Film #3 on the American Film Institutes Top 100 Films of All Time (in chronological order)

The Gold Rush (1925)
Silent Film – Adventure Comedy
Written, Directed and Starring Charlie Chaplin

This is hands down the funniest and most entertaining film on the list so far. Yes I know, it’s only film #3, but the first 2 films were war epics that dealt with heavy racism and politics.

“The Gold Rush” is a story about a lone prospector (Chaplin) who goes out in search of gold in the icy Klondike region of North America in the late 1890’s. His journey is far from easy, as he hilariously battles hunger, the deep cold, a bear, and a fugitive.

Chaplin, who wrote and directed this film was a MASTER at physical comedy. Known for his iconic “tramp” persona, Chaplin is considered one of the most important figures in the history of the film industry. For those of you who haven’t seen any of his work, I highly recommend this one. It’s easy to watch, easy to follow along, and is genuinely hilarious, even to today’s standards! No wonder this is one of the top films of all time. Well done.

Fun facts about this film –
– Most of the scenes were shot in Chaplin’s own film studio, but some were shot in Truckee, CA, near Tahoe.
– Chaplin drew inspiration to make this film from the Klondike Gold Rush as well as the story of the Donner Party, combining deprivation and horror into comedy genius. Wow! Who would have thought?
– In the “chicken costume” scene, a stunt double was originally cast to wear it but was unable to mimic Chaplin’s iconic movements, so Chaplin himself is seen wearing the costume. Hilarious!
– This film was nominated for 2 Academy Awards – Best Music, and Best Sound Recording, when it was re-released in 1942.

Guest review by Rob Watson

The original review of The Gold Rush in Variety described it as “a distinct triumph for Charlie Chaplin from both the artistic and commercial standpoints, and is a picture certain to create a veritable riot at theatre box offices. It is the greatest and most elaborate comedy ever filmed, and will stand for years as the biggest hit in its field.”

Now, 93 years later, it has lost little of that reputation. Certainly catalogues of more “elaborate” comedies have hit the screen, but none have hit the century-long iconic precedent setting impact as Gold Rush. Charlie Chaplain also has been established as the ultimate writer/director/performer visionary icon, setting the stage for many writer/director/stars still following his pattern almost a century later.

In taking a look at the film from a 2018 sensibilities perspective, the societal tone it set is of particular interest. It both reflects the standards of the day, as well as was a thought molder that reinforced them.

While nothing in Gold Rush was broadly uncomfortable by today’s standards, there were a few observations that indicate some regressive attitudes of the time. Even though the setting is Alaska in a time where white men were invading to find fortune, no indigenous people were portrayed. Every character was Caucasian.

The character Georgia is clearly subjugated to the brute Cameron, but his aggressiveness is portrayed as a source of attraction, with Gloria shortly declaring that she loves him. The sweet and sensitive Chaplain character amuses her, but he is not seen as a serious love interest until he, at the end of the film, is a man of wealth. These attitudes certainly helped establish and/or reinforced the thought processes behind toxic masculinity: brutishness is attractive, sensitivity is worthy of mocking and wealth and power for a man are the true signs of worthiness.