Well, Thanksgiving will soon be upon us, and, as I wanted to take part in A Blogathon To Be Thankful For, hosted by Sally Silverscreen of 18 Cinema Lane, I thought I would chime in with the classic Charlie Chaplin film The Gold Rush! Of course, we have a fun theatrical short to get through first, and then it’s on to the main feature!
Coming Up Shorts! with… Tom Turk And Daffy (1944)
(Length: 7 minutes, 18 seconds)
Daffy helps hide Tom Turk from Porky, until Porky mistakes Daffy for a turkey! An old Looney Tunes cartoon that I’ve seen many a time over the years, and yet it’s still worth a few good laughs! I love watching the things Daffy does to Tom as he tries to hide him, only for the tables to turn at the end as Tom returns the “favor!” It’s a bit of a stretch to call this one a Thanksgiving cartoon, but Porky is dressed like a Pilgrim, and he’s hunting for a turkey dinner, so let’s go ahead and call it one! It’s fun to watch whether it’s around Thanksgiving or any other time of the year!
And now for the main feature…
(Host): One thing I should say before I dig too far into The Gold Rush. There are at least two different versions of this tale. The movie was first released in 1925 as a silent movie, which obviously became a classic. When 1942 rolled around, Charlie Chaplin was coming off his first full-blown sound film with The Great Dictator, and he wanted to revive The Gold Rush for audiences who had little to no experience with silent movies. So, he messed around with the movie, adding narration and dialogue (all done by him), removing the intertitles, adding a score, and editing out a few scenes to change up the movie a little. In doing so, he removed the earlier silent film from availability, and it took a long time before some were able to go back and reconstruct it in the 1990s. Now, in describing the story, I will for the most part be working from the 1925 silent film. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll hand things over to our narrator! Take it away!
(Narrator): (Holds up a sign)
(Narrator): (Holds up another sign)
(Narrator): (Holds up yet another sign)
(Host): Um… What are you doing?
(Narrator): This is a silent movie, right? Well, I’m using intertitles to let everyone know what’s going on!
(Host): You do realize this is a blog post, and not a video, right? They need to actually be able to read what we’re saying!
(Narrator): Oh! That’s right! (Clears throat) Wandering through the Alaskan wilderness, we find the Lone Prospector (Charlie Chaplin), as he searches for gold. On a mountain, another prospector, Big Jim KcKay (Mack Swain), has found a mountain of gold and staked his claim. A big storm blows up, and both of them are pushed into a cabin occupied by Black Larsen (Tom Murray). They soon find themselves without food, and, after drawing lots, Black Larsen is sent out to find food, while the other two remain.
(Host): Time for the Thanksgiving dinner!
(Narrator): So what’s cooking for them?
(Host): Shoe. With nothing else to eat, the Lone Prospector decides to boil a shoe for the two of them (Well, not really. Technically, the shoe was made of black licorice and hard candy for the actors to eat, but, as far as we the audience are concerned, it’s a shoe). It’s not much, but it’s all they have to work with for their Thanksgiving dinner. Big Jim struggles with the shoe leather, but the Lone Prospector is able to eat the sole and the laces easily, relishing the meal. Obviously, it doesn’t exactly sound like an appetizing meal, but, it’s still more than nothing. Certainly a good reminder to be thankful for the good meals that most of us get to enjoy!
(Narrator): Indeed! But, that’s all the food they have for a time, and the Lone Prospector starts to look mighty tasty to Big Jim. Lucky for the Prospector, a bear wanders in, and they shoot it, providing a good meal. With the winter storm ending and food in their bellies, the Prospector and Big Jim part ways. Big Jim returns to his claim, where he finds Black Larsen trying to steal his gold. They fight, but Black Larsen manages to hit Big Jim on the head with a shovel and get away. Nature, however, is not kind to Black Larsen, as he shortly falls off a cliff when the ground breaks away beneath him. Big Jim awakes, but his memory is foggy as he wanders around aimlessly.
(Host): And what of the Prospector? Isn’t this his story?
(Narrator): I’m getting to him! He makes his way into town, stopping in at a dance hall one night. While there, he meets the Girl, Georgia (Georgia Hale), who is one of the dance hall girls. She is stuck dealing with ladies’ man Jack Cameron (Malcom Waite), who wants to dance with her, but she refuses, and chooses to dance with the Prospector.
(The Garland Waltz starts playing in the background)
(Narrator): Ah yes, beautiful music. It would be a wonderful dance, except for one thing: partway through, the Prospector loses his belt, and has to find different ways to keep his pants up.
(Host): Yes, indeed. For me, this is one of the more memorable scenes in the movie. The music itself obviously stood out to me when I first saw this movie a few years back (and how can it not, considering how well known that tune is as the classic “Once Upon A Dream”). Combine the familiar tune with the Prospector’s attempts to keep his pants up, and it’s a very hard scene to forget!
(Narrator): Quite so. But, getting back to the tale at hand, Jack is less than thrilled with this, and the Prospector tries to fight him off (with the aid of a clock that gets knocked down from above). The next day, the Prospector finds a cabin nearby, where Hank Curtis (Henry Bergman) lives. He pretends to be frozen, so that Hank will bring him in and offer him warmth and food. While Hank goes off to do some mining, the Prospector looks after the cabin for him. At one point, Georgia and some of the other girls from the dance hall come around and get into a snowball fight. Hearing the snowballs hit the door, the Prospector opens up, only to get hit in the face with one. Apologetic, Georgia and the gals come in for a moment, much to the Prospector’s delight. While he is out getting firewood, Georgia sees a photograph of her that he has stashed away, and they decide to tease him just a bit. They act interested in him, and when he invites them to dinner on New Year’s Eve, they accept. In his joy, the Prospector does what he can to earn money, by shoveling snow and doing other odd jobs, so that he can afford dinner for everyone. However, when New Year’s Eve rolls around, everybody is at the dance hall to celebrate, and the Prospector, alone at the cabin, falls asleep waiting for his guests. He is awakened by the sounds coming from the dance hall around midnight, and leaves to look for them. Meanwhile, Georgia remembers that they promised to join the Prospector, and they bring Jack along to the cabin to continue with their little joke. But, when Georgia sees the effort that the Prospector had put into the dinner, she realizes the joke has gone too far, and decides to leave. Jack tries to kiss her, but she rejects his advances as she goes out the door.
(Host): What about Big Jim? What’s going on with him?
(Narrator): I’m coming back around to him. After wandering around, Big Jim had made it into town, and tried to register his claim. However, the bump on his head left him with partial amnesia, and he couldn’t remember the location. All he knew was that it was near the cabin, but he couldn’t remember where that was either. Anyways, getting back to everyone else, the following day at the dance hall, Georgia sends a note to Jack, apologizing for her actions at the cabin. Right after that, the Prospector comes in, and Jack, in a cruel mood, decides to give him the note, and let him think that Georgia intended the note for him. Ecstatic, the Prospector tries to find her, but Big Jim had wandered in, and, remembering his friend, convinced him to help him find the cabin in exchange for a share in the gold. They travel together to the cabin, where they fall asleep, exhausted. That night, a winter storm begins to blow –
(Wind begins to blow through the stage, with snow falling throughout)
(Host): (shouting) Hey, wait a minute! We don’t need that here! And is this real snow? Who left the door open?!? Close it up, and let’s go with the flakes instead of the real stuff. No, wait, let’s not even use that, the audience is getting the idea. Move on, good sir!
(Narrator): Ok. The wind and storm ends up blowing the cabin away while they sleep (I’d say “Shades Of Wizard Of Oz,” except this film predates that film classic). In the morning, when they awake, the cabin is resting on the edge of a cliff, barely being held up, with their weight evenly distributed between the two halves. When they get out (and the cabin falls off the cliff), they find they are at Big Jim’s claim, and are two rich men! But, with all that wealth, are they (or, more particularly, the Prospector) happy?
(Host): The Gold Rush was inspired both by the actual gold rush in the Klondike, as well as the Donner party from 1846, who had had to resort to cannibalism to survive. Supposedly, The Gold Rush is the film Charlie Chaplin most wanted to be remembered for, and I would definitely say that, of the handful of his films that I’ve been able to see, it is probably my favorite. I will readily admit that I prefer the earlier silent version of the story, as opposed to Chaplin’s later preferred version with his own narration. I think the overall plot works better in the silent film, particularly with Jack’s rather cruel joke being cut in the later version (technically, he gives the Prospector the note, but there’s nothing showing that it was originally intended for him or him planning to play the joke), which seems a little out of character in my opinion. Regardless of which version, though, it’s a fun film I’ve seen numerous times over the last couple of years. The comedy always makes it worthwhile, whether it be the Tramp struggling to walk in the wind blowing through the cabin, or Chaplin’s little dance using rolls on forks, or the “clown with his pants falling down” (to borrow the lyrics of the classic song “That’s Entertainment”)! A great movie, and one that deserves to be seen! So, this is indeed one I would highly recommend!
This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection. The 1925 version included in that release is one hour, twenty-nine minutes in length, and the 1942 re-release is one hour, twelve minutes in length.
And before I finish, I definitely want to thank Sally Silverscreen for hosting this wonderful blogathon. It’s been fun re-watching this classic Chaplin film, and one of many I’m thankful to be able to watch (especially since I feel blessed to have a good meal instead of a shoe)! So, again, thank you!
My Rating: 10/10 (1925) and 9/10 (1942)
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