When it comes to Charlie Chaplin films The Gold Rush is considered one of his greatest. I am not sure why the film is considered such to me it was good but not as good as Modern Times and The Great Dictator.
Chaplin takes his Little Tramp character into Alaska as The Lone Prospector. A title card lets it be known that not many men have made it through a pass in the mountains. Many have attempted to but they usually turn back. Of course Chaplin dressed only in his Tramp outfit of a suit, bowler hat, cane, and floppy dress shoes makes it through.
On the mountain the wind picks up and a storm blows through. He and a man named Big Jim stumble across a shack where the criminal Black Larsen is living. Big Jim fights with Larsen to stay in the house since the storm is so bad. Whenever Chaplin opens the door is blown back through the other door on the other side of the shack. Big Jim wins and the men settle in for several days as the storm rides out.
Black Larsen has had enough of stay with the other two and goes out to look for provisions. He comes across a campsite with two men. The men have seen Larsen’s wanted poster and they go after him. Unfortunately in a lawless place Larsen kills the men taking their food as well as their gold.
Back at the shack Chaplin and Big Jim are starving. Big Jim begins to imagine Chaplin as a giant turkey and goes after him. For Thanksgiving Chaplin cooks his shoe which he happily eats. Eventually a bear comes through the shack and Chaplin kills it giving them some real food.
Chaplin and Big Jim leave the shack. Big Jim goes to find his claim and runs into Larsen. He sees what Larsen has done to the other two men and attacks him in anger. Larsen hits Big Jim over the head so hard that he forget where he is and wanders aimlessly back into town. Larsen gets his comeuppance when as he is walking along a cliff edge the ground breaks apart sending him to his death.
Back in town Chaplin walks into a dancehall. The moment he sets eyes the beautiful dance girl Georgia he is taken with her. As with most of Chaplin’s romances in his films the love he has for Georgia is innocent and sweet. Georgia is not very much interested since she leads a rather wild life in the dancehall. Chaplin goes to walk out but he finds a torn picture of Georgia on the ground and instead of leaving walks back in. A big tough guy named Jack is in love with Georgia but he is very rough with her and will not listen when she says she does not want to dance with him. Out of spite she finds Chaplin and dances with him. After the dance Georgia goes into her dressing room. Jack goes after her and Chaplin innocently and gentlemanly guards her door. He flinches every time Jack moves his hands up.
The next day Chaplin ingeniously gets himself invited into a house where a man is making some beans. The man takes Chaplin on as a partner and when he leaves to go look for a claim he has Chaplin take care of the cabin. One day he finds Georgia and her friends playing in the snow outside the cabin. He has them all come in. Georgia sits on the bed and finds her picture under his pillow. He invites them all to come over that night to celebrate New Year’s. In order to get some food and presents he shovels for people all day. That night he waits for them all to come. He imagines the fun they will have and how they will react to his gifts. By midnight Georgia and her friends never come they were at the dancehall all night. Georgia takes her friends and Jack to trick Chaplin at the cabin. She finds he is not there and sees all his preparations and feels guilty for what she has done since he was so sweet.
Big Jim returns to town. He tells the claims office that he has a claim but he cannot remember where. If he can only find Chaplin they can find the shack and he can go from there to where his claim is. Big Jim finds Chaplin and tells him if goes he will get part of the claim. They find the shack and in the middle of the night a bad storm pushes the drafty shack towards the edge of the cliff. After several minutes of trying to get of the shack they makes it before the whole thing goes over the edge. Not far away is Big Jim’s claim.
The two men are now multi-millionaires headed home on a luxurious ship. A photographer asks Chaplin if he would mind putting on his old prospector clothes for the papers. The captain has been looking for a stowaway. Georgia has also had enough of the Alaskan frontier and is on the ship heading back to the mainland. As Chaplin is taking the picture he falls down a ladder in front of Georgia. She thinks he is the stowaway and tries to hide him. Luckily Big Jim finds him and explains who Chaplin is. For the papers he lets the reporter know that he is marrying Georgia and as they take the picture they share a long sweet kiss.
There are several funny scenes in the film: the one that most people will probably know is when Chaplin does the “dancing rolls” sequence when he imagines the party. He just sticks the rolls on a fork and pretends to make them do a little dance. It is very cute and very funny. It was very cute when Chaplin got so excited when Georgia said that she would come for dinner and he jumped up down on the bed and ripped a feather pillow and all the feathers went everywhere. During his dance with Georgia, Chaplin’s pants start to fall down so he ties them with rope he found. On the other end of the rope was a dog and the dog keeps dragging him away.
While I am not too much of a fan of The Gold Rush I did think it was a good film. Charlie Chaplin was such a great filmmaker and a great story teller. He really knew how to hit your emotions just right and really create sympathy for his characters.