The Gold Rush

AFI Rank: #74
Year Released: 1925
Director: Charles Chaplin
Actors:Charles Chaplin

The Gold Rush tackles some intriguing topics for a 20s era silent movie - topics like canibbalism and the harsh cruelty women can foist on men. Charlie Chaplin deftly combines comedy with some insight into human nature to create a movie which has become a classic and is still enjoyable to watch even decades later.

I'll warn that this review has spoilers, since it's discussing the plot of this classic.

Charlie is a poor wanderer who gets caught up in the Gold Rush lure to Alaska. He's following literally in the footsteps of hundreds of others, seeking to make his fortune. He gets mixed up with an outlaw and another prospector in a fierce winter storm. The trio huddle in a bare-bones cabin, and at one point the characters are starving to death so much that they resort to eating the leather in their shoes and thinking they might as well eat each other.

Finally they get through that trauma, and Charlie falls in love with a dance hall girl, Georgia. This is the only female in the entire movie with a name - the rest are all filler background material. Georgia is nasty to Charlie, teasing him, setting him up for great disappointment on purpose. She takes delight in torturing him.

I found it upsetting that she is mean to him throughout the entire movie, and simply because of one quick nice act at the very end of the movie suddenly she deserves to be the wife of a man who is now a multi-millionaire. He fell in love with her looks and forgives an entire relationship full of abusive harm. Yes, you could say "she changed" but that all happens off screen and doesn't feel real. I would much rather have seen her change and grow to love him for his positive aspects. I also would have liked to see him realize she was nasty and love her anyway. Instead he loves her for false reasons (and her body) and we never know why she suddenly decides to be nice to this multi-millionaire. I do realize she didn't know he was a multi-millionaire before her once-time action, but since she immediately thereafter knows about his wealth, there's no way to get a fair reading of the relationship.

Also - and I realize this is minor - but what happened to the dog?? The dog was an important plot point while the trio of men are holed up in the cabin. The audience kept worrying the dog would be eaten. Then the outlaw heads out with the dog and POOF the dog is gone. I'd at least like to have a consistent plot.

I am amused that there was a typo in one of the subtitles. If there's one thing to check on a silent movie, it's how the subtitles are spelled.

I definitely appreciate the fun of the plot. The sliding floor of the tilting cabin, the chicken-man scenes, the poignant loneliness of Chaplin as he waits alone at a dinner that nobody else will ever attent. The movie is definitely well done.

But I do wish - since the romantic relationship was a key part of the movie - that it was not so shallow. So much more could have been explored here, with his keen insight, rather than having him fall for "nice body" and ignore "evil personality".

Male vs Female Actors
As mentioned, only one actress, although she does get some great facial expressions.

The Bechdel Test
This movie doesn't even pass the first part of the test.

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AFI Top 100 Film Listing
Male vs Female Actors in the AFI Top 100
The Bechdel Test in the AFI Top 100