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.

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

The Surprising Characters on Friends Who Were Originally the Show's Main Couple

Everyone was enthralled by Ross and Rachel's romantic drama—but how would you feel about Monica and Joey's?
Everyone was enthralled by Ross and Rachel's romantic drama—but how would you feel about Monica and Joey's?
Getty Images

When you think of Friends, your mind probably goes to all the hilarious one-liners, such as Joey's "How you doin'?", or all the romantic relationships in the show, most importantly Ross and Rachel's. We watched the pair's love story blossom since their first kiss back in season two, and the couple is widely regarded as one of the best in TV history.

Well, there was another couple planned that didn't make the cut. Just as Lisa Kudrow and Matt LeBlanc wanted their characters Phoebe and Joey to get together, showrunners planned for Monica and Joey to be an item. And they weren't just going to be a fling—the two were originally the Ross and Rachel of the show.

Vulture reports that Friends creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman initially had Monica and Joey coupling up, explaining:

"It would’ve unfolded like this: Joey, a 'perpetual horndog,' would’ve eventually been lured and 'tamed' by Monica as he continued to climb up in the world of acting. Crane, however, found himself 'bored' by this version of Joey; he retooled Joey to be a funnier and warmer character within the friend group, and dropped the romance with Monica altogether."

Would've been weird, right? According to Entertainment Weekly, it wasn't just Crane who didn't like the idea. LeBlanc himself, who played Joey, wasn't into his character trying to pursue Monica, not wanting to play someone who was perceived as creepy and hit on everyone.

It seems Joey went through some serious revisions before Friends became what it is today, and it's probably for the best. He doesn't end up married in the end, but at least Monica gets her happily ever after moment with Chandler.

[h/t Vulture]