The Gold Rush

(1925)

Producer / Director Charlie Chaplin
The Lone Prospector Charlie Chaplin
GeorgiaGeorgia Hale
Big Jim McKay Mack Swain
Black Larsen Tom Murray


Charlie Chaplin commented , "In the Gold Rush I got into a single situation: hunger… starving to death… eating shoe strings… And I thought 'Oh yes, there's something funny in that'."

When he got the idea for the "Gold Rush" Charlie Chaplin was under tremendous pressure to produce. He had just lost money making his last film, "A Woman of Paris" and he was feeling the pressure to produce in the face of increasing competition from the likes of Harold Loyd, Buster Keaton and to a lesser extent the Keystone Cops. Legend has it that he was inspired by a combination of pictures of prospectors heading to the Klondike and stories of the Donner Party. From these images a classic silent comedy emerged.

The "Gold Rush" took two grueling years to make (shooting encompassed 15 months with 170 days of actual shooting and 9 weeks of editing).

Chaplin provides the film with its emotional center as the little tramp who sets out to make his fortune in the halcyon days of the Alaskan gold rush. When the little tramp is lost amidst the vast snowy Alaskan wastes the audience is relieved when he literally stumbles onto an isolated cabin. Little does he know that the cabin belongs to the dastardly desperado Black Larsen. Into this mix Chaplin adds a third character, Big Jim McKay, who eventually emerges as Chaplin's partner in a huge gold strike. More importantly the trio's scenes inside the little cabin are some of the funniest sequences ever captured on film. Particularly noteworthy is the "Thanksgiving Dinner" scene in which Chaplin eats his shoelaces (these were made of licorice) and ends up with his foot in the oven. The sequences where the trio imagines one another as different food stuffs is delightful in a macabre sort of way.

Silent comedies, more than any other genera continued to maintain their luster long after talkies became the fashion. Perhaps this is because the essence of this comedy is frequently physical and always empathic. The viewer doesn't need words to understand how Chaplin feels or what he is going through Chaplin telegraphs these things across the screen. This is a genuine classic that represents the best of the golden age of comedy.

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