12 Fascinating Facts About Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush

Getty Images
Getty Images

In 1925’s The Gold Rush, Charlie Chaplin transforms his most famous character, the Little Tramp, into a Lone Prospector, wandering the Klondike in search of gold. In the film, Chaplin masterfully finds comedy in tragedy, starvation, and loneliness: The Little Tramp is stalked by bears, plagued by hunger, and narrowly avoids tumbling off the side of a cliff—only to find himself, in the relative safety of an Alaskan frontier town, falling head over heels for a beautiful dance hall girl who wants nothing to do with him.

The film, which Chaplin re-released with sound in 1942, features some of the most famous—and oft-parodied—images in film history: the Little Tramp eating his shoe and making bread rolls dance. After its 1925 premiere, Chaplin told the press, “This is the picture I want to be remembered by.” Here are 12 fascinating facts about The Gold Rush.

1. IT WAS PARTLY INSPIRED BY THE DONNER PARTY.

The Gold Rush has some pretty dark origins. Inspiration first struck Chaplin during a morning brunch with fellow movie stars and United Artists co-founders Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. After a leisurely breakfast, Chaplin decided to look at some stereoscopic cards, and discovered a particularly striking image of a lengthy line of prospectors during the 1898 Klondike gold rush, struggling to climb the Chilkoot Pass. Later, Chaplin read a book about the Donner Party, the American pioneers who turned to cannibalism after finding themselves snowbound in Sierra Nevada. The book also described members of the Donner Party eating their own moccasins, an image Chaplin would borrow for The Gold Rush.

2. IT WAS BANNED BY THE NAZIS.

Long before Chaplin directly ridiculed Hitler and the Nazi party in The Great Dictator, he was considered an enemy of the Nazis, who believed him to be Jewish (he wasn’t, though his half brother Sydney was). In Chaplin: His Life and Art, biographer David Robinson explains:

The Gold Rush was banned from the early years of the Third Reich, and Chaplin figured in a hideous publication attacking prominent international Jewish intellectuals. Along with Einstein, Mann, Reinhardt, and others, Chaplin’s portrait, crudely retouched to emphasize its ‘Hebraic’ features, was printed with an accompanying caption which dismissed him as ‘a little Jewish acrobat, as disgusting as he is tedious.’ Chaplin’s riposte, in The Great Dictator, was to play an overtly Jewish character, and to say, ‘I did this film for the Jews of the world.’ By this time he was adamant in his refusal ever to contradict any statement that he was a Jew. He explained to Ivor Montagu, ‘Anyone who denies this in respect of himself plays into the hands of the anti-Semites.’”

3. THE BOOT CHAPLIN ATE WAS MADE OF LICORICE.


United Artists, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

A notorious perfectionist, Chaplin had 20 pairs of licorice boots made for the scene in which the Lone Prospector and Big Jim McKay feast on a single shoe for their Thanksgiving dinner. The scene took three full days and 63 takes to capture and, according to Robinson, caused both actors to experience some “inconvenient laxative effects.”

4. CHAPLIN HIRED 600 EXTRAS FOR THE OPENING SHOT.

For the opening shot of The Gold Rush, Chaplin decided to faithfully recreate the photo he’d seen of miners crossing the Chilkoot Pass, not with miniature models or special effects, but by hiring hundreds of extras to hike an actual path. He brought his entire crew to Mount Lincoln in Colorado, where they cut a 2300 foot path through the snow. He then, according to writer Jim Tully, hired the Southern Pacific Railway to hire 600 drifters to hike the pass. Chaplin and every other member of the crew not actively engaged in shooting the scene hiked alongside them.

5. THE HIGHEST PAID EXTRA WAS A DOG.

While most of the extras in The Gold Rush were paid a base rate of $7.50 a day, one extra made nearly five times that. The dog who drags The Tramp around in the dance hall after he mistakenly uses its leash as a belt was paid a whopping $35 a day, and was on hire from Hal Roach Studios.

6. THE NEW YEAR’S EVE DREAM SEQUENCE WAS INSPIRED BY AN INCIDENT FROM CHAPLIN’S YOUTH

The scene in which Chaplin is stood up by the dance hall girl and her friends on New Year’s Eve was, according to Robinson, inspired by an incident in Chaplin’s past. When the young Chaplin first began touring with a theater company as a young man, he “invited the members of another juvenile troupe, working another theater, to tea. The manager of the troupe would not let them go, but nobody informed Chaplin, who vainly waited for his guests.”

7. IT’S BEEN PARODIED AND REFERENCED IN MOVIES AND TV—A LOT.


© Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Chaplin’s instantly iconic dance of bread rolls has been homaged by Johnny Depp in Benny & Joon (1993), Amy Adams in The Muppets (2011), Curly in the Three Stooges film Pardon My Scotch (1935), and even Grandpa Simpson in The Simpsons. The scene in which Chaplin is mistaken for a chicken by his starving companion, meanwhile, was lifted by animator Chuck Jones for several Looney Toons sketches. Perhaps most remarkably, however, after losing a bet to documentarian Errol Morris, director Werner Herzog recreated Chaplin’s boot-eating sequence by eating not a licorice boot, but his own leather shoe.

8. AT THE GERMAN PREMIERE, AUDIENCES CALLED FOR AN ENCORE.

Encores may be a normal occurrence at concerts, but they’re essentially unheard of during movie screenings. Nevertheless, at the Berlin premiere of The Gold Rush, audience members were so enamored with the dance of the rolls, and so vocal in their appreciation, the theater manager raced up to the projection box and replayed the scene to “tumultuous applause.”

9. IT WAS PART OF A BIZARRE BBC RADIO BROADCAST.

Berlin wasn’t the only city to give The Gold Rush a unique reception. In London, the BBC paid strange tribute to Chaplin by broadcasting audio from its premiere at the Tivoli Theater over the radio. But instead of broadcasting audio from the film itself (which was silent with live musical accompaniment), the BBC decided to broadcast the laughter of the audience during “the 10 most uproariously funny minutes of the new Charlie Chaplin film.” The BBC described the event as “a storm of uncontrolled laughter, inspired by the only man in the world who could make people laugh continually.”

10. CHAPLIN RE-RELEASED IT IN 1942.

Chaplin re-released an updated version of The Gold Rush in 1942, adding his own narration and a recorded musical score. In the updated version (which also cuts a few scenes, including the film’s final kiss), Chaplin, himself, provides not only narration, but dialogue for his characters.

11. CHAPLIN LATER PERFORMED THE BREAD ROLL DANCE FOR PABLO PICASSO.

On a visit to France in the 1950s, Chaplin visited Pablo Picasso in his art studio. The two didn’t share a common language, so instead of chatting, Picasso gave Chaplin a tour of his latest works-in-progress, while Chaplin in return performed his famous dance of the rolls for Picasso.

12. THE NEW YORK TIMES CALLED IT A “MASTERPIECE.”

In its 1925 review of The Gold Rush, The New York Times wrote, “Here is a comedy with streaks of poetry, pathos, tenderness, linked with brusqueness and boisterousness. It is the outstanding gem of all Chaplin's pictures, as it has more thought and originality than even such masterpieces of mirth as The Kid and Shoulder Arms.

Darth Vader’s Helmet and More Iconic Movie Props Are Hitting the Auction Block

Al Lampert, David Prowse, and Carrie Fisher in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977).
Al Lampert, David Prowse, and Carrie Fisher in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977).
Lucasfilm

Have you ever fantasized about owning Darth Vader’s helmet from The Empire Strikes Back, Dorothy's iconic dress from The Wizard of Oz, or James Bond's stolen Moon Buggy from Diamonds Are Forever? Do you have a lot of money to spend? Then now is your chance to own a piece of Hollywood history. The Hollywood Reporter reports that on September 25 and 26, in Calabasas, California, Profiles in History will auction off more than 950 lots of entertainment memorabilia as part of The Icons and Legends of Hollywood sale.

The collection, which is valued at more than $10 million, includes legendary props and costumes from both classic and modern movies and TV shows including Citizen Kane, Ed Wood, Titanic, Dynasty, and Beverly Hills, 90210.

One of the most famous items for sale is Dorothy's screen-worn gingham pinafore dress from The Wizard of Oz. The dress—the only one that exists—was worn by Bobbie Koshay, Judy Garland's body double, and appears in the beginning of the movie (before Dorothy steps into the Technicolor Land of Oz). Profiles in History founder Joseph Maddalena estimates that the dress will sell for around $500,000.

Another big-ticket item on the auction block is the Sean Connery-driven Moon Buggy from the James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever; the escape vehicle is also expected to sell for a cool $500,000. But its Star Wars obsessives who might be the most excited: The helmet Darth Vader actor David Prowse wore in The Empire Strikes Back, which Maddalena called “the holy grail of science fiction," is for up for grabs, too. "I said to one client, 'If you have that, you don’t have to have anything else,'" Maddalena told The Hollywood Reporter. "That’s your collection. There’s no up from there."

Titanic fans can put a bid on the outfits Jack and Rose were wearing when they first saw one another, each of which is expected to fetch north of $100,000. But wait, there are hundreds of more things for sale [PDF]: Tom Skerritt's Alien spacesuit; Charles Foster Kane’s coat from Citizen Kane; Luke Perry's "Dylan McKay" high school student ID from Beverly Hills, 90210; Blade’s 1968 Dodge Charger; Daniel Radcliffe's Harry Potter glasses from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone; a promotional Marilyn Monroe Some Like It Hot thermometer; a Betty Draper cocktail shaker from Mad Men; and a Jesse Pinkman samurai T-shirt from Breaking Bad are just a few of the other items that can be yours. You can view the entire catalog here.

The 30 Highest-Grossing Actors in Hollywood

Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., and Samuel L. Jackson in The Avengers (2012).
Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., and Samuel L. Jackson in The Avengers (2012).
Marvel Studios

Earlier this summer, Avengers: Endgame surpassed James Cameron's Avatar to become the highest-grossing movie of all-time worldwide. Which begs the question: Who are the highest-grossing actors? Of the A-listers with the highest box office grosses in America, 18 of them have been—and/or continue to be—part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But plenty of non-superhero stalwarts also made the cut.

The Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings franchises are also well-represented on this list, comprising a total of six spots ... with a little bit of crossover (Andy Serkis is in both franchises). But Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, and Woody Harrelson have all managed to do well outside comic book franchises. Unfortunately, the list is extremely male-dominated, with only three women landing in the top 30, but it's always changing. As of this moment, here are Hollywood's top-grossing actors.

1. Samuel L. Jackson

Box office total: $7,106,460,118 (totals are domestic grosses, not worldwide)

Biggest movie: The Avengers (2012)

Getting in on the ground floor of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has paid off for Samuel L. Jackson, but that’s not the only major franchise that’s contributed to his top spot on this list: Star Wars, The Incredibles, and Jurassic Park helped secure his position, too. Not only is he the most bankable movie star ($13.3 billion worldwide), he’s also “the most influential actor of all time,” according to an algorithm-based study published in the journal Applied Network Science. Plus, Jackson has starred in more movies than anyone on the list—120 and counting.

2. Robert Downey Jr.

Box office total: $5,818,750,378

Biggest movie: The Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Downey Jr. has had one of the biggest comebacks in Hollywood history, going from indie actor to playing Iron Man in several Marvel films. He's also one of the highest paid actors on this list; Downey raked in $75 million for Avengers: Endgame alone.

3. Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson and Danai Gurira in Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Marvel Studios

Box office total: $5,244,119,075

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Four-time Golden Globe nominee Scarlett Johansson is one of only two women to make it into one of the top 10 spots of this list. Like Jackson and Downey, her involvement in the MCU has helped her films gross billions of dollars worldwide. Next year she’ll headline a Black Widow film.

4. Harrison Ford

Box office total: $5,121,747,600

Biggest movie: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Whereas the MCU folks are new to billion-dollar franchises, Harrison Ford has been acting in record-breaking films for decades, and in a variety of franchises: Blade Runner, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones. However, The Force Awakens was the first time he starred in a film that grossed more than $1 billion worldwide.

5. Tom Hanks

Box office total: $5,038,685,542

Biggest movie: Toy Story 4 (2019)

Tom Hanks hasn’t starred in Star Wars or a superhero movie (unless you count Mr. Rogers as a superhero), yet he’s made Disney a lot of money by lending his voice to four Toy Story films, including this year’s Toy Story 4, which grossed $1 billion worldwide.

6. Bradley Cooper

Box office total: $4,803,758,514

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

It seems unlikely for Cooper to appear in the top 10, but voicing The Guardians of the Galaxy's Rocket Raccoon for the MCU; directing/acting/producing/composing A Star Is Born; and starring in the $300 million-grossing American Sniper increased the seven-time Oscar nominee's bankability.

7. Morgan Freeman

Box office total: $4,624,290,253

Biggest movie: The Dark Knight (2008)

The Dark Knight grossed a whooping $535 million domestically, making it the most profitable of the Christian Bale Batman series. Plus, Freeman has voiced God, which in itself is worthy.

8. Don Cheadle

Don Cheadle during the panel discussion at the FYC Red Carpet Event For Showtimes' "Black Monday" at Saban Media Center on May 14, 2019 in North Hollywood, California
Leon Bennett/Getty Images

Box office total: $4,422,654,260

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Don Cheadle mostly benefits from being a part of the MCU, but he also starred in the lucrative Ocean’s franchise.

9. Andy Serkis

Box office total: $4,357,712,246

Biggest movie: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Andy Serkis has been in some of the most successful movies of all time, including Black Panther, The Force Awakens, the rebooted Planet of the Apes films, and The Lord of Rings trilogy. Sometimes he appears in corporeal form, other times it’s only his voice and/or body movements that make it on to the screen. With appearances in four major franchises—and a hilarious role in 13 Going on 30—Serkis almost has Jackson beat.

10. Zoe Saldana

Box office total: $4,193,566,592

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Zoe Saldana benefits from being part of the Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Star Trek franchises, as well as Avatar, which used to be the highest-grossing film until Endgame unseated it.

11. Chris Pratt

Box office total: $4,145,406,026

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

In 2014, Andy Dwyer/Star Lord broke out in a big way. Since starring in Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt has made his bread and butter through the MCU, two Jurassic Worlds, and lending his voice to two LEGO movies.

12. Anthony Daniels

Box office total: $4,040,875,544

Biggest movie: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Anthony Daniels owes his entire film career to playing C-3PO in every Star Wars movie, including 2017’s The Last Jedi and the upcoming The Rise of Skywalker. Daniels has voiced C-3PO in The LEGO Movie and Ralph Breaks the Internet, too.

13. Chris Evans

Box office total: $4,019,809,829

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Chris Evans, the second Chris on this list, is most famous for his role as Captain America—though playing the Human Torch in two Fantastic Four movies helped him secure a top spot on this list.

14. Chris Hemsworth


Disney/Marvel Studios

Box office total: $4,018,762,362

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Like Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth’s lucrative career has been been largely situated in the MCU.

15. Tom Cruise

Box office total: $3,997,627,920

Biggest movie: War of the Worlds (2005)

Tom Cruise has been a Hollywood A-lister since before some of the younger members of the MCU were even born. His movies range from the Mission: Impossible franchise to standalone hits like Minority Report, Jerry Maguire, The Firm, Rain Man, Top Gun, and War of the Worlds. It grossed $234,280,354—only $14 million more than 2018’s Mission: Impossible - Fallout. Next year, Cruise will try to move up the list with a Top Gun sequel.

16. Idris Elba

Box office total: $3,848,550,304

Biggest movie: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

In addition to Idris Elba’s role in the MCU, he has increased his box office tally with hits like Hobbs and Shaw, and Star Trek Beyond as well as voice work in The Jungle Book, Finding Dory, and Zootopia.

17. Johnny Depp

Box office total: $3,846,802,966

Biggest movie: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

Johnny Depp starred in all five Pirates of the Caribbean movies—including the $1 billion-worldwide grosser Dead Man’s Chest. Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and 2018’s Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald have kept his star status afloat.

18. Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy speaks onstage during the LA Tastemaker event for Comedians in Cars at The Paley Center for Media on July 17, 2019 in Beverly Hills City
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Netflix

Box office total: $3,811,107,808

Biggest movie: Shrek 2 (2004)

Though Eddie Murphy hasn’t had a blockbuster his since voicing Donkey in 2010’s Shrek Forever After, he maintains a big box office draw from older fare like Beverly Hills Cop (1984); the Dr. Doolittle and The Nutty Professor movies; Dreamgirls (2006); and three more Shrek films. Next year’s Coming to America sequel should boost his box office totals, too.

19. Stanley Tucci

Box office total: $3,778,184,471

Biggest movie: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Yes, Stanley Tucci had a tiny part in the MCU—he portrayed Abraham Erskine in Captain America: The First Avenger—but his most impressive box office grosses come from starring in a couple of Transformers movies, the live-action Beauty and the Beast, and The Hunger Games series, which has grossed more than $2 billion worldwide.

20. Mark Ruffalo

Box office total: $3,764,716,234

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Mark Ruffalo has earned three (and counting) Oscar nominations for smaller roles in The Kids Are All Right (2010), Foxcatcher (2014), and Spotlight (2015). But playing the Hulk has helped him smash the box office.

21. Ian McKellen

Box office total: $3,654,414,482

Biggest movie: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Ian McKellen has been a franchise staple for nearly 20 years, beginning with 2000’s X-Men. A combination of X-Men films and The Lord of the Rings trilogy has made him one of Hollywood’s most successful actors. If that weren’t enough, two The Hobbit films, The Da Vinci Code, and 2017's Beauty and the Beast propelled him to big box office totals.

22. Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch of Marvel Studios' 'Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness' at the San Diego Comic-Con International 2019 Marvel Studios Panel in Hall H on July 20, 2019 in San Diego, California
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

Box office total: $3,585,440,897

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Star Trek Into Darkness, The Hobbit, voicing the titular character in 2018’s The Grinch, and playing Doctor Strange in the MCU have enabled Benedict Cumberbatch to make a dent in the worldwide box office.

23. Dwayne Johnson

Box office total: $3,564,845,910

Biggest movie: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

The Rock’s roles in the Fast and the Furious series—including 2019’s spinoff, Hobbs and Shaw—broke some box office records, but his parts in Jumanji (it almost grossed $1 billion worldwide) and voicing Maui in Moana have also contributed a lot of money to his worldwide box office total. In December, he’ll star in a Jumanji sequel—Jumanji: The Next Level.

24. Will Smith

Box office total: $3,559,520,435

Biggest movie: Aladdin (2019)

With early successes like Independence Day, the Bad Boys franchise (another is on the way), and three Men in Black movies, Will Smith became one of the biggest stars in the world. Though he’s been a movie star for more than 25 years, this year’s live-action Aladdin is his biggest hit to date.

25. Jeremy Renner

Box office total: $3,547,806,066

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Jeremy Renner has the MCU, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, and American Hustle to thank for his place on this list. The Hurt Locker, which is one of his most acclaimed movies, is also one of his lowest-grossing films.

26. Josh Brolin

Box office total: $3,528,495,148

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

In the past couple of years, veteran actor Josh Brolin has experienced a late-career resurgence. Not only did he play Thanos in three Avengers films, but he also appeared in Deadpool 2. In 2018 alone, Deadpool 2 and Avengers: Infinity War grossed almost $3 billion total worldwide. Not a bad year.

27. Cate Blanchett

Actress Cate Blanchett attends The Austin Film Society and Australian International Screen Forum "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" private dinner at Lincoln Ristorante on August 11, 2019 in New York City
Lars Niki/Getty Images for Austin Film Society

Box office total: $3,497,073,561

Biggest movie: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

In the early aughts, Oscar winner Cate Blanchett proved that she could be a valuable franchise asset with her role in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In 2017, she entered the MCU with Thor: Raganok. She made smart money choices with The Hobbit movies, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Cinderella, and Ocean’s 8.

28. Vin Diesel

Box office total: $3,493,342,043

Biggest movie: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Vin Diesel voiced Guardians of the Galaxy's Groot in the MCU, though the animated character barely had any dialogue except to say “I am Groot.” But his starring role in seven Fast and the Furious movies is what made his stardom balloon. More Fast and the Furious films are planned, and Diesel has a part in the upcoming Avatar sequels, too.

29. Woody Harrelson

Box office total: $3,479,339,743

Biggest movie: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

In 2012, Woody Harrelson starred in the first of four Hunger Games films. Their high grosses, especially 2013’s Catching Fire, solidified his place as a fantastic character actor who could also carry a major franchise. In 2018, he continued his blockbuster streak and starred in Star Wars spinoff Solo: A Star Wars Story, and Venom.

30. Anthony Mackie

Box office total: $3,451,128,814

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Anthony Mackie has the MCU to thank for his place on the 30th spot on this list.

Box office totals courtesy of Box Office Mojo.

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