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The Gold Rush
1925 - NR - 72 Mins.
Director: Charles Chaplin
Producer: Charles Chaplin
Written By: Charles Chaplin
Starring: Charles Chaplin, Max Swain, Georgia Hale, Tom Murray, Henry Bergman
Review by: Carl Langley
   

Is that a cane you're holdin big fella, or are you Charlie Chaplin?
Many critics and avid Chaplin admirers would state that ‘City Lights’ is his masterpiece. I strongly disagree. ‘The Gold Rush,’ the second prominent film to feature his character The Tramp, provides a multitude of laughs and timeless comic moments, and features Charlie Chaplin’s most flamboyant performance. Whereas ‘City Lights’ had a few chuckles here and there, ‘The Gold Rush’ delivers gut-busters left and right, leaving audiences gasping for air.

Probably the most magical aspect of ‘The Gold Rush’ is that it contains numerous scenes that if seperated from the whole, would still work by themselves. Thankfully, there is an appropriate plot and theme framing the standouts. From the dance with the canine attached to his waist, to the tottering cabin on the edge of a cliff, each scene has its unique comic construction and equally collects a share of the laughs.

The story pits the Tramp against the blistering snow of the Yukon, where he has traveled in search of – if you have not guessed – gold. During a brutal blizzard, he is indefinitely lodged with the maniacal Black Larson (Tom Murray) and the good-hearted, yet severely hungry and delirious Big Jim McKay (Mack Swain). This sets up the first half of the movie and contains a humdinger of a chase sequence between the Tramp, McKay, and a grizzly bear. And, what this movie is perhaps best known for is the scene in which the Tramp cooks and devours his own boot. Rumor has it that Chaplin constructed the shoe out of black licorice, a treat his co-star Swain disliked. Being the perfectionist that he was, Chaplin spent three days shooting the scene and Swain spent the following work days in a hospital.

The second half is wonderfully crafted and stuffed to the bursting point with more gags and slapstick comedy. The Tramp has headed towards a village prospecting for life. Here he finds the beautiful Georgia (Georgia Hale), who is being chased by the philanderer Hank Curtis (Henry Bergman). After one dance, our beloved hero falls head over heels with Georgia.

As previously mentioned, there are certain scenes that standout from the film as a whole. I have already described some of these, to give a taste of what the film does, but I will leave the rest for the uninitiated to discover on their own. Suffice it to say that In this half, there are dancing dinner rolls, an intoxicated Chaplin, and the aforementioned seesaw cabin. By today's standards, these vignettes are simplistic, yet they were back then as well. It is the towering artistic genius of Chaplin that in spite of the apparent simplicity his movie remains effortlessly entertaining.

Chaplin wrote, starred, produced, and directed in ‘The Gold Rush’. Produced in 1925, the silver screen masterpiece was reissued in 1942 with fresh music and narration by Chaplin himself. This significantly reduced its length by over ten minutes, but strengthened the focus on its unfaltering lampoonery. Watching Chaplin perform his slapstick routines masterfully in ‘The Gold Rush’ is nothing short of miraculous. After the final scene, it will be hard to pick yourself up off the floor. I cherish this masterpiece above his other films, because very simply, in my opinion flat-out buffoonery wins out over a touching melodrama any day of the week.
 
Movie Guru Rating
A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic.
  5 out of 5 stars

 
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