Watched: August 1 2016
Director: Charlie Chaplin
Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Mack Swain, Georgia Hale
Runtime: 1h 35min
We continue our epic quest through the silent film era with The Gold Rush (a.k.a. WHAT HAPPENED TO THE DOG??? Until someone can prove otherwise, we’re just going to assume it did a White Fang and found a lovely pack of wolves to hang with and lived happily ever after). This Charlie Chaplin classic deals with lighthearted themes such as poverty, betrayal, murder, potential cannibalism and bullying while incorporating plenty of humour, his signature physical comedy and a (probably disastrous) romance. It also has the best bear fight scene since (or I suppose before?) The Revenant (2015).
Chaplin’s the Tramp is a lone prospector during the gold rush when he gets caught up in a snow storm. He finds a cabin which is inhabited by a wanted criminal and the two of them, together with another prospector and the aforementioned dog, all try to ride out the storm. Lack of food leads to the criminal (and the dog) going out looking for supplies and also to the famous shoe-eating scene. We never see the dog again…
The Tramp survives the ordeal only to give up on the whole gold-finding-thing and retire to a nearby gold boom town where he meets bitchy dance hall girl Georgia and her rapey douchebag boyfriend, Jack. He of course falls in love with Georgia (despite her making fun of him and treating him like crap) and tries his best to woo her. Which takes us to the part where my sister and I both had a mental breakdown.
Bitchy Georgia and her even bitchier friends tell the Tramp that they will come for New Years dinner. He works and works to make the dinner perfect, but they never show up as they are busy laughing about him at the big party in the dance hall (which he could have gone to as well had they not lied to him). Just in case this didn’t inform the audience of just how worthless these people are, they then proceed to go over to his place to mock him even further. At this point we needed to take a break until we had stopped crying.
Let me tell you about our childhood trauma. When we were young there was a sort of comedy show on NRK (Norwegian TV) every Friday called Go ‘Elg. In every episode there was a segment where they would show names of viewers whose birthday it was, and during this there was a video with a song where an old lady is celebrating her birthday and one by one her friends and family members call her to tell her they cannot make it. Now, the old lady was the male host in drag which was supposed to be funny, but this did not take away from the fact that this was the saddest video ever shown on television! Every Friday, around 17:30, we would sit in our living room and cry about this fictional old lady’s sad, sad birthday. The memory has never left us. This may be relevant to our reaction at this point in the film.
Anyway, once we were ready to return, things were looking up. Georgia did redeem herself a bit by seeming genuinely sorry about what they had done to the Tramp, and he himself stumbled on some good luck. Watch the film to see what we mean. But bring kleenex. Yes, it’s a comedy in many ways, but there is a sadness and melancholy to it which you cannot escape. It is well worth your time, though. And I’m sure the dog is living a happy life somewhere.
Next time: The General (1926)
PS. I haven’t read White Fang (1906) for over twenty years, but didn’t he go off and join a wolf pack..? I’m going to assume he did.