The Gold Rush (1925)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Gold Rush</strong> (1925)

(Kanopy Streaming, October 2018) As one of Charlie Chaplin’s classics, The Gold Rush scarcely needs any introduction—this is the one where Chaplin goes to the Klondike, eats his shoes and has a delightful dance number with dinner rolls that many have imitated in real-life. (Unless that’s just me.) But what I found most interesting about the version of The Gold Rush that I saw was that it was the 1942 re-cut version, with narration from Chaplin himself. It’s not quite a silent film and not quite a talking one either, but it does illustrate one of my persistent annoyances with silent cinema: length and pacing. The original The Gold Rush ran for roughly 95 minutes (it’s sometimes hard to tell with silent movies), whereas this talking one runs a significant 23 minutes shorter. Some of this is due to, ahem, artistic choices (such as Chaplin cutting out a kiss with an actress with whom he was involved in 1925 but not in 1942), while other cutting consists in taking out title cards and replacing them with spoken narration in Chaplin’s English-accented voice. It clearly illustrates the difficulties in the pacing of silent movies for modern viewers, even ones in which the title cards aren’t the focus of the film. In comparison, this version feels as if it flows more smoothly, even when the narrator is intrusive and merely keeps describing what we can perfectly grasp from the images. (But then consider that Chaplin was doing assistive audio before anyone else.) As for the film itself, I do like The Gold Rush better than some of Chaplin’s other movies such as The Kid or City Lights—its sentimentalism is under control, and the film does seem focused on being a comedy rather than a collision between intense drama with comic interludes. It’s one of the relatively rare 1920s films still worth a look today, even if I’d recommend the 1942 version over the original one.

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