ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Should I Watch..? 'The Gold Rush' (1925)

Updated on April 6, 2022
Benjamin Cox profile image

Benjamin is a former volunteer DJ at his local hospital radio station. He has been reviewing films online since 2004.

Promotional artwork for "The Gold Rush"
Promotional artwork for "The Gold Rush" | Source

What's the big deal?

The Gold Rush is a silent comedy film originally released in 1925. The film was written, produced, directed and starred legendary silent comic Charlie Chaplin in his Tramp persona as an ill-prepared prospector struggling against the elements and other people during the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1890's. It also starred Georgia Hale, Mack Swain and Tom Murray and Chaplin considered the film the best he had made at that time. It was rereleased in 1942 with a new soundtrack composed by Chaplin as well as a narration by Chaplin himself - this is the version of the film I saw, to avoid confusion. It is widely considered one of the best films of the silent era as well as one of Chaplin's greatest alongside other iconic films like The Great Dictator and The Kid.


5 stars for The Gold Rush

What's it about?

A lone prospector arrives in Alaska and joins the thousands seeking their fortune along Chilkoot Pass during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896-1899. His lack of suitable equipment and attire make him the butt of everyone else's jokes and when he is trapped in the mountains during a blizzard, he just about manages to climb inside a ramshackle cabin before freezing to death. But the cabin belongs to violent outlaw Black Larsen and in attempting to throw the lone prospector outside, fellow prospector Big Jim McKay arrives also seeking shelter and is able to overcome Larsen.

But the blizzard outside won't let them leave for the safety of the nearest town, stranding all three of them in the cabin. While Larsen leaves to attempt to find food, the lone prospector finds himself looking increasingly tasty to the ever-deranged Big Jim. When the storm does die down, Big Jim sets off to find his precious gold while the lone prospector heads into town and immediately falls for local dancing girl Georgia.


What's to like?

Having seen a few silent films in my time, it's illuminating to finally sit down and watch arguably the master of the format at work. Chaplin's movies made him arguably one of the most powerful men in Hollywood until the 1940's and watching the 1942 rerelease of The Gold Rush, it's not hard to understand why. Chaplin's physical comedy might lack the kinetic energy of Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd but his performance as the world famous Tramp is laced with tragedy and is only one aspect of the film as a whole. With Chaplin directing, writing, producing, editing and even composing the soundtrack, there isn't a single aspect of production that strays from Chaplin's original vision.

The story might not sustain the film for the full duration (even with the bits Chaplin lost for the rerelease) but the battle of wits in the cabin remains the more memorable with the predictable romance in town between Chaplin and Georgia slowing things down a bit. It almost feels like two smaller films edited into one until the hulking form of Swain reappears and we're treated to a final burst of brilliant physical comedy. Speaking of which, the film's effects are surprisingly effective and at no point does it look like it was shot in California with numerous snowy scenes looking genuinely cold.

Chaplin (centre) is the heart and comedic soul of the film, as well as the narrator
Chaplin (centre) is the heart and comedic soul of the film, as well as the narrator | Source

Fun Facts

  • Chaplin's marriage to Lita Grey was already falling apart and he and Hale began an affair during the shoot. The original ending featured a long lingering kiss between both actors but Chaplin removed this from the rerelease, having long since finished with Hale.
  • Location filming, plus Chaplin's perfectionist approach, proved unsustainable so almost the entire picture was shot on a backlot at Chaplin's Hollywood studio. The only location shot that survived in the final cut was the opening scenes of prospectors trudging into the mountains.
  • The film was the longest and most expensive comedy produced in the world at that time. But it was a huge success - Chaplin himself made $2 million profit while United Artists - the studio Chaplin co-founded - made $1 million. It remains the fifth highest-grossing silent film in history.

What's not to like?

Modern viewers used to more puerile comedy will be utterly lost by the quaint charm of The Gold Rush which substitutes bawdy behaviour and boobs for old-school slapstick and farce. The performances, which needed to be larger than life to successfully convey events without the benefit of sound, look kinda clumsy once Chaplin's narration is added - and without meaning to criticise the man himself, the narration feels distant as though he had stumbled across the film himself.

I also wasn't that keen on the romantic subplot, which doesn't propel the film forwards very much. It does provide Chaplin with something to strive for other than gold in the movie, and his attempts at courting Georgia still provide genuinely funny moments, but I was more interested in the story of Big Jim's lost fortune. In some ways, I wanted a bit more comedy and a little less romance from the film but at no point did I ever feel short-changed. Even for veteran viewers of silent movies, The Gold Rush stands head-and-shoulders above many of its contemporaries.

The feisty Hale (centre) provides the film's romantic interest opposite Chaplin (right)
The feisty Hale (centre) provides the film's romantic interest opposite Chaplin (right) | Source

Should I watch it?

Given the film's age, it's remarkable how easy it is to watch and enjoy today. The Gold Rush is a fine example of Chaplin's many talents and underlines his place in cinematic history. It's ambitious, daring and brilliantly funny as well as opening a fascinating window to our own past, providing us with a glimpse of what our grandparents and great-grandparents might have watched. As a comedy, it far eclipsed what I thought it may be but as a viewing experience, it's one of life's little pleasures.

Great For: cheering you up, history lessons, lovers of cinema

Not So Great For: anyone who thinks the likes of American Pie is the height of sophistication, snobs who avoid black-and-white films (who are missing out!)

What else should I watch?

Chaplin's legacy remains as solid as ever - in fact, he is chiefly remembered for his films instead of the political and personal controversies that dogged the latter part of his career. Simply looking at Chaplin's body of work, iconic movies like The Kid, Modern Times, The Great Dictator and City Lights stand out among the many he performed in. Alternatively, there were other silent comedians plying their trade around the same time like Buster Keaton in The General or Harold Lloyd famously dangling from the face of a clock-tower in Safety Last!.

Modern audiences who are unsure whether silent movies are truly for them might like to consider The Artist which not only successfully revives the format but also lovingly tells the story of a silent movie star struggling to cope as technology moves on by introducing "talkies" to audiences. Such a tale was not uncommon in real-life and while The Artist might make things more dramatic, it also has the brilliantly funny and unlikely team of Frenchman Jean Dujardin and Uggie the dog. Of course, silent films aren't solely the reserve of comedy - the sprawling sci-fi epic Metropolis or the creeping horror Nosferatu remain iconic pictures and are both well worth a viewing today. If nothing else, their age alone makes such films compulsive viewing.

Main Cast

Charlie Chapln
The Lone Prospector
Georgia Hale
Mack Swain
Big Jim McKay
Tom Murray
Black Larsen
Malcolm Waite
Jack Cameron
Henry Bergman
Hank Curtis

Technical Info

Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin
Running Time
72 minutes (1942 edition)
Release Date (UK)
8th March, 1926
Comedy, Drama, Romance, Silent
Academy Award Nominations
Best Sound Recording, Best Music Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture *

* nominations were awarded to the 1942 rerelease

© 2015 Benjamin Cox


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)