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boisterousness

The Gold Rush

The Gold Rush is a 1925 silent film comedy written, directed by, and starring Charlie Chaplin in his Little Tramp role. The film also stars Mack Swain, Tom Murray, Henry Bergman, Malcolm Waite, and Georgia Hale. Chaplin declared several times that this was the film that he most wanted to be remembered for.

Plot

The Little Tramp travels to Alaska to take part in the Alaska Gold Rush. After bad weather strands him in a remote cabin with a prospector and an escaped fugitive, the Tramp eventually finds himself in a gold rush town where he ultimately decides to give up prospecting. After taking a job looking after another prospector's cabin, he falls in love with a lonely saloon girl whom he mistakenly thinks has fallen in love with him. He soon finds himself waylaid by the prospector he met earlier, who has developed amnesia and needs the Tramp to help him find his claim.

Particularly famous scenes include:

  • The Little Tramp, starving, having to eat his boot.
  • A house teetering on the edge of a cliff, before its occupants (including Chaplin) manage to scramble out.
  • The Little Tramp showing a dance to his imaginary dinner guests using two bread rolls stabbed with forks.

One sequence was altered in the 1942 re-release so that instead of the Tramp finding a note from Georgia Hale's character which he mistakenly believes is for him, he actually receives the note from her. Another major alteration is the ending, in which the now-wealthy Tramp originally gave Georgia a lingering kiss; the sound version ends before this scene.

Background

Lita Grey was originally cast as the leading lady. Chaplin married Grey in mid-1924, and she was replaced in the film by Georgia Hale. Although photographs of Grey exist in the role, documentaries such as Unknown Chaplin and Chaplin Today: The Gold Rush do not contain any film footage of her, indicating no such footage survives.

Chaplin attempted to film many of the scenes on location near Truckee, California, in early 1924. He abandoned most of this footage (which included him being chased through the snow by Big Jim, instead of just around the hut as in the final cut), retaining only the film's opening scene. The final film was shot on the backlot and stages at Chaplin's Hollywood studio, where elaborate Klondike sets were constructed.

Discussing the making of the film in the documentary series Unknown Chaplin, Hale revealed that she had idolized Chaplin since childhood and that the final scene of the original version, in which the two kiss, reflected the state of their relationship by that time (Chaplin's marriage to Lita Grey having collapsed during production of the film). Hale discusses her relationship with Chaplin in her memoir Charlie Chaplin: Intimate Close-Ups.

The Gold Rush was a huge success in the US and worldwide. It is the fifth highest grossing silent film in cinema history, taking in more than $4,250,001 at the box office in 1926. It is in fact the highest grossing silent comedy film.

Chaplin proclaimed at the time of its release that this was the film for which he wanted to be remembered. Today, in U.S., the original 1925 version is in the public domain, since the copyright was not renewed in 1953. Outside of U.S., Roy Export Company Establishment (current rights holder) claims that copyright still continues, in European Union countries, until 2047 (70 years after the death of director Chaplin), in Japan, until 2015 (later either over 38 years from death of Chaplin, or over 70 years from issue).

1942 re-release

In 1942, Chaplin released a new version of The Gold Rush, taking the original silent 1925 film and composing and recording a musical score, adding a narration which he recorded himself, and tightening the editing which reduced the film's running time by several minutes. As noted above, he also changed some plot points. Besides removing the kiss at the end, another change eliminated a subplot in which Charlie is tricked into believing Georgia is in love with him by Georgia's paramour, Jack.

The new music score by Max Terr and the sound recording by James L. Fields were nominated for Academy Awards in 1943.

The Gold Rush was the first of Chaplin's classic silents that he converted to a sound version in this fashion. As revealed in the 2003 DVD release, the reissue of The Gold Rush also served to preserve most of the footage from the original film, as even the DVD-restored print of the 1925 original shows noticeable degradation of image and missing frames, artifacts not in evidence in the 1942 version.

Cast

Critical reception

In its original 1925 release, The Gold Rush was generally praised by critics. Mordaunt Hall wrote in The New York Times:

Here is a comedy with streaks of poetry, pathos, tenderness, linked with brusqueness and boisterousness. It is the outstanding gem of all Chaplin's pictures, as it has more thought and originality than even such masterpieces of mirth as The Kid and Shoulder Arms.

The scene where Chaplin eats his shoe has become iconic and has been referenced briefly in The Simpsons episode Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?.

In 1992, The Gold Rush was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

The "roll dance" the tramp character performs in the film is considered one of the most memorable scenes in film history, although Roscoe Arbuckle did something similar in the 1917 movie The Rough House which also starred Buster Keaton. The bit was briefly homaged by Curly Howard in the 1935 Three Stooges film Pardon My Scotch. In more recent times, it was replicated by Johnny Depp's character in the 1993 film Benny and Joon and by Grampa Simpson in the 1994 episode of The Simpsons entitled "Lady Bouvier's Lover".

American Film Institute recognition

References

See also

External links

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