Yesterday, I had the chance to see The Gold Rush (Charlie Chaplin, 1925) on big screen at The Cinémathèque Québécoise which is a movie institution based in Montreal where I live. I had seen The Gold Rush many times before, but seeing it on big screen was a completely new experience to me. Also, the version I saw many times before on DVD was the 1942’s version with narration and music composed by Chaplin himself. This time, it was the original 1925’s silent version. The completed original version was lost, so what we call the “original version” today is a restoration of the film based on what they could find of this original version. The two versions are not that much different, but there are some variations. For example, the 1925’s version is a little longer and the ending is a little different too.
The Gold Rush tells the story of The Lone Prospector (Charlie Chaplin) who, just like many men in 1896, is looking for the fortune by participating to The Gold Rush that took place in the Klondike. The movie starts with a presentation of this historical event. We see images of the gold miners braving the cold weather in search of the gold they may actually never find. These images are presented to us in a very dramatic way, but they don’t last long as the character of The Lone Prospector is presented to us immediately after. Of course, this is the Charlot we all know: with his cane, his derby hat and his little moustache! There, the atmosphere changes and becomes funny as we expected it. Then, the character of Big Jim (Mack Swain) is presented to us. This gold miner has found a mountain of gold and is very happy. Everything seems to be alright for The Lone Prospector and Big Jim, but when a violent snowstorm begins, the two characters have to find a shelter. It’s in the cabin of Black Larsen that The Lone Prospector and Big Jim meet each other. They also meet Black Larsen, the cabin’s owner. This man, who is, in fact, a dangerous criminal, is not very friendly with Big Jim and The Lone Prospector, but they insist to stay.
The three men are starving because they have nothing to eat. So, they decide to play a card game and the loser will have to brave the snowstorm and go search some food. Black Larsen loses. He goes, but, on his way, he kills two lawmen and, selfish as he is, he steals their food and never comes back to the cabin. However, all this doesn’t end in a good way for Black Larsen. Alone in the cabin, The Lone Prospector and Big Jim understand that Black Larsen will probably never come back. For Thanksgiving dinner, The Lone Prospector cooks what he can: his own shoe. He doesn’t think it tastes so bad, but Big Jim is kind of devastated. As he is still hungry, Big Jim starts to have hallucinations and sees his friend as a chicken. Because of that, he tries to kill him. Luckily, a big bear enters in the cabin and The Lone Prospector kills him. They now have real food and everybody is safe.
After this adventure, The Lone Prospector and Big Jim take each their own direction. The Lone Prospector goes to a little city of the north. There, he meets the beautiful Georgia in a saloon and falls in love with her. However, he has a rival and notices that being in love with the beautiful Georgia is not easy and that it can bring its share of disappointments. For Big Jim, things are difficult because he has lost his memory before having been attacked by Black Larsen. He can’t remember where his mountain of gold is and he has to find his friend, The Lone Prospector, so he can help him. I won’t say more because I don’t want to spoil everything and reveals the ending for those who haven’t seen this movie yet.
The Gold Rush is the kind of movie that everybody enjoys. Yes, it’s an old film, but it’s also a timeless classic. There are many reasons why I love it. Of course, one of them is the pure genius of Chaplin. Chaplin’s films are just so brilliant and that’s why people enjoy them so much. Some scenes are so incredible, like the one where the cabin is about to fall off the mountain. It’s sometimes hard to understand that it was made in 1925. I mean, how did they do that?! I also love the fact that, yes it’s a comedy, but there is also a dramatic side that brings a lot of humanity in this film. Talking about comedy, the gags in this film are so well-thought. How can you forget the famous Oceana Roll’s dance? This dance with little breads! This is simply one of the most famous scenes in cinema history.
Another thing I love about this film is the character of The Lone Prospector played so well by Charlie Chaplin. He is the comic pillar of this film, or simply the emotional pillar. He is the sources of all our laughs and tears. As always, Chaplin knew perfectly how to make his character captivating. What I find amusing about Charlot’s Character is when he tries to be the tough guy but he is not really credible. I also love the moments when he is with Georgia. He is so shy and so adorable at the same time. What I also love about this character (and about Chaplin) is the fact that he is very creative: a boot becomes a meal, a leash becomes a belt, etc. I also love the fact that he does everything to impress Georgia. This dinner he organizes for New Year’s Eve looks so simple, but it’s this simplicity that makes it beautiful and we can see that all this comes from the heart. Unfortunately, this New Year’s Eve’s dinner never really happen and that’s one of the sad moments of the film. Anyway, Charlie Chaplin created his character with an impressive tact. Let’s not forget that he not only played the main character but also directed and wrote the film! And he did all this with brilliance!
The Gold Rush is, for sure, an amazing film and I think it’s a classic everybody should see, just like some other Chaplin’s films like The Kid, City Lights, Modern Times, The Great Dictator, etc. I enjoyed a lot seeing it on big screen. The sound was very good and the ambiance in the movie theater was pleasant. The place was full and I could see these people were all Chaplin’s lovers or people who were curious to see his films. There was a man sat next to me who was laughing during ALL the film. I was afraid for him that he hiccups! Anyway, seeing classic films on big screen is always a delight and this will certainly not be the last time for me!