Cast & Crew
During the Gold Rush, prospectors brave Alaska's dangerous Chilkoot Pass, hoping to strike it rich in the snowy mountains. Just as Big Jim McKay discovers gold on his claim, a storm arises, prompting a Lone Prospector to take refuge in a cabin. Unknown to him, the cabin's occupant is desperado Black Larsen, who attempts to throw the vagabond Prospector out. Strong winds, however, repeatedly blow the little man back inside, and soon after, Jim is also swept into the cabin. Jim fights with Larsen over his shotgun, and after Jim prevails, the Prospector claims him as a close friend in order to remain safe. Over the next few days, the three men live together uneasily, their hunger growing as the storm rages on. After eating the lantern candle, with salt, the Prospector worries in vain that Jim has eaten Larsen's little dog. Finally, the men cut cards to see who will hunt for food, and the loser, Larsen, sets out alone. He immediately encounters two lawmen who are searching for him, and after shooting them both, steals their supplies and travels on until he happens upon Jim's claim. Meanwhile, the Prospector and Jim grow so ravenous that they boil and eat the Prospector's leather shoe for Thanksgiving dinner. Unsatiated, Jim starts hallucinating, imagining that the Prospector is a large, luscious chicken. He tries repeatedly to shoot his little friend for dinner, causing the men to fight. The Prospector closes his eyes and attacks, and when he discovers that the leg he is clutching is actually that of a bear, he shoots it, finally providing them with a meal. Soon after, the storm ends and the friends part ways. Upon returning to his claim, Jim finds a well-fed Larsen, who knocks Jim out and flees but is soon killed in an avalanche. The Prospector travels on to Gold Rush City, where he falls in love with Georgia, a dance hall girl. Georgia's flirtation with ladies' man Jack Cameron precludes her from noting the Prospector's existence until finally, hoping to provoke Jack, she chooses the grubby Prospector as a dance partner. The Prospector is thrilled, but cannot help calling attention to himself when his pants fall down and he accidentally belts them with a leash that is still attached to a dog. Later, the Prospector sees Jack and Georgia quarrelling, and although afraid of the much larger man, bravely fights him. When a clock falls on Jack's head and knocks him out, the Prospector, who did not see the clock hit Jack, is amazed by his own strength. The next morning, the little man obtains food by pretending he is nearly frozen outside Hank Curtis' cabin, prompting the kind man to feed and shelter him. One day, while Hank is away mining, Georgia and her friends happen by his cabin. Georgia discovers her photo under the Prospector's pillow and teases the gullible man by pretending to adore him. Before leaving, the girls accept his invitation to New Year's Eve dinner, after which he rips up his pillows in delight, only to be found covered in feathers by Georgia when she returns for her gloves. Although the Prospector shovels snow for days to earn enough money to prepare a lavish dinner, on New Year's Eve the girls celebrate in the dance hall, leaving the little man waiting in his cabin. He falls asleep at the table and dreams that he is entertaining the girls by creating the illusion of as dance using rolls attached to two forks, but when he wakes, he is alone. He goes to the dance hall, but the girls and Jack have already left for his cabin to tease him further. There, however, Georgia sees the dinner he has prepared and realizes her joke has gone too far. A few days later, Jim, who has partial amnesia and has searched in vain for his rich claim, recognizes the Prospector in the dance hall and joyfully instructs him to lead him to Larsen's cabin, which he knows is near his claim. After the Prospector declares his love to Georgia and promises to return for her, the men journey to the cabin, and while they are asleep, a strong wind pushes the house until it teeters over the edge of a cliff. When they wake, they slowly realize that, by standing at opposite ends of the room, their weight shifts the cabin back and forth over the mountain edge. After multiple attempts, they finally manage to climb out of the house just before it topples over the cliff, only to discover that they are on Jim's claim. The friends are immediately transformed into multimillionaires, and prepare to return to the mainland by boat. Unknown to the Prospector, Georgia is also on the boat, and after a journalist asks the Prospector to don his hobo clothes for a photo shoot, Georgia assumes he is a stowaway and tries to protect him from the ship's guards. Soon, the misunderstanding is cleared up, and the Prospector invites his love to his luxury stateroom, where he "spoils" a press photograph by leaning over to kiss her.
Best Dramatic Score
The Gold Rush
Followed by a grizzly bear and surrounded by signs marking the graves of dead prospectors, the Tramp stumbles across a cabin inhabited by the dangerous criminal Black Larson (played by former vaudevillian Tom Murray). The pair hole up in the midst of a blizzard, starving for food of any kind. When another prospector, the kindly Big Jim McKay (Mack Swain) -- who has discovered an enormous gold nugget in the mountains -- joins the snowbound pair, the trio cuts cards to determine which one will head out into the wilderness in search of food.
One of the typically inventive, whimsical films of Charlie Chaplin's long, prolific career in Hollywood, The Gold Rush wrests comedy from the struggles of this often helpless waif in the brutal American wilds. The Tramp is so slight, each time Larson opens the door to his cabin a chilly blast blows him across the room, and out the back door. In one hilarious vignette, the starving Tramp and McKay boil a shoe (which was actually made of licorice for the scene) for dinner, consuming the shoelaces like spaghetti, and licking each tack clean like a scrumptious bone. The scene reportedly took three shooting days and 63 takes, and the licorice prop's laxative effect momentarily incapacitated Chaplin and Swain. Just as amusing as that brilliant gag was its comic echo in the film - for the rest of the film the Tramp wears a burlap cloth wrapped around his shoeless right foot to reiterate his pathetic predicament.
There are also scenes of surprising tenderness in The Gold Rush, like the Tramp's infatuation with a lovely dance hall girl, Georgia (Georgia Hale), who offers a beautiful respite from the hardships of the cold and hunger. Hardened by her work, Georgia first mocks the Tramp's affection, then finds her own heart melted by his boyish ardor.
The Gold Rush was altered by Chaplin in 1941 during the sound era to include a new orchestral score composed by Chaplin, and the deadpan wit of Chaplin's voice-over narration adds another element of comedy to this revised version.
The Gold Rush was Chaplin's first starring role as a collaborator in the United Artists company, formed six years previously with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith. The inspiration for The Gold Rush was said to be twofold. Breakfasting with husband and wife Fairbanks and Pickford, Chaplin was intrigued by stereograph photos owned by the pair which depicted the Klondike gold rush. Chaplin was also fascinated by the tragic events of the Donner party, who in 1846, while traversing the United States in the snow, had to resort to cannibalism to keep from starving to death (reportedly the survivors ate the flesh of their dead companions). Part of the filming for The Gold Rush, in fact, took place close to where the Donner party camped.
A perfectionist always striving for the perfect end result, Chaplin made The Gold Rush at the enormous cost of over $900,000 and filmed under often physically brutal, rustic conditions in the Nevada town of Truckee. Testifying to the primitive working conditions, the film's first leading lady, Lita Grey, complained her hotel room featured a chamber pot and three cuspidors.
Chaplin had initially planned to feature Grey, the child star of his 1921 film The Kid, in the role of the dance hall girl at $75 dollars a week. But Chaplin found himself forced to change direction when he impregnated the 16-year-old Grey and her belly began to betray evidence of her condition. In a dramatic about-face, Chaplin averted a potential charge of statutory rape by marrying Grey and casting Georgia Hale in the role. A former Miss America contestant who used her beauty contest money to move to Hollywood, Hale was cast in the role of Georgia after auditions that had pitted her against such other talented beauties as Carole Lombard (then Jean Peters).
The Gold Rush has been cited by the International Film Jury as the second greatest film of all time (after Battleship Potemkin, 1925), and Chaplin said it was the film he would most like to be remembered by. Today The Gold Rush remains one of cinema's enduring comedy classics, starring, written and directed by the twentieth century's first media superstar.
Producer/Director: Charles Chaplin
Screenplay: Charles Chaplin
Cinematography: Roland Totheroh
Production Design: Charles D. Hall
Music: Charles Chaplin
Principal Cast: Charles Chaplin (Lone Prospector), Georgia Hale (Georgia), Mack Swain (Big Jim McKay), Tom Murray (Black Larson).
by Felicia Feaster
The Gold Rush
The Gold Rush - THE GOLD RUSH - Charlie Chaplin's Comedic Masterwork
Charles Chaplin was and remains the most popular of all, an icon of history and a brand name recognized in every corner of the globe. Chaplin developed a personal cinematic technique to display his comedic and dramatic talents and to showcase his star personality. Keaton's humor often required mechanical props like trick houses, trains and boats, but Chaplin's genius was largely self-contained. No ballet dancer was as graceful, no clown as funny, no tragedian as heartbreaking. A complex man, Chaplin indulged appetites beyond today's petty scandals. A penchant for under-aged women caused him his share of legal troubles, and was eventually used during the Cold War witch hunts to see him banished from America. Back in the 1920s and '30s Chaplin's popularity and talent made him too big to fail. Whereas Roscoe Arbuckle became a scapegoat for the perceived sins of the entire film community, Chaplin survived various scandals and retained his popularity.
Some of Chaplin's greatest movies were produced while fighting off lawsuits and weathering smear campaigns designed to tarnish his image. His favorite and arguably most popular film is 1925's The Gold Rush, an ambitious epic that finds laughs in the frozen North. Inspired by a few photos of the fanatic quest for riches in the harsh environment of the Yukon, Chaplin fashioned a comedy that mixed belly laughs and sentiment in equal parts.
The show begins almost as a documentary, with a faithful restaging of the inspirational photo of miners climbing a snowy hill called Chilkoot Pass. But then we're introduced to Charlie, The Lone Prospector (Chaplin). The unlikely man of the wild is oblivious to a bear as he ambles along a narrow mountain path. Trapped in a cliff-side cabin during a roaring blizzard, Charlie meets two equally cold and famished Klondike hopefuls. The enormous Big Jim (Mack Swain) goes batty with hunger and imagines that Charlie is a tasty chicken. Villainous Black Larsen (Tom Murray) says he's going for help, but instead kills two lawmen and hastens to steal gold from Big Jim's secret mine. Now confirmed friends, Charlie and Big Jim part ways. Charlie hobbles into a wild frontier town and immediately falls in love with the beautiful dance hall girl Georgia (Georgia Hale). She doesn't even notice his shy, awkward advances. Georgia's boorish boyfriend Jack Cameron (Malcolm Waite) gives Charlie a hard time. Misinterpreting Georgia's amusement, Charlie plans a big New Year's party and decorates his humble cabin. When Georgia and her girlfriends don't come, he falls asleep and imagines himself entertaining his guests, gloriously happy.
Events transpire to give Charlie a second chance with Georgia, just as his partner Big Jim returns. He lost his memory in a death struggle with Black Larsen, but if Charlie can help him find his way back to that cabin on the cliff, Jim will be able to relocate his mine. They'll both be rich!
Chaplin's earlier feature The Kid introduced a major theme of bittersweet pathos, and is as much of a tearjerker as it is a comedy. The Gold Rush also finds unexpected depth by grounding its comedy in a storyline that, in its broad strokes, almost matches Erich von Stroheim's socially deterministic Greed. The Klondike gold rush sees Chaplin facing terrible hardship including starvation. Cannibalism seems a real possibility. Desperate men kill over dreams of fabulous wealth. The only society in view is cruel and pitiless. Romance enters when the lovely Georgia proves not to be a hardened prostitute but another lost soul just waiting for the right man to redeem her.
The Lone Prospector wants to succeed but is also a seeker of true love; he's an innocent in the woods. He's of course Charlie's Little Tramp character, to the extent of wearing his standard costume while all about him are dressed in heavy furs. Having left behind his former streak of mean-spirited mischievousness, the Tramp is now and Everyman character, personifying the struggle of the gentle human spirit. Director Chaplin's artful pictorial compositions add layers of meaning to the character's persona. Standing semi-silhouetted in the foreground while the miners and showgirls carouse and dance in the bright saloon beyond, Chaplin's tramp is the essence of the outsider looking in, the little man excluded from the party.
The physical comedy is as inspired as ever -- viewers still marvel at the feast of the boot (it steams!) and Chaplin's whimsical "Oceana Roll" dance performed with forks and dinner rolls. The major gags are closely aligned with character elements. During his one opportunity to dance with Georgia, the Lone Prospector inadvertently ties his pants with a dog's leash. We laugh even as we feel the misery of Charlie's humiliation.
The big physical gags at the cliff-side cabin almost take Chaplin into Buster Keaton territory. The Tramp's struggle with Big Jim and Black Larsen is aggravated by the wind that howls through the cabin's doors, threatening to blow anybody standing in the wrong spot out of the cabin and over the cliff. Chaplin found that the comedic perfection he sought was too difficult to achieve when filming out in the real elements. Only a few shots were used from his expensive filming expedition to the snow. Production stills exist of the director trying to work in his standard thin Tramp costume while all about him are shivering in heavy coats. Warm-for-cold sets back in Hollywood, along with expert camera effects and miniature work, were the fallback plan.
Even the scenes of emotional pathos in Chaplin's own later classics aren't quite as pure as the simple New Year's dream in The Gold Rush. The ultimate 'lonely guy' moment sees the pitiful prospector's romantic hopes dashed, leaving him to imagine a personal heaven where his sweetness is recognized and he too can be the life of the party. Chaplin was a real fantasist in his personal love life. His depiction of romantic innocence is one of the highlights of the silent cinema.
The Criterion Collection's Blu-ray of The Gold Rush may be the release that finally does justice to Charles Chaplin's personal favorite among his movies. At least one earlier American DVD was converted from a European PAL format master, and played at a rate 4% faster than it should. In 1942 the director decided to re-work the film for a modernized reissue, adding a full music score and sound effects. He removed all of the silent inter-titles, replacing them with a personally recorded new narration. Chaplin's trims jettisoned at least one important plot point, and his abrupt new ending removed the original kiss at the fade-out. Deciding that the final from for The Gold Rush would be this re-edited and shortened version, Chaplin conformed his original negative to it. The optical soundtrack was added without reducing the image, resulting in cropping on the top, bottom and left of the film frame, unbalancing compositions. No 35mm printing elements for the 1925 silent original were retained.
This Criterion release contains both the 1942 version approved by the Chaplin Estate and also a fine reconstruction of the superior 1925 original. The restoration story is covered in a featurette called Presenting The Gold Rush with Jeffrey Vance and Kevin Brownlow. Brownlow tells us that when he was commissioned to piece together the lost '25 version, months passed before he found anything at all to work with.
Jeffrey Vance provides a feature commentary. Other featurettes address the film's creative visual effects and Chaplin's music score. From 2002 is a "Chaplin Today" documentary on The Gold Rush featuring the participation of African director Idrissa Ouedraogo. The insert booklet contains an essay by Luc Sante, along with James Agee's original review of the 1942 release. The Time magazine critic found the '42 version to be charming, even with the director's irritating storybook narration. When Chaplin ran into his political troubles, Agee was one of the few voices to come to his defense.
For more information about The Gold Rush, visit The Criterion Collection. To order The Gold Rush, go to TCM Shopping.
by Glenn Erickson
The Gold Rush - THE GOLD RUSH - Charlie Chaplin's Comedic Masterwork
The 2,500 men playing prospectors were real vagrants who were hired for one day's pay.
There was 27 times more film shot than appeared in the final cut.
The only location shot used in the final cut of the film is opening shot of the miners heading up Chilkoot Pass.
The scene where The Lone Prospector and Big Jim have a boot for supper took three days and 63 takes to suit director Charles Chaplin. The boot was made of licorice, and Chaplin was later rushed to hospital suffering insulin shock.
This film was selected to the National Film Registry, Library of Congress, in 1992.
The working title of this film was Lucky Strike. The Gold Rush was the first Charlie Chaplin feature released through United Artists, a compnay he co-founded with D. W. Griffith, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. The film's original length of 10 reels was remarked upon in many contemporary reviews as "record-breaking" for a comedy. The July 18, 1924 Moving Picture World review of the film's Los Angeles premiere stated that the film was 9,760 feet, while at the August 16, 1924 New York opening, it was cut to either 8,555 feet, according to the August 29, 1924 Moving Picture World review, or 8,498 feet, according to modern sources.
In his autobiography, Chaplin states that the story of The Gold Rush was inspired by the tale of the Donner Party, emigrants who in 1846 split off from a larger wagon train traveling to California through the Sierra Nevada mountains, only to meet with a blizzard that resulted in the death of half the party. The scene in which the "Lone Prospector" eats his shoe was inspired by tales that the Donner Party members were forced to eat their moccasins (the members also resorted to cannibalism in order to stay alive). Chaplin also states in his autobiography that he shot a sequence depicting a romance between the Prospector and an Eskimo squaw, but deleted those scenes from the final print. Although a March 15, 1924 Moving Picture World news item reported that Chaplin planned to shoot on location in Alaska, modern sources confirm that location shooting was confined to Truckee, CA, California's Sierra Nevada Mountains, and Mt. Lincoln, CO, which stood in for Alaska's Chilkoot Pass.
A December 1925 Science and Invention article entitled "Trick Photography in The Gold Rush" noted that Chaplin used such special effects as miniatures, double printing and a fade-out iris manipulated to allow the image of the Prospector to dissolve into that of the chicken. The article also described the filming of the scene in which the cabin seems to hang precariously over a precipice: The cabin was alternately hung from cables, hinged at its joints so it could rock back and forth, and rotated by a swivel below. Modern sources add that, in the scene in which the Prospector eats his shoe, the boot was made of licorice with rock-candy nails.
According to various contemporary and modern reports, filming on The Gold Rush began in February 1924 with Lita Grey as the star. After an affair with Chaplin, however, in September the then-fifteen-year-old Grey revealed that she was pregnant and insisted that they marry. Filming was suspended and the wedding took place in Mexico in Nov, at which point Grey was sixteen and Chaplin thirty-five. Their tumultuous relationship lasted only three years and produced Chaplin's first two sons, Charles, Jr. and Sydney Chaplin. By late December 1924, Chaplin announced Georgia Hale as the new star of The Gold Rush and resumed filming, which ended in April 1925. Newspaper stories of the scandal that ensued from Chaplin's affair with the teenage Grey marked the beginning of ongoing difficulties Chaplin had with the American press, which eventually led to the government denying him re-entry into America in 1952. (For more information, see the entry for the 1947 Chaplin Studios picture Monsieur Verdoux in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50.)
At the New York premiere of The Gold Rush, at midnight on August 16, 1925, Chaplin appeared in person, and the film was accompanied by an orchestra conducted by Carl Edouarde. The reviews of The Gold Rush were uniformly laudatory. The July 18, 1925 Moving Picture World review, which followed the Hollywood premiere and called the film "a great and vital story," included an editor's disclaimer stating that, as their West Coast representative seemed to have been "swept off his feet," the publication would re-view the film upon its New York opening to ensure that his praise was reasonable. The Var reviewer described the picture as "an out and out comedy, and the greatest of all time."
On April 18, 1942, Chaplin re-released the film after re-editing it, replacing subtitles with spoken narration, adding a musical score and subtly altering some scenes. Added musical compositions include Richard Wagner's "Evening Star" from the opera Tannhauser and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee." That version has a runing time of 72 minutes. The onscreen credits of the 1942 version included the following added or altered credits: Narr wrt and spoken by Charles Chaplin; Orig comp Charles Chaplin; Music Director Max Terr; Sound Recording Pete Decker and W. M. Dalgleish; Film Editor Harold McGhan; and Production Manager Alfred Reeves. It included a written dedication to Alexander Woolcott "in appreciation of his praise of this picture." The opening credits ended with the following written statement: "This is a revival of the silent picture, The Gold Rush with music and descriptive dialogue added." Many scenes in the 1942 version were recut using, according to modern sources, footage shot with a second camera during the original production. Certain changes made the character of Georgia appear more sympathetic; for instance, although in the original, Georgia's love letter is meant for Jack, who then gives it the Prospector as a joke, the later film presents the note as Georgia's proclamation of love for the Prospector. In addition, this version deletes the original ending, in which the Prospector kisses Georgia and waves off the photographer, who then declares that he has "ruined the picture." This comment was considered by many contemporary reviewers to leave the health of the relationship ambiguous, and to signal Chaplin's disinterest in his critical reception.
Modern sources add the following members to the cast: John Rand, Albert Austin, Alan Garcia and Tom Wood (Prospectors); Kay Deslys, Betty Morrisey and Joan Lowell (Georgia's friends); Barbara Pierce (Manicurist); Art Walker and A. J. O'Connor (Policemen) and Jack Adams, Lillian Adrian, Sam Allen, Claude Anderson, Harry Arras, Marta Belfort, William Bell, Francis Bernhardt, F. J. Beauregard, E. Blumenthal, William Bradford, George Brock, Peter Brogan, William Butler, Cecile Cameron, R. Campbell, Leland Carr, H. C. Chisholm, Harry Coleman, Rebecca Conroy, Dorothy Crane, James Darby, Harry De Mors, Jimmy Dime, W. S. Dobson, Bessie Eade, John Eagown, Aaron Edward, M. Farrell, Leon Fary, Richard Foley, Charles Force, J. C. Fowler, Inez Gomez, Ray Grey, William Hackett, Mildred Hall, James Hammer, Ben Hart, Gypsy Hart, R. Hausner, Tom Hawley, Helen Hayward, Jack Herrick, Jack Hoefer, George Holt, Josie Howard, Jean Huntley, Tom Hutchinson, Carl Jensen, Gladys Johnson, Harry Jones, Fred Karno, Jr., Helen Kassler, Bob Kelly, John "Dusty" King, Freddie Lansit, Elias Lazaroff, Bob Leonard, George Lesley, Geraldine Leslie, Francis Lowell, Chris-Pin Martin, Clyde McAtee, John McGrath, Dolores Mendes, John Millerta, Ruth Milo, Marie Muggley, S. Murphy, Florence Murth, Mr. Myers, P. Nagle, George Neely, Nellie Noxon, H. C. Oliver, Donnabelle Ouster, William Parmalee, Jack Phillips, Betty Pierce, Art Price, Lillian Reschm, Frank Rice, C. F. Roark, E. M. Robb, Lillian Rosine, Edna Rowe, Jane Sherman, J. J. Smith, Joe Smith, C. B. Steele, Frank Stockdale, Daddy Taylor, Nina Trask, Armand Triller, John Tully, Jack Vedders, John Wallace, Sharkey Weimar, White Cloud, Mary Williams, Marie Willis, Ed Wilson, H. Wolfinger, Dave Wright, Ah Yot, George Young and Ed Zimmer (People in dance hall). Modern sources also credit Jim Tully as a co-writer, Mark Marlatt and Jack Wilson as camera operators and A. Edward Sutherland and Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast as assistant directors.
The 1942 re-release version received two Academy Award nominations: Max Terr was nominated for Achievement in Music (Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture), and RCA Sound and James Field were nominated for Achievement in Sound, but lost to Max Steiner forNow, Voyager and Nathan Levinson for Yankee Doodle Dandy. According to a November 3, 1993 The Times (London) article, in 1993, the film was once again re-edited to include both the 1925 footage and the 1942 revisions. Upon its screening in London, that version was accompanied by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, conducted by Carl Davis.
Released in United States 1973
Released in United States 2011
Released in United States August 1989
Released in United States Summer June 26, 1925
Re-released in United States 1942
Shown at Vevey International Festival of Comedy Films August 1989.
Released in USA on video.
Selected in 1992 for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.
Re-released in United States 1942 (With music and commentary by Chaplin.)
Released in United States 1973 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (The Great American Films) November 15 - December 16, 1973.)
Released in United States 2011 (Masterworks)
Released in United States Summer June 26, 1925
Released in United States August 1989 (Shown at Vevey International Festival of Comedy Films August 1989.)