Log Line

A likeable prospector in the Klondike Gold Rush attempts to survive the elements and pursue love.

Overview

Medium: Film

Writer(s): Charles Chaplin

Director(s): Charles Chaplin

Production Co.(s): Charles Chaplin Productions

In the silent film The Gold Rush, the character of "The Tramp" that Charles Chaplin created for the Keystone Studios production Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914) joins the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush in the form of a character named The Lone Prospector. Despite the character name, however, the film does not revolve around his actual pursuit of gold. It concerns, instead, an attempt to find and secure love—sandwiched between two episodes related to survival.

When we first meet The Lone Prospector, he is hiking alone along a snowy and precarious mountain trail, having broken away from the long lines of men hiking over the Chilkoot Pass in search of riches. His attire (that of The Tramp) is completely inappropriate for the environment—baggy pants, short coat, bowler hat, and cane—and he is oblivious to a bear that follows close on his heels. Soon, however, he finds himself caught in a violent snowstorm and seeks shelter in a remote cabin occupied by a wanted criminal, Black Larsen, who tries (and fails) to throw him out. The two are soon joined by a large, burly prospector named Big Jim McKay, whose tent has dragged him away from a rich gold deposit and blown him into the cabin.

After days without food, the three men decide that someone must brave the storm and go in search of help. Black loses a card draw to assign the task and heads out into the storm, leaving The Lone Prospector and Big Jim to fend for themselves until (if ever) he returns. They do so by cooking and eating one of The Lone Prospector's shoes, and they almost come to tragic blows when Big Jim begins to fantasize that The Lone Prospector is a large and tasty chicken. Fortunately, a bear wanders in, which The Lone Prospector shoots, providing them something to eat.

Out in the elements, Black encounters two lawmen who are hunting for him. He shoots them both, steals their sled full of provisions, and stumbles onto the gold deposit staked by Big Jim. When Big Jim shows up shortly thereafter, having parted ways with The Lone Prospector, he is knocked out by Black, who escapes with the sled, only to meet justice at the hands of Nature herself when an ice shelf collapses beneath him and sends him plummeting to his death.

Meanwhile, The Lone Prospector arrives in a gold rush town, where he sells his prospecting tools and falls in love at first sight with a saloon girl named Gloria, who is having a spat with her boyfriend, Jack Cameron. Gloria uses The Lone Prospector to snub Jack during their tiff, and in doing so, unwittingly stokes the fires of his affections. And when a falling clock knocks out Jack during an altercation, The Lone Prospector believes he has done the deed himself, which gives him a sense of having been her hero.

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