The Gold Rush

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The Gold Rush
Gold rush poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byCharlie Chaplin
Produced byCharlie Chaplin
Written byCharlie Chaplin
StarringCharlie Chaplin
Georgia Hale
Mack Swain
Tom Murray
Malcolm Waite
Music by(1942 re-release)
  • Charlie Chaplin
  • Carli Elinor
  • Max Terr
  • James L. Fields
CinematographyRoland Totheroh
Edited byCharlie Chaplin
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • June 26, 1925 (1925-06-26)
Running time
95 minutes(24 fps) (original) 72 min (1942 re-release)
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent film
English intertitles
Box office$2.5 million (US/Canada)[1]
$4 million (worldwide)[2]

The Gold Rush is a 1925 American comedy film written, produced, and directed by Charlie Chaplin. The film also stars Chaplin in his Little Tramp persona, Georgia Hale, Mack Swain, Tom Murray, Henry Bergman, and Malcolm Waite.

Chaplin drew inspiration from photos of the Klondike Gold Rush as well as from the story of the Donner Party who, when snowbound in the Sierra Nevada, were driven to cannibalism or eating leather from their shoes.[3] Chaplin, who believed tragedies and comics were not far from each other, decided to combine these stories of deprivation and horror in comedy. He decided that his famous rogue figure should become a gold-digger who joins a brave optimist determined to face all the pitfalls associated with the search for gold, such as sickness, hunger, loneliness, or the possibility that he may at any time be attacked by a grizzly. In the movie, scenes like Chaplin cooking and dreaming of his shoe, or how his starving friend Big Jim sees him as a chicken could be seen.

The Gold Rush received Academy Award nominations for the Best Music and Best Sound Recording upon its re-release in 1942. It is today one of Chaplin's most celebrated works, and he himself declared several times that it was the film for which he most wanted to be remembered.[4]



Lita Grey, whom Chaplin married in mid-1924, was originally cast as the leading lady, but was replaced 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. 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 had collapsed during production of the film. Hale discusses her relationship with Chaplin in her memoir Charlie Chaplin: Intimate Close-Ups.[citation needed]

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

Box office[edit]

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.[citation needed] Chaplin proclaimed at the time of its release that this was the film for which he wanted to be remembered.[5]

It earned United Artists $1 million and Chaplin himself a profit of $2 million.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

Big Jim and the Lone Prospector in the wobbling cabin

Critics generally praised the original 1925 release of The Gold Rush. 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.[6]

Variety also published a rave review, saying that it was "the greatest and most elaborate comedy ever filmed, and will stand for years as the biggest hit in its field, just as The Birth of a Nation still withstands the many competitors in the dramatic class."[7]

The New Yorker published a mixed review, believing that the dramatic elements of the film did not work well alongside Chaplin's familiar slapstick:

One might be given to expect wonders of Gold Rush burlesque with the old Chaplin at the receiving end of the Klondike equivalent of custard. But one is doomed to disappoint, for Chaplin has seen fit to turn on his onion juices in a Pierrot's endeavor to draw your tears.... Instead of the rush of tears called for, one reaches for his glycerine bottle.... We do not wish to deride Chaplin. He is as deft as ever and far and away a brilliant screen master. He has made a serviceable picture in "The Gold Rush" but it seems that he is not as funny as he once was.[8]

Nevertheless, The New Yorker included The Gold Rush in its year-end list of the ten best films of 1925.[9]

At the 1958 Brussels World Fair, critics rated it the second greatest film in history, behind only Sergei Eisenstein's The Battleship Potemkin. 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".[10]

Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance considers The Gold Rush to be Chaplin's greatest work of the silent-film era. Vance writes, "The Gold Rush is arguably his greatest and most ambitious silent film; it was the longest and most expensive comedy produced up to that time. The film contains many of Chaplin’s most celebrated comedy sequences, including the boiling and eating of his shoe, the dance of the rolls, and the teetering cabin. However, the greatness of The Gold Rush does not rest solely on its comedy sequences but on the fact that they are integrated so fully into a character-driven narrative. Chaplin had no reservations about the finished product. Indeed, in the contemporary publicity for the film, he is quoted, 'This is the picture that I want to be remembered by.'"[11]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

1942 re-release[edit]

In 1942, Chaplin released a new version of The Gold Rush, modifying the original silent 1925 film by adding a recorded musical score, adding a narration which he recorded himself, and tightening the editing, which reduced the film's running time by several minutes.[15] The film was further shortened by being run at the 24 frames per second rate of sound films. Like most silent movies it was originally shot and exhibited at a slower speed. Chaplin also changed some plot points. Besides removing the ending kiss, another edit eliminated a subplot in which the Lone Prospector 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.[16]

The Gold Rush was the first of Chaplin's classic silent films that he converted to sound.[17] The 2012 Blu-ray release revealed that the reissue of The Gold Rush preserved most of the footage from the original film. Even the restored print of the 1925 original shows noticeable degradation of image and missing frames, artifacts not seen in the 1942 version.

Copyright and home video[edit]

In 1953, the original 1925 film may have entered the public domain in the US, as Chaplin did not renew its copyright registration in the 28th year after publication in accordance with American law at the time.[15][18] As such, the film was once widely available on home video in the US. In the years since, Chaplin's estate has blocked the unauthorized releases of The Gold Rush in the United States by arguing that under URAA/GATT, the film remains under copyright in Great Britain.[19]

In 2012, both the reconstruction of the 1925 silent version and the 1942 narrated reissue version were released on Blu-ray by the Criterion Collection. This set included a new audio commentary track by Chaplin biographer and scholar Jeffrey Vance.[20]

In popular culture[edit]

The "roll dance" that the Little 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 co-starred Buster Keaton. The bit was briefly homaged by Curly Howard in the 1935 Three Stooges film Pardon My Scotch. Anna Karina's character in Bande à part references it before the famous dance scene. In more recent times, it was replicated by Robert Downey Jr. in his lead role as Charles Chaplin in the 1992 Chaplin, which also briefly depicts the production of the film; Johnny Depp's character in the 1993 film Benny and Joon; Grampa Simpson in the 1994 The Simpsons episode "Lady Bouvier's Lover"; and by Amy Adams's character in The Muppets. The "hanging cabin on the edge of the cliff" sequence has been used in two Indian movies – 1990 Tamil comedy Michael Madana Kama Rajan and 2007 Hindi comedy Welcome.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Quigley Publishing Company "The All Time Best Sellers", International Motion Picture Almanac 1937–38 (1938) p 942 accessed April 19, 2014
  2. ^ a b Balio, Tino (2009). United Artists: The Company Built by the Stars. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-299-23004-3.
  3. ^ "Filming The Gold Rush". Retrieved January 20, 2018.
  4. ^ 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (in Swedish). p. 60. ISBN 978-91-46-21330-7.
  5. ^ Vance, Jeffrey. Chaplin: Genius of the Cinema (2003): Harry N. Abrams, p. 154. ISBN 0-8109-4532-0
  6. ^ Mordaunt Hall (August 17, 1925). "The Gold Rush (review)". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 5, 2016. Retrieved November 3, 2006.
  7. ^ "Film Reviews". Variety. New York: Variety, Inc.: 22 July 1, 1925. Retrieved November 13, 2014.
  8. ^ "Critique". The New Yorker. New York: F-R Publishing Company: 17. August 22, 1925.
  9. ^ Shane, Theodore (December 26, 1925). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. New York: F-R Publishing Company: 29.
  10. ^ "25 American films are added to the National Film Registry". The Prescott Courier. December 7, 1992. Retrieved February 20, 2016.
  11. ^ Vance, Jeffrey (2003). Chaplin: Genius of the Cinema. New York: Harry N. Abrams, pg. 154. ISBN 0-8109-4532-0.
  12. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved July 17, 2016.
  13. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved July 17, 2016.
  14. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition)" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved July 17, 2016.
  15. ^ a b Dave Kehr (June 22, 2012). "Braving the Klondike on a Shoe Diet. Charlie Chaplin in 'The Gold Rush,' Remastered". The New York Times. Retrieved March 9, 2015. Chaplin himself gave “The Gold Rush” an “Artist”-like makeover in 1942, when he reissued the film in a shortened version with music, sound effects and his own plummy, voice-over narration. ...
  16. ^ "The 15th Academy Awards (1943) Nominees and Winners". Archived from the original on November 7, 2011. Retrieved August 14, 2011.
  17. ^ In 1959, Chaplin re-edited The Pilgrim as part of The Chaplin Revue, and in the 1970s, he re-edited, re-scored, and re-issued The Kid, A Woman of Paris, and The Circus.
  18. ^ Fishman, Stephen (2010), The Public Domain: How to Find & Use Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art & More (5th ed.), Nolo (retrieved via Google Books), ISBN 1-4133-1205-5, retrieved October 31, 2010
  19. ^ David P. Hayes (2007). "Music Synchronization – What the Courts Ruled". Copyright Registration and Renewal Information Chart and Web Site. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
  20. ^ "The Gold Rush". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved March 14, 2016.

External links[edit]