Yago De Souza P. Lopes
The Gold Rush
The Gold Rush is an American comedy movie released on June 26, 1925, and it was written, produced, and directed by Charlie Chaplin. It stars Chaplin as the Little Tramp persona, Georgia Hale as Georgia, Mack Sawin as Big Jim Mckay, Tom Murray as Black Larsen, Malcolm Waite as Jack Cameron, Henry Bergman as Hank Curtis, and Stanley “Tiny” Sandford as Barman. The movie is not only considered Chaplin’s greatest and most ambitious silent production, but it is was also the longest and most expensive comedy movie produced up to that time. The Gold Rush contains many of Chaplin’s most celebrated comedy sequences, including the boiling and eating of his boot, the dance of the rolls, and the teetering cabin. However, the excellent quality of The Gold Rush does not rest solely on its comedy sequences but on these scenes being integrated into a character-driven narrative.
The movie presents adventures on a grand, heroic scale that are organically united through the central character of the Tramp (Charlie Chaplin). The hero-clown survives the cruelty of nature and the villainy of humanity through his luck and enterprise. Chaplin’s main theme for the movie is the quest for basic human needs such as food, money, shelter, acceptance, and love. All set in the harsh environment of the Gold Rush. I do not believe it is coincidence that the movie’s setting mirrors the materialistic 1920s. Human beings endure great hardships in their pursuit of riches during the Gold Rush, and Chaplin made a very good use of physical comedy to depict dehumanizing aspects of materialism. The physical comedy does an effective job of conveying the film’s message by portraying the influence of materialism over a person’s life. Although it has a happy ending, through comedy in misfortunes, Chaplin showed starvation and social standing of poor man in a dark light.
Furthermore, Chaplin uses scenes like the “boots’ soup” to coney an image of the dehumanizing effect that theTramp and Big Jim received from hunger. They had nothing. By common sense, eating a shoe is irrational for someone who has the capacity to get food, and most people do not see it as civilized or even possible. Another scene that intends to show the dehumanizing effect of materialism is shown later in the movie. Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) helplessly falls in love with Georgia, and according to him love should be consisted only of pure chemistry of emotions, dismissing materialistic standing of partners in love. However, the scenes with Georgia are used to portray both the disabling and enabling power that materialism has over the capacity to be in mutual love. For example, the dance hall scene where he mistakes Georgia’s greeting implies that a poor man like the Tramp stands no chance with such a beautiful girl. The ship scene shows that the way the officer treats the Tramp changes from rude to nice upon realizing that he is in fact a millionaire who has the respect of the captain.
To sum up, according the book Celebrity Culture and the American Dream, “…celebrities reveals central sociological issues within American society, one of the most central being the promise to allow its members to rise from obscurity to fame and fortune” (page 06). Charlie Chaplin persona can be compared to a celebrity as in the beginning of the movie he is seen as a poor guy and later on, after discovering gold, he becomes rich and famous. Little Tramp’s misfortunes shown from the beginning of the movie imply that the lack of fame and money can hinder people from being respected from others and dating the girl of their dreams. Additionally, The Gold Rush was a huge success in the United States and worldwide. It is the fifth-highest-grossing silent movie in cinema history, taking in more than $4,250,001 at the box office in 1926 (Film Reviews). Chaplin proclaimed at the time of its release that this was the film for which he wanted to be remembered, and it has been.
Primary Source: Charlie Chaplin “The Gold Rush” (http://sdsu.kanopystreaming.com/video/gold-rush)
Sternheimer, Karen. Celebrity Culture and the American Dream: Stardom and Social Mobility. New York, NY: Routledge, 2015. Print.
Kramer, Fritzi. “The Gold Rush (1925) A Silent Film Review.” Movies Silently. N.p., 13 Feb. 2016. Web. 20 July 2017.
The Gold Rush | Silent Film Festival. Web. 20 July 2017.