In 1925, Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush was one of the first feature films to star Chaplin in his Little Tramp role. Before this time, The Tramp had been established and already well loved, but mostly in short films. Here, Chaplin not only starred on screen, but he wrote, directed, edited and produced The Gold Rush. Later when it was re-released in 1942, he also wrote the musical score and the narration. It’s no wonder this is the film Chaplin hoped he would be most remembered for.
In The Gold Rush, The Little Tramp is in the Alaskan Klondike as The Lone Prospector. Gold doesn’t seem to be the main concern during the harsh winter, as he stumbles upon a cabin. He, Big Jim (Mack Swain) and a wanted man, Black Larson (Tom Murray), run some fun gags as they struggle to survive. The act is wrapped up as abruptly as it began and soon The Lone Prospector is in a snowy boom-town, with eyes for a lovely dance hall girl, Georgia (Georgia Hale). As usual, she is far out of his league, but to spite an aggressive admirer, Georgia asks “the most deplorable looking tramp in the room” to dance. The Little Fellow has high hopes for he and Georgia, but there may be a mix of heartbreak and an unexpected rush of luck for them both.
Though this film was silent in 1925, it was re-released in 1942 with a musical soundtrack and a voice-over narration, spoken by Chaplin. This odd mix of a silent-talkie is what I received from Netflix (which they did not care to mention and claimed was only 69 minutes long, but not every company is perfect). In the narration, Chaplin not only explains the present situations, but also fills in the dialogue. I guess this helps the film flow more organically than the stop-and-go of reading in a silent film, but I feel it also detracts from it’s original charm. I hope to see the original silent version of the film someday for further comparison.
There are many fun and memorable scenes in The Gold Rush. Many Chaplin fans will recognize the boot-eating scene (complete with a side of spaghetti like shoe strings). The dancing rolls scene is such a whimsical and wonderful bit that has become legendary in film history. The Tramp’s wardrobe malfunction while dancing with Georgia is a hilarious gag that embellishes perfectly to the end. And how he celebrates her accepting his invitation for New Years is one of the most joyous and adorable moments I’ve ever seen on film, perfectly punctuated at the end.
If I had to pick just one favorite scene from The Gold Rush, it would have to be when the cabin is halfway off a cliff. The Tramp and Big Jim wake up the morning after a snowstorm to an unbalanced feeling, which they both write off hilariously as a hangover. As they move around the small cabin, they become increasingly aware little by little that something else is off balance. The whole scene builds both the gag and suspense wonderfully to the very end. I was laughing and waiting on the edge of my seat like no other film has done to me in a while.
The Gold Rush is one for all film and Chaplin fans to check out. It’s fun, sweet and full of iconic and inspiring gags. Whether you can only find the 1942 version or the original silent, it is worth seeing and a lot of fun. This is a wonderful Chaplin film, guaranteed to put a big smile on your face.
“And of course at that moment, Georgia would forget her gloves.”