We have watched several movies over the course of the semester, but the one that I think was the most valuable to me in the context of history of the cinema was The Gold Rush. This filmed starred, was directed, and produced by Charlie Chaplin. Before coming to this class, I had heard the name, recognized the character, but never fully understood and appreciated the comic genius.
The Gold Rush was Charlie Chaplin's third feature length film, made in 1925. The movie marked a comeback of sorts for Chaplin after his last film, A Woman of Paris, which was made in 1923. What was remarkable about Charlie Chaplin to me was that he seemed so familiar even though I had never seen any of his work before. All his jokes and antics seemed as if I had already seen them before. Then I realized that his work was so loved and respected that it has been copied hundreds of times in cartoons, comedy shows, and movies throughout history copied but never duplicated. Charlie Chaplin's films boasted such originality, physical comedy, and great directing that it is impossible to recreate the humor that he did.
One of the things I love about this film is the originality. Only Charlie Chaplin could come up with a sequence like the dancing rolls. I watched this movie in a classroom full of college students. When he made the dinner rolls dance there was a short pause of silence as we all tried to figure out what was going on, and then there was a long roar oflaughter. It takes pure comic genius and ingenuity to come up with something as gut-wrenchingly funny as dancing rolls.
Teamed with his comic ingenuity Chaplin throws in his incredible physical comedy. Chaplin's character of The Little Tramp relies on physical humor in a time of silent films, and Chaplin masters it. A scene that sticks out in my mind happens when The Little Tramp cooks a shoe because he has nothing else to eat. If you could take out the shoe from the scene you would think that he was about to dine on a delicious roast. He licks his chops before he digs in to the cooked shoe and eats it as though it is the best thing that he has ever put in his mouth. He goes on to curl the shoestrings around his fork as if they are gourmet pasta from Olive Garden. Another dose of painfully hilarious physical comedy comes when The Big Guy pictures Chaplin as a chicken. If you think Charlie Chaplin is funny in his Little Tramp outfit you should see him in a chicken suit. Charlie Chaplin is physical comedy at its best.
Chaplin is not only an actor. He is also a director. Only he could take a story about starvation, poverty, and near death and make an audience roll on the floor laughing. This film seamlessly blends together comedy, drama, romance, and other genres. The story is simple and the ending predictable, but the way Chaplin directs and delivers this film is undeniably excellent. The version of "The Gold Rush" that we watched in class was the narrated version from the 1940's so it was very easy to follow along with and understand the jokes. The original version was silent but no less powerful. Chaplin is such an incredible director that he does not even need words, sound effects, or even a powerful musical score to deliver a great film.
The Gold Rush may not have been Chaplin's most renowned work, but it still demands respect and in my opinion leads the way to future comedies. Now when I see actors like Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, or even Will Ferrell in a movie, I can see the influence of Charlie Chaplin. Anyone who has not seen The Gold Rush should go out and watch one of the greatest actor/directors of all time.