The Gold Rush (1925) Director: Charlie Chaplin
In later life, Charlie Chaplin declared he wished to be remembered for The Gold Rush above all his other movies, and today the film is one of the greatest of all time. It was Chaplin’s own personal favorite of his filmography.
In contrast to the slapstick comedy of Buster Keaton, Chaplin’s blend of humor is somewhat more subdued and melancholy. The Tramp is a character which the audience both pities and also finds humorous, as Chaplin believed that tragedy and comedy are at root united. Like Don Quixote, the tramp is the epitome of modern tragicomedy and melodrama. The Gold Rush was re-release in 1942 with added sound narration and music arranged by Chaplin. It is an excellent film, both humorous and sad, and it is one of the great triumphs of the silent era.
The Gold Rush follows the story of the Tramp who travels to the Yukon for the Klondike Gold Rush but he wanders into a difficult situation in the midst of a blizzard. He joins together with an amusing character named Big Jim and they intrude into the cabin of a wanted criminal named Black Larsen. The group argues over the gold mountain that was discovered by Big Jim and they start to go stir-crazy in the cabin, and delirious without food -so they eat Black Larsen’s shoes.
After the storm passes, the Tramp decides to move on to the next gold town. He wanders down to a mountain town and falls in love with a girl, played by Georgia Hale, who is only toying with him. He invites her to New Years dinner but she does not attend and he sits alone with his prepared candle-lit dinner, dreaming of himself flattering the girl and her friends by dancing with potatoes on forks in a now famous scene. Seeing his sad state, the girl has a change of heart and leaves the Tramp a note. Meanwhile, Big Jim and Black Larsen fight over Big Jim’s gold, and in the ensuing battle Black Larsen is killed by an avalanche. Big Jim loses some of his memory during the fight so he searches for the Tramp to convince him find the way to the cabin since Big Jim can’t remember its location. Big Jim only remembers that the cabin is near his prized gold deposit.
Before the Tramp can reunite with his love interest, he is dragged by Big Jim up to find the cabin. They find the cabin just as another blizzard comes in, blowing the cabin to the edge of a cliff where it teeters over the edge in a now famous and hilarious gag. After the cabin falls off a cliff they narrowly escape and find Big Jim’s gold, then they narrowly escape, and discover the gold mountain. One year later, the Tramp has been unable to find his one-time love. He and Big Jim are now multi-millionaires on a boat that is also carrying his lost love, Georgia. In one last amusing gag, the Tramp dons his former ragged clothes for a photo and falls down a flight of stairs straight into Georgia causing quite a mix-up. In the end, they fall in love.
The Gold Rush was filmed at Chaplin’s Hollywood studio where there were large and ornate sets established to capture the harsh and frozen tundra. Initially, Chaplin tried to film on location in Truckee, California, but he eventually abandoned this footage and returned to his studio. During the production of the film, Chaplin’s marriage to Lita Grey had collapsed and he promptly began a romance with Georgia Hale, the female lead in The Gold Rush. The story was inspired by the Klondike gold rush and tales of the Donner Party. The Gold Rush was a massive success both domestically and abroad.