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Gold Rush, The (1925)

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Score: 10/10

Genre: Slapstick Running Time: 1 hr. 36 min.

Release Date: June 26th, 1925 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Charles Chaplin Actors: Charles Chaplin, Mack Swain, Tom Murray, Henry Bergman, Malcolm Waite, Georgia Hale

“T

he Gold Rush” is one of Charlie Chaplin’s most endearing and popular works, featuring many of his greatest slapstick routines (highlighted by a precariously wobbling cabin) and the unforgettable sight gags of the dance of the dinner rolls and feasting upon a steamed boot. Once again he uses his Little Tramp character, this time as a lone quarrier, to overcome adversities – here, mining for gold in the harsh environments of Canada (journeying through Alaska) in the late 1800s, and contending with discovering, losing, and regaining the love of his life. As usual, he also wrote, directed, produced, and starred in the film (for the 1942 re-release, he composed a new, Oscar-nominated score with Max Terr).

During the Klondike Gold Rush, a desperate prospector (Charles Chaplin, dressed as his conventional vagrant with suit coat, baggy pants, oversized shoes, tie, vest, hat, and cane) hikes into the snow-covered mountains to find his fortune. He holes up in a weathered shack along with Big Jim McKay (Mack Swain), a broad man who discovered a multi-million dollar gold deposit, and Black Larsen (Tom Murray), a villainous scoundrel, ready to steal the loot for himself. As the trio slowly starves and succumbs to the freezing temperatures, Larsen draws the low number from a deck of cards and must trek out into the icy atmosphere to find food. While on his expedition, he comes across Big Jim’s hidden stash and waits for the storm to reside, leaving the remaining pair to dine on a freshly cooked shoe (famously made out of licorice).

After the climate calms and the tramp is separated from the others, he wanders into the Monte Carlo Dance Hall where he meets the lovely saloon girl Georgia (Georgia Hale), who alternates between teasing the poor prospector, searching for a real man, and making her current suitor Jack (Malcolm Waite) jealous. The unimposing drifter becomes instantly enamored with Georgia, who misleadingly reciprocates for a memorable dance scene and a brief encounter at a shack during a snowball fight. It doesn’t matter to the little fellow, who welcomes the temporary warmth he feels by just being near the beautiful woman. She promises to visit him again during New Year’s Eve, so he sets about earning money and preparing for a feast and pleasantries. His dream of entertaining her results in one of his most celebrated skits, in which he uses forks and bread rolls to create legs and feet for a charming tabletop dance routine.

“The Gold Rush” was originally released in 1925 as a silent film, with intertitle cards and a 96-minute runtime. It was greeted with critical and box office success, marking it as one of the highest grossing silent films in cinema history. Chaplin also stated that it was the project for which he most wanted to be remembered. In 1942, he reissued the film after cutting down the length (and increasing the frame speed, resulting in a 69-minute cut), changing a few scenes (most significant was the removal of the lingering kiss at the finale), adding a musical score, and recording a voiceover narration; this special edition led to Academy Award nominations for Best Music and Best Sound. With either version, “The Gold Rush” demonstrates Chaplin’s extraordinary ability to find humor in humorless situations and to mix tragedy, comedy, adventure, and romance into a perfect blend, embellished with expert timing, creative physical choreography, enthusiastic pantomime, and genuinely affecting pathos.

– Mike Massie

 



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