Category Archives: Charlie Chaplin

#2 Timeless Classics – The Gold Rush by Charlie Chaplin (1925/1943)

After watching The Kid I could hardly resist watching yet another legendary film of the Tramp. I wanted to keep my journey as linear as possible but I could not find a good print of Woman of Paris (1923) or Shoulder Arms. I had to settle with this one.

Before we begin, here is some trivia about the film:

1. Chaplin himself declared several times that this was the film for which he most wanted to be remembered.

2. It is the fifth highest grossing silent film in cinema history and the highest grossing silent comedy film with $4,250,001 at the box office in 1926, now that’s a gold rush.

3. The film was re-released in 1942 with a newer music score, tighter edit and a narration by the maker himself. I watched the version with the narration. The new music score by Max Terr and the sound recording by James L. Fields were nominated for Academy Awards in 1943.

4.  The “roll dance” the tramp character performs in the film is considered one of the most memorable scenes in film history used again in many other films as a tribute or just because it’s too good.

5. For the special effects in the movie, a remarkably convincing miniature mountain range was created out of timber (a quarter of a million feet, it was reported), chicken wire, burlap, plaster, salt and flour. The spectacle of this Alaskan snowscape improbably glistening under the baking Californian summer sun drew crowds of sightseers.

I’ve begun to decode his formulae with his second film. What Chaplin does is he creates a very minute complication, something like sharing a shoe with Big Jim or surviving the blizzard and one problem leads to another where the innocence of the little tramp wins our heart.

Throughout the film I hated the character of Georgia. Even her pretty face seems ugly when she laughs with cruelty at our hero. I felt her character non gripping and uni dimensional. It was not just our hero in the Kid but also the kid and even his mother that shaped the intriguiing structure of the film. Over here, it was more or less Chaplin and to some extent Big Jim that felt lovable. Maybe the great showman wanted to portray the utter bargain based world, seeking for something in return from you.

I’ve mentioned the special effects above. For further understanding watch the video linked over here. The best part about all these effects, keeping aside there was no digital film making back then is the illusion that they create. We all know that this, what is happening in front of us is fake. We all know that Chaplin did not make the cliff fall off for his film. But the overall experience including the amount of details put into the act, the music and even the impeccable expressions of the actors make us wonder for just a second, how did they do this?

I loved the repetitive Chaplin style parts which make you laugh even though they are quite senseless. They celebrate the beauty of cinema. I wasn’t quite impressed by the story. Having watched quite a few films on the same premise could’ve hampered this statement. (I tend to dislike most of the classics in the first go due to all the hype!) And I was astonished with the awesome visual effects. In short, I can’t wait for another film by this little master.

 

#1 Timeless Classics – Charlie Chaplin “The Kid” (1921)

I’ve taken up the task of watching as many classics as possible this season. I feel it takes some time to get used to the old way of treating films. But once you learn to assimilate them, it opens a whole new ocean of experiences.

I’ve been told that all the films by Sir Charles Spencer are fairly easy to relate to. And indeed they are. The simplicity of the narrative and the lack of dialogue remove the barriers for someone like me. Once I played the film I could not look away from the screen for even a second.

Some quick interesting facts:

1. It was the second highest grossing film of 1921

2. It is considered as one of the greatest films in cinematic history

3. Many of Chaplin’s admirers regard The Kid as his best and most personal film. Yet it seems to have been born out of a state of acute emotional turmoil in his private life.

4. The inspiration of the film’s story is a tragic real life incident in Chaplin’s life – Mildred (his wife then) became pregnant and gave birth to a malformed boy, who died after only three days. Chaplin evidently suffered acute trauma from this loss. Only ten days after his own child was buried, Chaplin was auditioning babies at his studio. He was absorbed and excited by a new plan for a story in which the Little Tramp would become surrogate father to an abandoned child. The film would be called The Waif. (I like the name The Waif better!)

5. In the end Charlie had filmed more than fifty times the length of film that appeared in the finished picture. Such a shooting ratio – it was precisely 53 to 1 – was far higher than for any other film he ever made. Working with kids was difficult for the tramp as well!

6. Jackie Coogan, at 7, became a world celebrity, honoured by princes, presidents and the Pope himself when he embarked on a European tour. He enjoyed a brief film career as a child actor, but, as Hollywood wits declared, senility hit him at 13 years old. As a young adult he found himself penniless: his mother and step-father had mismanaged his childhood earnings, and what little money was left was eaten up in legal battles. The one good outcome was that Jackie’s much publicised problems led to the introduction of a law to give financial protection to child performers: into this day it is known as The Coogan Act.

The premise forced me to look into the story of Krishna in the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata. For saving Krishna from his uncle Kamsa Krishna’s father Vasudeva had to leave him with Yasoda in Gokul. Yasoda brought him up as her own ward. After everything was settled, it raised a question – who is Krishna’s real mother?

Rather than falling into this debate what I take back from this is, the one-line of the story could be similar. But only the setting in which the story takes place is different. It simply changes the possibilities. The evil Kamsa is replaces by urban evils such as poverty and unemployment. Also, this story is told from Chaplin’s (Yasoda’s) perspective. It makes a whole lot of difference.

This film in particular will hold a special place in my heart because of one strange coincidence. In the afternoon I was reading about the famous story of a Muslim child raised by a Hindu father in Lucknow. And I happen to watch this film on the same night. It was a beautiful accident and I’m sure it will stay with me for a while.

The movie is available on the Internet Archive and you can watch it over here.

Ref: www.charliechaplin.com