As a rather massive fan of Charles Chaplin, watching the original film The Gold Rush is almost like viewing the Holy Grail. Oh it’s considered inspirational anyway and ever since its debut in 1925, Charlie Chaplin often said The Gold Rush was the film for which he most wanted to be remembered. It is a great film which skates the thin ice between comedy and tragedy. Choosing where to start in Chaplin’s filmography may be a little prodigious, but The Gold Rush is a fantastic place to begin. Not only is it an incredible film, even so a number of sequences and the antics of Chaplin stick out because they’ve been a global reference in things, the audience seems to enjoy even this date.
This out of the ordinary classic is written, produced, and directed by Charlie Chaplin. The film also stars Chaplin in his little tramp persona, Georgia Hale, Mack Swain, Tom Murray, Henry Bergman, and Malcolm Waite. Although being a silent film, it received Academy Award nominations for Best Music and Best Sound Recording upon its re-release in 1942. The story had been inspired by two grim historical records – photos showing lines of toiling prospectors during the 1898 gold rush, and a book the actor, director had read on the Donner Party, whose efforts to reach California ended in cannibalism.
The cut-out lines observed Chaplin in his autobiography “Ridicule, I suppose, is an attitude of defiance; we must laugh in the face of our helplessness against the forces of nature – or go insane”. This film is also considered to be the greatest and most elaborate comedy ever filmed and needless in its stand for years as the biggest hit, just as Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation still withstands the tallest order. In many dispositions of Chaplin as quoted, “It is paradoxical that tragedy stimulates the spirit of ridicule.” The film contains many of Chaplin’s most celebrated comedy sequences, including the boiling and eating of his shoe, the dance of the rolls, and the teetering cabin. Still, the greatness of The Gold Rush does not rest solely on its comedy sequences but on the fact that they are integrated so fully into a character-driven narrative. Chaplin had no reservations about the finished product. Indeed, he always wanted that this movie to be remembered, and so true to this day.
The plot set in a wintry Yukon (though shot in and around Truckee in Nevada County), this silent classic follows the life of a lonely prospector – played by Chaplin travels to Klondike, the place where the strike of gold rush is identified and in hopes of making it rich. Beside his journey in the merciless rigors of the frozen North, he is caught in a blizzard, the icy clutches of the storm have almost claimed him when he stumbles into the cabin of Black Larsen (played by Murray), a renegade. Larsen is thrusting him out the door; back into the arms of death, there appears in the person of Big Jim McKay (played by Swain). Jim subdues the renegade; he and the lone Prospector occupy the cabin while their unwilling host is thrust forth to obtain food. Starvation almost claims the two until a bear intrudes and is killed to supply their larder. The big Jim McKay declares that he has found “a mountain of gold” but can’t remember its location. The storm abates, and the two depart for the nearest town. Jim heads for his hidden mine, the richest in Alaska. Jim finds Larsen in possession of his property, and in the battle that ensues, Larsen fells Jim with a blow from a shovel. Larsen flees from the scene and is swept to his death in an avalanche. Jim recovers consciousness, but he has lost his memory from the blow.
The lone Prospector arrives in one of the boom towns of the gold trail. He becomes the principal amusement of the village, a victim of practical jokers, and the target of sneers and glee from the dance hall habitués. His courtesy becomes centered on Georgia (played by Hale), queen of the dance hall entertainers; he becomes charmed with the girl at first sight. In his coy and pitiful way, he adores Georgia at a distance and braves the gibes of the dance hall roughs to feast his lovelorn eyes. Every humiliation is heaped upon him until as a last cruel jest, Jack Cameron (Waite), the Beau Brummel of the camp, hands him an endearing note from Georgia. Believing it written for him, the unhappy lover starts feverishly searching the dance hall for the girl, when Jim, his memory partially restored, enters Jim. His only thought is to find the location of the cabin in order to trace his lost mine. He recognizes the lone Prospector as he drags abruptly the lone Prospector, on the way the prospector shouts to Georgia to return soon as a millionaire. Thus returning to cabin, better-provisioned than before. The same night another blizzard blows the cabin all the way to Jim’s claim and beyond, hanging half over a cliff. In the morning, Jim and the lone Prospector awake to a teeter-totter experience lasting many tense minutes, before the lone Prospector is pulled from the cabin by Jim as it falls into a chasm
One year later, Jim and his partner, the lone Prospector, return to US wealthy. In his yearning for Georgia, the tramp consents to don his old clothes for a photograph to the reporter. Thus in the happy passage of times followed with the reporter sense a romance and ask who the girl is. The lone Prospector whispers to Georgia, gestures her acquiescence. Arm in arm, they pose for pictures while the reporters enthusiastically exclaim– “Oh! You’ve spoilt the picture”; as the final image fades out on their loving kiss.
The film delivers all in Chaplin’s signature body language, his capacity to portray humor with a single expression, hand movement, or reaction is unprecedented. Slapstick plays a big role as Chaplin falls down more times than you can count and the way he sells getting hit in the face with snowballs is just one of a kind. The sequence showing Chaplin and Swain in the see-sawing cabin on the edge of the precipice surpasses anything ever before screened and provides one reel of continuous roars and howls.
What makes The Gold Rush, so special is that it blends those comedic bits, memorable and humorous. It’s the type of film that somersaults through a handful of emotions and yet, the good old charm in its undeniable arrays the flames of love blaze at the film’s end….I am you’re left with that tickly impression, may be a bit of ease in your chest. Unquestionably, timeless in the sense that it’ll be enjoyable now and 100 years from here too.
Notwithstanding its commercial and critical success, the movie seldom satisfied with his work, Chaplin added original music to the film in 1942, and also trimmed several minutes and bridged the gaps with narration. The complete 1925 version without narration has now been painstakingly restored. And, with the permission of the Chaplin family, composer Timothy Brock has arranged Chaplin’s 1942 orchestral score to accommodate the length of the original 1925 version and in his restoration runs 90 minutes.
- Writer, Director & Producer: Charles Chaplin
- Casting: Charles Chaplin; Mack Swain & Tom Murray
- Music by (1942 re-release) Charlie Chaplin; Carli Elinor; Max Terr & James L. Fields
- Cinematography by Roland Totheroh
- Edited by Charles Chaplin
- Distributed by United Artists
- Release dates: June 26, 1925
- Run time of 90 minutes
- Country: United States
- Language: Silent film