running time
6 minutes, 19 seconds
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent film
English (Original titles)


Made by Keystone Studios and directed by Henry Lehrman, the movie portrays Chaplin as a spectator at a "baby-cart race" in Venice, Los Angeles. The spectator keeps getting in the way of the camera and interferes with the race, causing great frustration to the public and participants. The film was shot during the Junior Vanderbilt Cup, an actual race with Chaplin and Lehrman improvising gags in front of real-life spectators.[2]

Unusually the camera breaks the fourth wall to show a second camera filming (as though it were the first), to better explain the joke. At this stage Chaplin gets in the way only of the visible camera on screen, not the actual filming camera. In so doing it takes on a spectator's viewpoint and becomes one of the first public films to show a film camera and cameraperson in operation.[2]


In the year that the film was released, a reviewer from the silent movie periodical Bioscope wrote, "Some sensational happenings are witnessed during the contests between the baby cars, while the funny man persistently obstructs the eager cameramen in their operations."[3] A reviewer from the silent movie periodical The Cinema noted, "Kid Auto Races struck us as about the funniest film we have ever seen. When we subsequently saw Chaplin in more ambitious efforts, our opinion that the Keystone Company had made the capture of their career was strengthened. Chaplin is a born screen comedian; he does things we have never seen done on the screen before."[4]


Junior Vanderbilt Cup

By 1914, the Vanderbilt Cup had become an important automobile racing event in the United States, and the 1914 event was to be held in Santa Monica, California. The city decided to sponsor a junior version of the event, apparently with several classes of engines and with age limits for the drivers.[7] Some classes had no engines and used a ramp to accelerate the cars in a manner similar to soap box derby races. Other classes used small engines. Chaplin's movie includes one scene shot at the bottom of the ramp used for the engineless races. There is no evidence that Junior Vanderbilt Cups were held either before or after the 1914 event. Actual silver cups were awarded.

See also


  1. Brent Walker (quoted by the BFI[6]) maintains that Chaplin, Lehrman and Williams were the only professional players, the others being members of the public.


  1. Mostrom, Anthony (June 19, 2011). "Unsuspecting extras go down in film history". Los Angeles Times.
  2. Vance, Jeffrey (2003). Chaplin: Genius of the Cinema. Harry N. Abrams. pp. 30–34. ISBN 0810945320.
  3. McDonald, Gerald D.; Conway, Michael; Ricci, Mark (1965). The Films of Charlie Chaplin. New York: Citadel Press, page 28.
  4. McDonald, Gerald D.; Conway, Michael; Ricci, Mark (1965). The Films of Charlie Chaplin. New York: Citadel Press, page 28.
  5. Huff, Theodore, and Charlie Chaplin (1945). An index to the films of Charles Chaplin. British Film Institute.
  6. "2. Kid Auto Races (1914)". BFI. 20 September 2006. Charlie Chaplin. Retrieved 2015-03-16.
  7. Edmonds, Harvey (May 1914). "The 'Kids' Race". The Technical World Magazine: 394–395.
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