Gold Rush, The (1925)

“Far into the icy north, deep into the silent nowhere, came an undaunted lonely prospector.”

Synopsis:
A tramp (Charlie Chaplin) seeking gold in the Klondike befriends a beefy prospector (Mack Swain), battles an evil criminal (Tom Murray), and falls in love with a beautiful dancehall girl (Georgia Hale).

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary refers to Chaplin’s second feature-length film as his “first masterpiece”, noting that it’s a “simple film, dealing with basic human needs: love, friendship, hunger, money, pride”, and calling it “all wonderful”. He spends the bulks of his review highlighting various scenes — some (those involving Chaplin and Hale) “sentimental and sweet”, others (such as “when Hale discovers proof of [Chaplin’s] love for her”, or “Chaplin fantasizes about being the perfect host to Hale and her friends”) “poignant”, and many (all involving “Chaplin and male characters”) “classic comedy sequences”. Indeed, The Gold Rush is one of those enduringly “classic” films filled with so many iconic images that even non-film fanatics will surely recognize them from somewhere: “the starving Chaplin cooking his shoe for him and Swain, and twirling the laces around his fork as if they were spaghetti; Swain chasing Chaplin around a cabin because he imagines his friend’s a chicken”; Chaplin doing the “dance of the dinner rolls”.

However, I’ll admit to finding this film more successful as a comedy than as a romance; Chaplin’s longing for Hale is, for the most part, simply painful to watch. While Buster Keaton’s repeated pursuit of a beautiful woman in each of his films is inevitably accompanied by frenzied attempts to demonstrate his worth (which ultimately pan out), Chaplin’s stance as “the ultimate outsider” makes us feel he can only win the girl through luck and patience. Therefore, The Gold Rush is a film I’ll return to simply for its laugh-out-loud, expertly crafted comedic sequences — not for its central tale of unrequited longing.

As Peary notes, “Chaplin serves as a narrator in his revised 1942 version”, which is the one I watched before writing this review; however, it seems to be widely reviled as the lesser-choice, with purists preferring his original silent version (accompanied by inter-titles). For what it’s worth, I believe Chaplin’s narration is unnecessary, but found it fascinating to see the creative way in which he attempted to help later audiences find connection with his earliest work — and for that reason alone, I think film fanatics should check out the narrated version.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Many classic, highly memorable sequences




  • Fine camerawork

Must See?
Yes, for its historical relevance as one of Chaplin’s most famous early films — and for some truly iconic comedic sequences.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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One Response to “Gold Rush, The (1925)”

  1. A once-must.

    ‘The Gold Rush’ was my introduction to Chaplin. I was 12. I saw it as part of a film series on a college campus. I remember that year well. On Friday nights, classic American films were shown; on Saturday nights, I was introduced to the Europeans, etc.

    I’m glad ‘TGR’ was my first Chaplin film because – eventually – he was not among my favorite filmmakers. Yet I was charmed when I first saw this film. Seeing it again, I realize I was most taken with the forceful nature of the early part of the film: the various things that happen in the first cabin Chaplin happens upon. This first, extended part is marvelous cinema. So much goes on in it and it’s all wonderfully satisfying for the viewer. At the beginning of the film, we’re told that it is ‘a dramatic comedy’, and it is. The situation we’re thrown into is one of comedy very much mixed with very real drama. And it’s handled masterfully.

    The image I remember most clearly as a 12-year-old is the suddenly surreal situation of Chaplin as a chicken. I laughed as much now as I most likely did then. It’s so sudden – and so fitting. (I also like the moment in here where Chaplin becomes concerned that the dog in the cabin has been eaten by one of the other guys he’s in the cabin with. ~which turns out to not be true.)

    Once the first part of the film is over – personally – my interest does wane some, as the film enters the love story angle. I’m in agreement with the assessment on this point. Though I understand that most audiences enjoy the sentimentality involved in all that transpires throughout most of the rest of the film, it’s the particular form of sentiment used that sometimes has me ambivalent about Chaplin’s work. (And this could just be me.)

    The final section of ‘TGR’ is a very welcome return to form, in terms of what we’re given when the film begins.

    I don’t know how I will feel about the various Chaplin films I will be revisiting. As I said, I’m wary of his sentimental leanings. But ‘The Gold Rush’ is something that ffs should see, without a doubt.

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