The Gold Rush ★★★★½

Big Jim McKay had what would be now known as post-concussion symptoms.

I recall as a very little kid seeing parts of this movie on public television one day. Of course, that version was one from the 40's that Chaplin created which made various changes and some material was excised. Last night's showing of a reconstructed version done in the early 2000's on TCM was the first time I saw this film in full and as close to the original 1925 cut as now available. I was happy to finally view one of the legendary silent movies and Chaplin's most famous work.

The setting is the Gold Rush of 1898, where many prospectors had gold fever and rushed to the Alaska and Yukon Territories in the hope of striking it rich... most were unsuccessful, as is always the case. The Tramp is hopeful to beat the odds but he has to deal with such events as the bitterly cold, windy winters and various sundry characters he runs into... including a real heel in Big Jim McKay; he gets a blow on his head and walks around dazed for awhile, before returning for the final act.

The movie has many great comedic moments and is funny throughout... even if you haven't viewed the film in full you likely have seen such things as The Tramp eating his shoe or putting forks in his dinner rolls and doing a little dance with them and may not have known it came from The Gold Rush. However, this isn't just a series of humorous sketches-there's an actual story where Tramp is a fully-developed character. There's even poignancy as he develops a romance w/ a young lass named Georgia... ironically, Chaplin had an affair with Georgia Hale during filming. Their relationship has its ups and downs and that was managed along with such sight gags as a shack almost falling off of a cliff.

As least for me (although this applies to many others) this was still an utter delight even almost a century after it was first released.