Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The Gold Rush

1925 - Dir: Charles Chaplin

Shown at The FeckenOdeon on Febrary 22nd, 2003

The Gold Rush is the quintessential Chaplin/Little Tramp film, with a balance of slapstick comedy and pantomime, social satire and emotional and dramatic moments of tenderness. It was Chaplin's own personal favourite and the first movie he made for United Artists (the company he co-founded with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W.Griffith).
Classic scenes include the starvation scene of two cabin-marooned prospectors boiling and eating a shoe, the teetering cabin on the edge of a cliff, and Chaplin's lonely New Year's Eve party (with the dancing dinner rolls routine). Early working titles for the film included Lucky Strike and The Northern Story. Chaplin dreamed up this story after reading a book about the infamous Donner party tragedy. The Donner party was travelling to California by wagon train in the last century and got caught by a blizzard in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Soon they ran out of food and their desperation led them to consume clothing, including leather boots, and eventually the bodies of their friends who had frozen to death. Chaplin even chose to do his exterior shooting in Truckee, Nevada, close to the site of this catastrophe. The first scene of the film, with several hundred prospectors slogging up a mountain towards the gold fields, and in which the Little Tramp is followed by a bear, is the most memorable of these location shots. It's perhaps a sobering thought that the 2,500 men playing prospectors were all genuine vagrants. The famous boot eating scene took three days and 63 takes. The boot was made of liquorice, and Chaplin was later rushed to hospital suffering insulin shock.

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