#4) The Gold Rush (1925)
OR “The One Where Chaplin Eats His Shoe”
Written and Directed by Charles Chaplin
Class of 1992
NOTE: Like a few of the films we’ll be watching, this one has multiple versions. “The Gold Rush” can be viewed in its original 1925 silent version (which runs about 95 minutes) or in its 1942 re-release version that recuts a few things and adds a soundtrack and narration by Chaplin (this runs about 75 minutes). Since I’m not entirely sure which version is in the NFR, I watched the original 1925 cut. You can read my thoughts on the 1942 version here.
The Plot: Chaplin’s beloved Tramp character resurfaces as “The Lone Prospector” during the Klondike Gold Rush. Along the way he encounters a fellow prospector (Mack Swain) who may have struck it rich, a wanted criminal (Tom Murray) hiding out in a cabin, and a dance hall girl named Georgia (Georgia Hale) whom he falls for. There’s plenty of laughs and heart in the film originally subtitled “A Dramatic Comedy”.
Why It Matters: Interestingly enough, the NFR only refers to its two most iconic scenes (The shoe eating scene & the Oceana roll dance), as well as it being the film Chaplin wanted to be remembered for.
But Does It Really?: Maybe it was the longer print, or the slower pacing of the silent era, but this one took a while for me to get into. Don’t get me wrong, the iconic moments are remembered for good reason, but as a whole I can only say that this film has its moments. As for posterity, let’s say “The Gold Rush” is to Chaplin what “The Birds” is to Hitchcock; a classic to be sure, but compared to some of the director’s other films, not their definitive work.
Everybody Gets One: While many of them worked with Chaplin throughout the years, this is the only Chaplin film on the registry for most of the supporting cast. Henry Bergman (who plays Hank Curtis) is the exception, having also appeared in “Modern Times”.
Wow, That’s Dated: Fur coats as a sign of wealth. Pillows with actual feathers in them.
Take a Shot: Going solely on the titles of the original cut, a few shout outs but not enough to get your drink on.
Seriously, Oscars?: Since the Oscars didn’t come around until 1928, the original release was not eligible. BUT, in a weird lapse in eligibility, the film’s 1942 re-release was nominated in the categories of Sound Recording and Original Score. AND IT STILL LOST. Keep in mind this was 17 years later, when Chaplin was already a poster child for Oscar abuse.
- I’m curious why a perfectionist like Chaplin would risk the unpredictability of working with so many animals. This film has a few dogs, a cat, a mule, and even a bear! Plus a guy in a chicken suit!
- Jim McKay looks like Zero Mostel circa “Fiddler on the Roof”. There. I said it.
- I like that the cops hanging out in Jim McKay’s tent are trying to survive, yet still have time for their pipes.
- There’s a lot of gunplay in this movie, including Jack wanting to shoot up Chaplin’s place just for fun. Sheesh.
- Oh man, Chaplin really liked using that Georgia title card. Practically every time she shows up it’s there. If the stories are true, Chaplin really had it bad for Georgia Hale while making this film.
- That time Werner Herzog ate his shoe, and it just wasn’t the same.
- I’m pretty sure this is the movie that gave us the trope of someone being really hungry and then imagining another person as food.
- Robert Downey Jr. and Johnny Depp (plus whoever the dude is that made this video) attempting the roll dance.
- Speaking of, even Grandpa Simpson gets in on the act.
- But that’s not all, this runner-up in the Chaplin lookalike contest thinks he can do the roll dance too.
Further Viewing: A look at the restoration of the original 1925 cut using the surviving elements of the 1942 re-release.
UPDATE: (2/13/17) “Second Screening” link added.