16 August 2001 | bturtle_17
Watching "The Gold Rush" was somewhat like listening to great music on a scratchy old record player instead of on a state of the art CD player; the experience is just as exciting, but it takes a little getting used to. It's the same thing all right, but there is just enough difference to slightly throw you off. After a while you forget about the minor technical variations and enjoy the wonderful music.
Once I adjusted to the "silence" of Charlie Chaplin's 1925 silent film, I was able to watch it like any other movie. I could laugh, sympathize, hope, and loathe for the characters, all of the things a movie can make you do. All it took was appreciation of the effort it took people like Chaplin who essentially made something from nothing. In this case, that something is a funny, innovative, and entertaining movie.
"The Gold Rush" revolves around Chaplin's character, the Lone Prospector, in the Yukon where many men seek a fortune in gold. He seeks shelter in a cabin inhabited by wanted criminal Black Larson (Tom Murray) who tries to get rid of Chaplin in one of the funniest scenes of the movie, in which a strong wind prevents Chaplin from leaving. Big Jim McKay (Mack Swain), who has found gold, also enters the cabin. Larson goes out to look food, leaving Big Jim and Chaplin together. At one point, Big Jim gets so hungry he sees an illusion of Chaplin as a giant chicken. When I saw this scene, I realized that it was probably the first time that this invention, which I have seen in many modern movies and television shows to the point that it is overused, was applied in film.
Further along in the film, the Chaplin character visits a small boom town where he meets and falls in love with Georgia (Georgia Hale), who only uses him to make ladies' man Jack Cameron (Malcolm Waite) jealous and regards the little shabbily dressed man as a joke. At this point, I didn't care that the characters didn't really speak or that the film was in black and white. I was too involved in the story to be bothered by the rudimental aspects of the film. As the Lone Prospector, Chaplin evoked my sympathy as well as laughter. I found myself hoping for him to be happy, wanting to see the underdog eventually come out on top.
While it is impossible to ignore the movie as a silent film, it is equally impossible to ignore it as a great comedy that could capably rival any modern comedy, and, like Chaplin's character, come out on top. It is the original that all others follow, and definitely worth renting even, and especially, if you have never before seen a silent film.