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The Gold Rush

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The Gold Rush, starring Charlie Chaplin, Georgia Hale, Mack Swain
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The Gold Rush, produced & directed by Charlie Chaplin. Starring Charlie Chaplin, Georgia Hale, Mack Swain, Tom Murray

Synopsis of The Gold Rush


The Gold Rush is one of Charlie Chaplin’s greatest films. Like all of his films starring the Little Tramp, it is a silent, and demonstrates very well why the silent move is an art form in its’ own right. Modern clowns would do well to learn from a master of the art of pantomime by watching this film — €“ it’s Chaplin at his finest. Chaplin and his crew do an excellent job of telling the story without dialog, and it moves from funny to poignant to sad to touching and back to funny again.
It details the Little Tramp, who has made his way to Alaska for the Gold Rush, trying to make his fortune. Along the way, he partners with a mad-from-hunger gold digger looking for his lost claim (played by Mack Swain, one of Chaplin’s regulars), falls in love with a young lady from a saloon (played by Georgia Hale), gets on the wrong side of a very dangerous outlaw, and finds his way to happily ever after by the end of the film.

It contains some of Chaplin’s most hilarious moments, including the dance of the dinner rolls, Charlie boiling and eating his own shoe, and several other classic moments. Highly recommended for any Chaplin fan, or anyone who wants to laugh.

Notes on The Gold Rush:

  • Georgia Hale, Chaplin’s co-star, also had an off-again/on-again romance with Chaplin. You can read about her, and their relationship, in Charlie Chaplin: Intimate Close-Ups (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series
  • In 1925, this film was on the N.Y. Times “Top 10 Film List.”
  • The Gold Rush was re-issued in 1942, with re-editing, narration and an original, musical score by Chaplin. The re-issue also made the N.Y. Times “Top 10 Film List” for 1942.

Editorial review of The Gold Rush | Charlie Chaplin | Georgia Hale | Mack Swain | Tom Murray, courtesy of

After the box-office failure of his first dramatic film, A Woman of Paris, Charlie Chaplin brooded over his ensuing comedy. “The next film must be an epic!” he recalled in his autobiography. “The greatest!” He found inspiration, paradoxically, in stories of the backbreaking Alaskan gold rush and the cannibalistic Donner Party. These tales of tragedy and endurance provided Chaplin with a rich vein of comic possibilities. The Little Tramp finds himself in the Yukon, along with a swarm of prospectors heading over Chilkoot Pass (an amazing sight re-staged by Chaplin in his opening scenes, filmed in the snowy Sierra Nevadas). When the Tramp is trapped in a mountain cabin with two other fortune hunters, Chaplin stages a veritable ballet of starvation, culminating in the cooking of a leathery boot. Back in town, the Tramp is smitten by a dance-hall girl (Georgia Hale), but it seems impossible that she could ever notice him. The Gold Rush is one of Chaplin’s simplest, loveliest features; and despite its high comedy, it never strays far from Chaplin’s keen grasp of loneliness. In 1942, Chaplin reedited the film and added music and his own narration for a successful rerelease. —Robert Horton

DVD features of The Gold Rush (2 DVD version)

Disc 1 has the 69-minute reissue version of the film, prepared by Chaplin in 1942, with his own musical score and narration; disc 2 has the 96-minute silent original (some Chaplin fans prefer it silent). Along with photo gallery, posters, and trailers, there’s a half-hour documentary that includes Burkina Faso filmmaker Idrissa Ouedraogo’s comments. —Robert Horton

I rate it 4 clowns on a 5-clown scale.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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