AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Gold Rush
Director: Charlie Chaplin (Dir)
Release Date:   16 Aug 1925
Duration (in mins):  72 or 74
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Cast: Mack Swain  (Big Jim McKay)
  Tom Murray  (Black Larsen)
  Georgia Hale  (The Girl [Georgia])
 

Summary: During the Gold Rush, prospectors brave Alaska’s dangerous Chilkoot Pass, hoping to strike it rich in the snowy mountains. Just as Big Jim McKay discovers gold on his claim, a storm arises, prompting a Lone Prospector to take refuge in a cabin. Unknown to him, the cabin’s occupant is desperado Black Larsen, who attempts to throw the vagabond Prospector out. Strong winds, however, repeatedly blow the little man back inside, and soon after, Jim is also swept into the cabin. Jim fights with Larsen over his shotgun, and after Jim prevails, the Prospector claims him as a close friend in order to remain safe. Over the next few days, the three men live together uneasily, their hunger growing as the storm rages on. After eating the lantern candle, with salt, the Prospector worries in vain that Jim has eaten Larsen’s little dog. Finally, the men cut cards to see who will hunt for food, and the loser, Larsen, sets out alone. He immediately encounters two lawmen who are searching for him, and after shooting them both, steals their supplies and travels on until he happens upon Jim’s claim. Meanwhile, the Prospector and Jim grow so ravenous that they boil and eat the Prospector’s leather shoe for Thanksgiving dinner. Unsatiated, Jim starts hallucinating, imagining that the Prospector is a large, luscious chicken. He tries repeatedly to shoot his little friend for dinner, causing the men to fight. The Prospector closes his eyes and attacks, and when he discovers that the leg he is clutching is actually that of a bear, he shoots it, finally providing them with a meal. Soon after, the storm ends and the friends part ways. Upon returning to his claim, Jim finds a well-fed Larsen, who knocks Jim out and flees but is soon killed in an avalanche. The Prospector travels on to Gold Rush City, where he falls in love with Georgia, a dance hall girl. Georgia’s flirtation with ladies’ man Jack Cameron precludes her from noting the Prospector’s existence until finally, hoping to provoke Jack, she chooses the grubby Prospector as a dance partner. The Prospector is thrilled, but cannot help calling attention to himself when his pants fall down and he accidentally belts them with a leash that is still attached to a dog. Later, the Prospector sees Jack and Georgia quarrelling, and although afraid of the much larger man, bravely fights him. When a clock falls on Jack’s head and knocks him out, the Prospector, who did not see the clock hit Jack, is amazed by his own strength. The next morning, the little man obtains food by pretending he is nearly frozen outside Hank Curtis’ cabin, prompting the kind man to feed and shelter him. One day, while Hank is away mining, Georgia and her friends happen by his cabin. Georgia discovers her photo under the Prospector’s pillow and teases the gullible man by pretending to adore him. Before leaving, the girls accept his invitation to New Year’s Eve dinner, after which he rips up his pillows in delight, only to be found covered in feathers by Georgia when she returns for her gloves. Although the Prospector shovels snow for days to earn enough money to prepare a lavish dinner, on New Year’s Eve the girls celebrate in the dance hall, leaving the little man waiting in his cabin. He falls asleep at the table and dreams that he is entertaining the girls by creating the illusion of as dance using rolls attached to two forks, but when he wakes, he is alone. He goes to the dance hall, but the girls and Jack have already left for his cabin to tease him further. There, however, Georgia sees the dinner he has prepared and realizes her joke has gone too far. A few days later, Jim, who has partial amnesia and has searched in vain for his rich claim, recognizes the Prospector in the dance hall and joyfully instructs him to lead him to Larsen’s cabin, which he knows is near his claim. After the Prospector declares his love to Georgia and promises to return for her, the men journey to the cabin, and while they are asleep, a strong wind pushes the house until it teeters over the edge of a cliff. When they wake, they slowly realize that, by standing at opposite ends of the room, their weight shifts the cabin back and forth over the mountain edge. After multiple attempts, they finally manage to climb out of the house just before it topples over the cliff, only to discover that they are on Jim’s claim. The friends are immediately transformed into multimillionaires, and prepare to return to the mainland by boat. Unknown to the Prospector, Georgia is also on the boat, and after a journalist asks the Prospector to don his hobo clothes for a photo shoot, Georgia assumes he is a stowaway and tries to protect him from the ship’s guards. Soon, the misunderstanding is cleared up, and the Prospector invites his love to his luxury stateroom, where he “spoils” a press photograph by leaning over to kiss her. 

Distribution Company: United Artists Corp.
Production Company: Charles Chaplin Productions
Director: Charlie Chaplin (Dir)
  Charles F. Reisner (Assoc dir)
Producer: Charlie Chaplin (Prod)
Writer: Charlie Chaplin (Wrt)

Subject Major: Dance hall girls
  Gold rushes
  Hunger
  Outlaws
  Prospectors
  Ruses
  Unrequited love
 
Subject Minor: Amnesia
  Avalanches
  Bears
  Chickens
  Gold
  Klondike River Valley
  Millionaires
  Mining towns
  Mountains
  New Year's Eve
  Parties
  Photographs
  Shoes
  Storms

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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