Review: The Gold Rush (1925)

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The Little Tramp travels to the Yukon and the Yukon will never be the same!

Written By: Charles Chaplin
Directed By: Charles Chaplin

The Gold Rush begins like any movie with the Little Tramp does, anticipation. One of the ways in which the Little Tramp was such a genius character is in how he creates anticipation in the audience. I knew the Tramp was in The Gold Rush and the anticipation of his arrival was great on my part. You know that you have created an iconic character when his mere arrival is an event, and the anticipation of the arrival of the Little Tramp is an event all by itself.

Moments define The Gold Rush, because like any great Charlie Chaplin it is a series of funny moments that add up to a greater whole. It begins with the Tramp’s inability to leave Black Larsen’s place because the giant gust of wind holds him in place, but the wind isn’t the funniest part, the funniest part is the Tramp’s nonchalant shrugging of the shoulder reaction. One of my favorite moments is the Tramp’s demonstrative preening in the cabin followed quickly by his sheepish cowering when confronted by Big Jim. There are many more moments, moments are the backbone of The Gold Rush and it isn’t a consistent story that provides the laughs, but as has been stated, the collection of moments.

Humor is also provided by the little things Chaplin does with the Tramp.
Him slyly removing the knife from out of sight after Big Jim has imagined him as a chicken, or the simple idea of placing his cane into the snow so that he falls down. The best little moment was when the Tramp proceeds to clean out the inside connectors of his leather shoe like they were chicken bones. There is broad comedy in The Gold Rush, but the funniest moments are provided when Chaplin is subtle and subdued in his comic efforts, all the while with a straight look on his face.

As much as I have talked about what is funny in The Gold Rush, the movie wouldn’t be funny for a single moment if Charlie Chaplin wasn’t willing to be the butt of a joke. Whether it’s through his own actions or the actions of others, Chaplin is willing to use himself to get a laugh, because getting a laugh is all that matters, not his ego.

City Lights remains Chaplin’s masterpiece, but The Gold Rush is darn close. Of all the Chaplin silents I have seen it is the most consistently funny, all that it is missing is the usual Chaplin social commentary. But, even without that The Gold Rush is a hilarious movie and sometimes all you need is a movie that will make you laugh, and The Gold Rush is such a movie.

Rating:

****

Cheers,
Bill

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2 responses to “Review: The Gold Rush (1925)

  1. There is obvious social commentary ..

  2. Yes, but is it the usual Chaplin social commentary? To that, as I said in my original review, I still say no. The Gold Rush hits its social commentary hard and fast, barely grazing the surface, and that is quite different from the depth Chaplin usually gives to his social commentary.

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