Filmsite Movie Review 100 Greatest Films
The Gold Rush (1925)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

"Indifferent to his comrades plight, Black Larsen stumbles on the claim of Big Jim McKay," while the two of them still wait for relief. Because they have eaten his boot, and he only has rags for clothes, the Tramp must now sit with his foot in the oven to keep warm. When starvation strikes again, Jim suffers more "food" hallucinations, and crazily imagines the Tramp transformed into a giant, plump chicken, ripe for slaughter. He chases his appetizing friend with a gun and later with an axe. The panic-stricken Tramp defends himself with the shot-gun in a hand-to-hand struggle with Jim. A hungry passing bear wanders into the cabin and gets involved in the struggle. The Tramp aims and kills it as it runs off, solving their food problem.

They finally part ways, leaving the hut to go their own separate ways, Big Jim to "his secret mine," the Tramp "to his fate." On his mountainside of gold, Big Jim finds Black Larsen, who has stolen his mining claim. With a blow of his spade, Black Larsen knocks Big Jim to the ground. "The North. A law unto itself," repays Black Larsen shortly thereafter - he perishes in a crumbling avalanche beneath his feet.

Meanwhile, the Tramp, "a disappointed prospector," arrives in a little gold-mining boomtown, "one of the many cities in the Far North, built overnight during the great gold rush." Other characters are introduced in the town, Jack Cameron (Malcolm Waite), "the ladies man," and his girl Georgia (Georgia Hale). The Tramp redeems the only gold he made with pick and shovel.

In the Monte Carlo Dance Hall that night, the pretty dancing girl named Georgia argues with tough and abusive Jack Cameron when he grabs her photograph. The Tramp, "the stranger," slowly enters the saloon, lonely and sad-faced. From a solitary vantage point, he watches others happily dancing and drinking at the bar. Thinking that Georgia is smiling at him from the bar, he is mistaken - she is looking at someone behind him. He overhears an upset Georgia tell one of her girlfriends: "I guess I'm bored...If I could only meet some one worth while - I'm so tired of this place." He immediately falls in love with her, although she looks past him and ignores him. The Tramp picks up a discarded and ripped photograph of Georgia, and tries to pretend that he isn't interested in keeping it.

A raucous Jack returns, and while surrounded by other dance-hall girls, he pulls Georgia to himself and calls her a "little spitfire." When she rejects him, pulls herself away and turns her back on him, he calls her "pretty fresh" for ignoring him. Jack demands a dance with Georgia, but to spite and provoke him, she calls out: "Hey you! Come here!" and dances with the first available man - the incredulous Tramp. She insults Jack: "You see. I'm very particular who I dance with."

The Tramp dances with her, with his bootless foot still bandaged. In a comical dance sequence, he ties up his trousers that are falling down with a piece of rope (a substitute for a belt), not realizing that the other end is attached to a large dog. When the dog growls at a cat and chases it, the Tramp is jerked to the floor. Georgia encourages the Tramp to bravely defend her from Jack's continued insults. The Tramp is no match for the brawny Jack. With the fortituous help of a heavy grandfather clock that falls on Jack's head, his rival is knocked out.

The next morning, the Tramp walks by the cabin of Hank Curtis (Henry Bergman), "within a stone throw of the dance hall." The Tramp pretends to faint outside the cabin to get breakfast. Hank is a kindly prospector, and the Tramp is brought in for a warm meal.

"Big Jim McKay owing to the blow he had received, lost his memory and wandered aimlessly on." Back in town, Hank and his partner prepare for a trip to their mine. The Tramp is asked to care for the cabin and feed the mule during Hank's absence. Outside the cabin, Georgia and other girlfriends away from the dance hall, have a snowball fight. During the commotion, he opens the door and gets a snowball in the face. He sees Georgia again and she instantly recognizes him. "I haven't seen you since we danced together," she remarks. While he goes outside to retrieve firewood, Georgia discovers her photo under the Tramp's pillow. She observes: "I guess you're lonesome here." Winking at her girlfriends, she suggests a practical joke for him, asking to be invited to dinner sometime. He invites them to an 8 o'clock New Year's Eve dinner at the cabin. As they leave, they laugh at his foolish gullibility, but he falls more deeply in love with her. Exploding with utter joy, he tosses around his pillow, sending feathers flying everywhere. Georgia returns momentarily to retrieve her forgotten gloves, and finds him covered with feathers.

To make the dinner financially possible, "he begged, borrowed and shovelled." To earn money for favors and presents for the party, he takes a snow-shoveling job in a classic sequence. The Tramp cleverly shovels snow from one cabin's doorway to the next doorway, creating new customers as he progresses along.

On New Year's Eve, the night of the dinner, he excitedly gets ready for the party. By five minutes to eight, he has made elaborate preparations - he sets the table with lighted candles, table napkins, and a heart-shaped place card at Georgia's seat, with "To My Love" written on it. A chicken is roasting in the oven. He also places party favors at each place setting for each guest. Then, he dozes off while he waits, pathetically, for them to appear. He dreams of the party and is the perfect host/entertainer with Georgia. In a classic gag, "the Dance of the Rolls," he spears two French bread rolls with forks and makes them do a pantomime ballet-dance - the Oceana Roll. The two rolls are stand-ins for his big boots - he smiles above the dancing shoes.

At midnight, Georgia fires a gun salute in the raucous dance hall saloon, and the Tramp is awakened by the celebrants. He realizes the women have stood him up - they have forgotten all about his dinner invitation. With a look of deep hurt and with a sad feeling of unrequited love, he hears members of the gold rush town distantly singing "Auld Lang Syne" from his opened door. When dancing begins, Georgia suddenly remembers her little friend the Tramp, and proposes to her friends (including Jack) that they visit his cabin: "Let's go up and have some fun with him." At the same moment, the Tramp leaves the cabin and shuffles up to the saloon window to watch the party through the window. By the time they arrive, the Tramp has already left and they find his hut empty. Georgia opens the door and enters the room, seeing the decorated dinner table. She is filled with remorse. Just then, Jack follows and demands a kiss from her, but she pushes him away. She tells her girlfriends: "The joke has gone too far, let's go!" She angrily slaps Jack when he asks for another kiss.

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