A review in Variety July 1, last, on Chaplin’s “Gold Rush” went into an ecstatic rave over this comedy drama, both as a comedy and a drama. It may have impressed friends of Chaplin’s on the coast to that degree, but as shown at the Strand, New York, it does not live up to the rave from the west. It’s just a good Chaplin comedy, a picture that’s certain at the film theatres because of Chaplin’s name.
More drama than comedy in “The Gold Rush,” a lot of story with laughs spaced too far apart in the 96 minutes used up (106 minutes if the 10-minute intermission be retained).
Charlie Chaplin again is the beaten and buffed creature, who escapes every jam with a laugh. Chaplin has the Geo. M. Cohan system of giving himself the worst of it. The world likes that. And in addition, Chaplin as a truly great pantomimist finds it as easy to handle the drama as the comedy. Here there are lots of pathos, sentiment and romance of a sort set amidst snow-capped Alaska, where Chaplin is presumed to have gone forth to prospect for gold, and alone. He meets many people and adventures, finding gold and a lady-love for the finish.
It’s at the finish that about the funniest scene is revealed, when Mr. Chaplin and Georgia Hale are posed for a still photo. It’s the old “family tintype” in life. The biggest laugh of the film is the rocking cabin set on the edge of a snow white precipice, the cabin balancing either way as the weight of one or both of the two men inside the cabin sway it. It finally topples into the canyon as Chaplin leaps forth to bare safety. This scene is a succession of laughs. It is adapted from the chair swaying bit atop of mounted tables as done by several vaudeville acts.
Another laugh bit is Chaplin doing a Sliding Billy Watson sliding step as he stands between the opposite open doors of another cabin in a howling wind storm. Ordered to leave, Chaplin attempts it but the incoming gale holds him stationery while he is trying to walk forward. Other funny bits will be familiar to show people but none of these strike the lay and paying-people from that angle. An entirely original gag is of two famished men making a meal of Chaplin’s boots, stewed in a pan.
Miss Hale as a dance hall girl gives a pleasing performance, throwing just enough abandon and independence into the role, also causing the pathetic highlight when Chaplin, in love with her, sets the table in his cabin for her New Year’s Eve dinner as she forgets about it and neglects to call.
A couple of mob scenes are in the dance hall but the picture is mainly out of doors with plenty of snow and several trick bits that puzzle.
“The Gold Rush” is at the Strand for at least two weeks, with the house reported paying $40,000 for the first run privilege in the hope it may remain four weeks. Four weeks are doubtful–three will be a long while. There is nothing in this picture to make people talk about it other than that it is a new Chaplin and he has been on the screen for quite a while.
But as a picture house attraction at the regular scale for the usual run, “The Gold Rush” in any kind of show weather will draw a heavy gross.
At the Saturday midnight performance Chaplin was there and made a short, very short speech. He had watched the picture from about the centre of the house in an aisle seat.
For picture houses the film is too long for the full number of usual performances if short reels are to be also given. It can stand cutting with judicious cutting bringing the laughs closer together.