The Gold Rush
Written and directed by Charlie Chaplin
Here’s one of these old films that you kind of know what it’s about purely because it’s been spoofed, referenced and sampled in so many other places. I feel like I’ve seen clips of it over and over. Mostly I think of the Simpsons parody with Homer and Mr Burns in the cabin.
The things I like about this film are that it’s easy to follow, there’s not weird stuff happening like in Napoleon. There’s genuinely amusing set pieces, and the love story is rather sweet and affecting. I didn’t really expect a love story but I suppose Chaplin usually put them in.
Tropes which started with this film: being so hungry you imagine someone as a big bit of food, being so hungry you cook and eat your shoe, the breadrolls + forks dancing feet, the cabin teetering on the edge of a precipice? P
ossibly the stuff with the bear being right behind him but then turning into a cave when the Prospector turns around? No, that one’s been around since people started making stage comedies I think.
I like the continuity with his missing shoe all through the movie as well, and his bundled up foot. It’s nice to see it so carefully represented all through the story, even after it gets set on fire. It should probably go without saying but I’m gonna state it anyway, there’s some astoundingly good slapstick in this film. I think my favourite is the Prospector declaiming his intentions to Georgia and gesturing widely, then being yanked off camera by Big Jim. You see both of Charlie’s feet in mid air in this stunt and it’s impressive.
I was also surprised to read that the majority of the movie was filmed in studios and backlots, it does look quite a lot like the actual Klondike stuff at the start of the film.
Does it make me love the people? Yes, the prospector, he’s our every man, but the tenderness he shows once he’s fallen for Georgia is what really makes him sympathetic. He has so little, but he sets up a lovely dinner table, decorations and a gift for her for New Years Eve dinner. It’s so sweet.
Bechdel test: well, aside from the fact that no one actually speaks out loud, it actually gets close. Georgia is shown talking with her dance hall girlfriends several times, but they aren’t named and their dialogue isn’t shown on title cards.
“Man proposes, but a storm disposes” may be the best title card ever.
also I learned through the power of subtitles that the Spanish for ‘stowaway’ is ‘clandestino’ and if that’s not the most brilliant word, I just don’t even know language.
State of Mind: This is a lovely film, easy and fun to watch with lots of appeal for a modern sensibility. Charlie’s performance seemed ‘essence of Chaplin’ and I read online that it’s the role he wished to be most remembered for. I can see why. I may seek out other Chaplin films, as it really is sweeter than I expected from the opening sequence’s bleakness.