The Gold Rush – Charlie Chaplan (Mining Movie – 1925)

 

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

Chaplin declared several times that this was the film that he most wanted to be remembered for.[1] Though a silent film, it received an Academy Awards nomination for Best Sound Recording (see re-release below). In 1953, the film entered the public domain (in the USA) due to the claimants failure to renew its copyright registration in the 28th year after publication.[2] MK2 Editions and Warner Home Video currently holds DVD distribution rights. A Blu-Ray edition has been recently announced by The Criterion Collection.

Plot

The Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) travels to the Yukon to take part in the Klondike Gold Rush. Bad weather strands him in a remote cabin with a prospector who has found a large gold deposit (Mack Swain) and an escaped fugitive (Tom Murray), after which they part ways, with the prospector and the fugitive fighting over the prospector’s claim, ending with the prospector receiving a blow to the head and the fugitive falling off a cliff to his death. The Tramp eventually finds himself in a gold rush town where he ultimately decides to give up prospecting.

After taking a job looking after another prospector’s cabin, he falls in love with a lonely saloon girl (Georgia Hale) whom he mistakenly thinks has fallen in love with him. He soon finds himself waylaid by the prospector he met earlier, who has developed amnesia and needs the Tramp to help him find his claim by leading him back to the first cabin.

One sequence was altered in the 1942 re-release so that instead of the Tramp finding a note from Georgia which he mistakenly believes is for him, he actually receives the note from her. Another major alteration is the ending, in which the now-wealthy Tramp originally gave Georgia a lingering kiss on board ship; the sound version ends before this scene. Now, the two share a romantic moment by the old house.

Background

Lita Grey was originally cast as the leading lady. Chaplin married Grey in mid-1924, and she was replaced in the film 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, indicating no such footage survives.

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

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 having collapsed during production of the film). Hale discusses her relationship with Chaplin in her memoir Charlie Chaplin: Intimate Close-Ups.

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, and the highest grossing silent comedy. Chaplin proclaimed at the time of its release that this was the film for which he wanted to be remembered.

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