#53. The Gold Rush (1925)
Directed by: Charlie Chaplin
Written by: Charlie Chaplin
Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Mack Swain, Tom Murray, Georgia Hale
Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp character is one of the most recognizable and endearing in Hollywood history, starring in a wide variety of full length and short films from the 1910’s through the 1930’s. Chaplin’s 1925 film The Gold Rush is my personal favorite appearance by the Tramp, if only because it combines every element that make his films so great. The Gold Rush sees The Lone Prospector (Charlie Chaplin) get lost in a blizzard while searching for gold during the Klondike Gold Rush. He seeks refuge in a cabin, where he meets wanted criminal Black Larsen (Tom Murray) and Big Jim McKay (Mack Swain). The men quickly grow ravenous and turn on one another, until a ferocious bear enters the cabin and is subsequently killed, providing the three with food. From there, the Long Prospector gets involved with a woman named Georgia (George Hale), and help Big Jim find his gold deposit after a double-cross by Black Larsen. The Gold Rush is a hilarious and inventive comedy that has been canonized in movie history because it features so many iconic scenes – The Lone Prospector cooking and eating his own shoe, Big Jim and Black Larsen seeing the Prospector as a man-sized chicken, the cabin tilting on the very edge of a cliff, the bread roll dance, and so many more. Chaplin once said that The Gold Rush is the film he wanted to be remembered for, and I can absolutely see why. It’s a film he kept tooling with for years after its release, adding narration and re-releasing it in the 1940’s. Both versions of the film are hilarious and highly satisfying, and I can’t say that I have a preference in version. The re-released version is slightly shorter than the original, but it’s not a significant enough difference for me to prefer it. The Gold Rush’s spoofing of the Klondike Gold Rush and historical events like the Donner Party blend together perfectly in the film’s chilly blizzard atmosphere, and the film’s emotional weight in its last half works just as well. The Prospector’s vying for the higher class Georgia is full of memorable moments, and adds a great deal of much needed sympathy to Chaplin’s character. When the two are finally brought together it feels satisfying, even though it doesn’t match love stories found in other Chaplin films (with City Lights being the most memorable and emotional). If you’ve never seen a Charlie Chaplin film before, then The Gold Rush is absolutely the place to start. It’s fast-paced, iconic, incredibly funny, and sweet in a way only Chaplin can accomplish. There’s a reason the man himself was so enamored by The Gold Rush – it’s fantastic.