Customer Review

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beauty in Bread Rolls., 29 Oct 2009
This review is from: Charlie Chaplin: The Gold Rush [DVD] (DVD)
I read Chaplin's autobiography some time ago but came no closer to really understanding the man after reading it. In some books you are able to draw close to the writer but that was not the case with Chaplin. He somehow remained cold and distant. He did not come across as a truly likeable individual. I admire his genius but do not always find him funny. I preferred Keaton, Langdon and Lloyd. But as always there are exceptions, and "The Gold Rush" stands out for me as his masterwork.

The story concerns the gentle little tramp struggling to survive amongst the tough grizzled prospectors of the Klondike gold rush in Alaska's inhospitable climate. The film shows how innovative Chaplin could be and contains many inspired comic inventions. The old boot that starts to look like a turkey dinner in the tramps starved and fevered condition. The nails becoming bones to be sucked, and the laces delicious strands of pasta. Then there is the house teetering on the precipice and perhaps one of cinemas most enduring moments with the enchanting dance of the bread rolls. A scene that truly embodies the heights of beauty that cinema can attain.

In 1958 an international jury in Brussels voted this the second greatest film ever made behind "The Battleship Potemkin". But in the intervening years it has been treated like an old once cherished toy put in the attic, where it has slowly been gathering dust. It simply amazes me that such an important cinematic work can be so forgotten by the general public. Look at how many people have found the other reviews helpful. Not many. Sometimes I don't know why I bother. So we beat on, boats against the current. This is the only DVD available and there are only a dwindling number of those left. The high price asked seems to reflect their scarcity. The serious student of the cinema should certainly have one Chaplin film in their collection, and I would suggest they break the bank and make it this one. Highly recommended.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 22 Dec 2010 23:57:58 GMT
Book Ed says:
Thankyou for this lovely review! I too have read Chaplin's autobiography and several years later it's impression is still left on me for it is a beautifully written book. But you are right, the enigma of Chaplin the man, remains.

I have yet to see the Gold Rush but your review makes me want to rush out and buy this comedy gold! Many thanks again for the review, I hope to read some others by you!

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Jan 2011 16:54:51 GMT
Bob Salter says:
Thanks for your positive feedback, and I hope you get the opportunity to watch the film. Hopefully you will not be disappointed.


Bob Salter.

Posted on 1 May 2013 11:10:44 BDT
Last edited by the author on 22 Aug 2013 03:18:57 BDT
A. Holliday says:
Now that the early Chaplin shorts are available in pretty decent versions and in order (Keystone, Essanay, Mutual) you might want to make a return trip and give them another go. For many years I too have preferred Keaton, Langdon and Lloyd (and in that order) and, while respecting Chaplin's importance, found him too sentimental and dated. But I was watching a handful of his films out of context and with preconceived views (that he was sentimental and dated: so I confirmed my own biases). Watching his early films in order has been a revelation. Firstly his rate of development is phenomenal - in 1914 he makes his first film, by 1916 he's the best in the world and you can watch it happen over a few films. Secondly, the tramp character (who is in almost every film) is much more complex and nuanced than is obvious from watching the occasional feature film or short. He is also a lot less sentimental than I had realised. Thirdly he is much funnier than I had previously appreciated. Fourthly (and finally) by watching these films in order (and only a very few of the first ones are difficult to watch), you realise that audiences at the time saw the character in a very different way to how we do today. For a start they didn't know he was 'the sentimental tramp'. Because to start with he wasn't. At the time it would have been closer to watching a tv series and gradually getting to know a character - we see his setbacks, disasters, small victories, etc, tied in with the stronger and stronger development of a well plotted structure and character development - with the result that when sentiment does start appearing (the Immigrant, or more obviously, The Kid) it feels no more than deserved and about time (whereas seeing The Kid on its own out of context is quite different). It also catches us unaware because comedies didn't do that sort of thing (then). And in the final 'little fellow' (the tramp) film, 'Modern Times', not only has the tramp finally walk off into the sunset with a companion - which no one watching can miss the significance of, but also includes a potted collection of 'best of' moments from the entire previous 22 year history of the character, recreated briefly as part of saying goodbye to the character (which is totally appropriate as although the tramp demonstrates the capacity to survive in the 'Modern Times' of 1930s depression America, the film also consciously highlights that he no longer fits in) - a potted collection that is entirely missed by modern audiences watching the film on its own and who haven't seen the previous history of the character - something audiences of the time would have been very aware of.

The other thing that becomes very apparent is how much Keaton, Langdon and Lloyd owed to him. There are many Keaton gags that I now know to be exaggerations and buildups of ones developed by Chaplin. Ditto for Langdon and Lloyd. More surprisingly (to me) much of Harpo Marx's approach is clearly built on Chaplin's tramp around 1915-1916.

So, consider giving those early shorts another go. You'll be (pleasantly) surprised.
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