The Gold Rush

Directed By

Drama /  / Jun 26, 1925

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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 restaged 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