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The Gold Rush
Alternate Title: Lucky Strike
Director: Charlie Chaplin (Dir)
Release Date:   16 Aug 1925
Premiere Information:   World premiere in Los Angeles: 26 Jun 1925
Production Date:   7 Feb 1924--16 Apr 1925 at Chaplin Studios
Duration (in mins):   72 or 74
Duration (in feet):   8,498 or 8,555 and 9,760
Duration (in reels):   9 and 10
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Cast:   Mack Swain (Big Jim McKay)  
    Tom Murray (Black Larsen)  
    Georgia Hale (The Girl [Georgia])  
    Betty Morrissey (Her Chum)  
    Malcolm Waite (Jack Cameron)  
    Henry Bergman (Hank Curtis)  
    Charlie Chaplin (A Lone Prospector)  
    Heinie Conklin (Old prospector)  
    Tiny Sandford (Bartender)  

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. 

Production Company: Charles Chaplin Productions  
Distribution Company: United Artists Corp.  
Director: Charlie Chaplin (Dir)
  Charles F. Reisner (Assoc dir)
Producer: Charlie Chaplin (Prod)
Writer: Charlie Chaplin (Wrt)
Photography: Roland H. Totheroh (Cam)
  Jack Wilson (Cam)
Art Direction: Charles D. Hall (Tech dir)
Film Editor: Charles Chaplin (Film ed)
Country: United States
Language: English

Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Charles Chaplin Productions 16/8/1925 dd/mm/yyyy LP21805

Physical Properties: Si:

Genre: Comedy-drama
Subjects (Major): Dance hall girls
  Gold rushes
  Unrequited love
Subjects (Minor): Amnesia
  Klondike River Valley
  Mining towns
  New Year's Eve

Note: The working title of this film was Lucky Strike . The Gold Rush was the first Charlie Chaplin feature released through United Artists, a compnay he co-founded with D. W. Griffith, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. The film’s original length of 10 reels was remarked upon in many contemporary reviews as "record-breaking" for a comedy. The 18 Jul 1924 MPW review of the film’s Los Angeles premiere stated that the film was 9,760 feet, while at the 16 Aug 1924 New York opening, it was cut to either 8,555 feet, according to the 29 Aug 1924 MPW review, or 8,498 feet, according to modern sources.
       In his autobiography, Chaplin states that the story of The Gold Rush was inspired by the tale of the Donner Party, emigrants who in 1846 split off from a larger wagon train traveling to California through the Sierra Nevada mountains, only to meet with a blizzard that resulted in the death of half the party. The scene in which the “Lone Prospector” eats his shoe was inspired by tales that the Donner Party members were forced to eat their moccasins (the members also resorted to cannibalism in order to stay alive). Chaplin also states in his autobiography that he shot a sequence depicting a romance between the Prospector and an Eskimo squaw, but deleted those scenes from the final print. Although a 15 Mar 1924 MPW news item reported that Chaplin planned to shoot on location in Alaska, modern sources confirm that location shooting was confined to Truckee, CA, California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, and Mt. Lincoln, CO, which stood in for Alaska's Chilkoot Pass.
       A Dec 1925 Science and Invention article entitled “Trick Photography in The Gold Rush ” noted that Chaplin used such special effects as miniatures, double printing and a fade-out iris manipulated to allow the image of the Prospector to dissolve into that of the chicken. The article also described the filming of the scene in which the cabin seems to hang precariously over a precipice: The cabin was alternately hung from cables, hinged at its joints so it could rock back and forth, and rotated by a swivel below. Modern sources add that, in the scene in which the Prospector eats his shoe, the boot was made of licorice with rock-candy nails.
       According to various contemporary and modern reports, filming on The Gold Rush began in Feb 1924 with Lita Grey as the star. After an affair with Chaplin, however, in Sep the then-fifteen-year-old Grey revealed that she was pregnant and insisted that they marry. Filming was suspended and the wedding took place in Mexico in Nov, at which point Grey was sixteen and Chaplin thirty-five. Their tumultuous relationship lasted only three years and produced Chaplin's first two sons, Charles, Jr. and Sydney Chaplin. By late Dec 1924, Chaplin announced Georgia Hale as the new star of The Gold Rush and resumed filming, which ended in Apr 1925. Newspaper stories of the scandal that ensued from Chaplin’s affair with the teenage Grey marked the beginning of ongoing difficulties Chaplin had with the American press, which eventually led to the government denying him re-entry into America in 1952. (For more information, see the entry below for the 1947 Chaplin Studios picture Monsieur Verdoux .)
       At the New York premiere of The Gold Rush , at midnight on 16 Aug 1925, Chaplin appeared in person, and the film was accompanied by an orchestra conducted by Carl Edouarde. The reviews of The Gold Rush were uniformly laudatory. The 18 Jul 1925 MPW review, which followed the Hollywood premiere and called the film "a great and vital story," included an editor's disclaimer stating that, as their West Coast representative seemed to have been "swept off his feet," the publication would re-view the film upon its New York opening to ensure that his praise was reasonable. The Var reviewer described the picture as "an out and out comedy, and the greatest of all time."
       On 18 Apr 1942, Chaplin re-released the film after re-editing it, replacing subtitles with spoken narration, adding a musical score and subtly altering some scenes. Added musical compositions include Richard Wagner's “Evening Star” from the opera Tannhauser and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee." That version has a runing time of 72 minutes. The onscreen credits of the 1942 version included the following added or altered credits: Narr wrt and spoken by Charles Chaplin; Orig comp Charles Chaplin; Mus dir Max Terr; Sd rec Pete Decker and W. M. Dalgleish; Film ed Harold McGhan; and Prod mgr Alfred Reeves. It included a written dedication to Alexander Woolcott "in appreciation of his praise of this picture." The opening credits ended with the following written statement: "This is a revival of the silent picture, The Gold Rush with music and descriptive dialogue added." Many scenes in the 1942 version were recut using, according to modern sources, footage shot with a second camera during the original production. Certain changes made the character of Georgia appear more sympathetic; for instance, although in the original, Georgia's love letter is meant for Jack, who then gives it the Prospector as a joke, the later film presents the note as Georgia's proclamation of love for the Prospector. In addition, this version deletes the original ending, in which the Prospector kisses Georgia and waves off the photographer, who then declares that he has "ruined the picture." This comment was considered by many contemporary reviewers to leave the health of the relationship ambiguous, and to signal Chaplin's disinterest in his critical reception.
       Modern sources add the following members to the cast: John Rand, Albert Austin, Alan Garcia and Tom Wood ( Prospectors ); Kay Deslys, Betty Morrisey and Joan Lowell ( Georgia's friends ); Barbara Pierce ( Manicurist ); Art Walker and A. J. O'Connor ( Policemen ) and Jack Adams, Lillian Adrian, Sam Allen, Claude Anderson, Harry Arras, Marta Belfort, William Bell, Francis Bernhardt, F. J. Beauregard, E. Blumenthal, William Bradford, George Brock, Peter Brogan, William Butler, Cecile Cameron, R. Campbell, Leland Carr, H. C. Chisholm, Harry Coleman, Rebecca Conroy, Dorothy Crane, James Darby, Harry De Mors, Jimmy Dime, W. S. Dobson, Bessie Eade, John Eagown, Aaron Edward, M. Farrell, Leon Fary, Richard Foley, Charles Force, J. C. Fowler, Inez Gomez, Ray Grey, William Hackett, Mildred Hall, James Hammer, Ben Hart, Gypsy Hart, R. Hausner, Tom Hawley, Helen Hayward, Jack Herrick, Jack Hoefer, George Holt, Josie Howard, Jean Huntley, Tom Hutchinson, Carl Jensen, Gladys Johnson, Harry Jones, Fred Karno, Jr., Helen Kassler, Bob Kelly, John "Dusty" King, Freddie Lansit, Elias Lazaroff, Bob Leonard, George Lesley, Geraldine Leslie, Francis Lowell, Chris-Pin Martin, Clyde McAtee, John McGrath, Dolores Mendes, John Millerta, Ruth Milo, Marie Muggley, S. Murphy, Florence Murth, Mr. Myers, P. Nagle, George Neely, Nellie Noxon, H. C. Oliver, Donnabelle Ouster, William Parmalee, Jack Phillips, Betty Pierce, Art Price, Lillian Reschm, Frank Rice, C. F. Roark, E. M. Robb, Lillian Rosine, Edna Rowe, Jane Sherman, J. J. Smith, Joe Smith, C. B. Steele, Frank Stockdale, Daddy Taylor, Nina Trask, Armand Triller, John Tully, Jack Vedders, John Wallace, Sharkey Weimar, White Cloud, Mary Williams, Marie Willis, Ed Wilson, H. Wolfinger, Dave Wright, Ah Yot, George Young and Ed Zimmer ( People in dance hall ). Modern sources also credit Jim Tully as a co-writer, Mark Marlatt and Jack Wilson as camera operators and A. Edward Sutherland and Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast as assistant directors.
       The 1942 re-release version received two Academy Award nominations: Max Terr was nominated for Achievement in Music (Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture), and RCA Sound and James Field were nominated for Achievement in Sound, but lost to Max Steiner for Now, Voyager and Nathan Levinson for Yankee Doodle Dandy . According to a 3 Nov 1993 The Times (London) article, in 1993, the film was once again re-edited to include both the 1925 footage and the 1942 revisions. Upon its screening in London, that version was accompanied by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, conducted by Carl Davis. The Gold Rush was ranked 58th on AFI's 2007 100 Years…100 Movies--10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films, up from the 74th position which it reached in AFI's 1997 list. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Exhibitors Trade Review   29 Aug 1925   p. 32.
Film Daily   30 Aug 25   p. 4.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   14 Mar 42   p. 551.
MPW   19 Jan 1924   p. 191.
MPW   15 Mar 1924   p. 194.
MPW   23 May 1924   p. 465.
MPW   18 Jul 1925   p. 256.
MPW   22 Aug 1925   p. 848.
MPW   29 Aug 25   p. 917.
New York Times   17 Aug 25   p. 10.
New Yorker   18 Apr 1942.   
Photoplay   1 Sep 25   p. 50.
Science and Invention   Dec 1925.   
The Times (London)   3 Nov 1993.   
Variety   1 Jul 25   p. 32.
Variety   19 Aug 25   p. 36.
Variety   4 Mar 42   p. 8.

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