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 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

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2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

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3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

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4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

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The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

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5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

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Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

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6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

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This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

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7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

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Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

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8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

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What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

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9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

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Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

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10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

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Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

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10 Facts About Famed Paranormal Investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren  

Ed Warren and Lorraine Warren in Amityville II: The Possession (1982).
Ed Warren and Lorraine Warren in Amityville II: The Possession (1982).
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

When it comes to investigations of the paranormal kind, no two ghost hunters loom larger than Ed and Lorraine Warren. Over the course of 50 years, Ed, a demonologist, and Lorraine, a trance medium, looked into thousands of cases around the globe, and claimed to have encountered phenomena so scary that their exploits were often turned into films, including The Amityville Horror, The Conjuring movies, and The Haunting In Connecticut. But even if you're familiar with their most famous cases, there's probably still a lot you don't know about the Warrens.

1. Ed Warren grew up in a haunted house.

Ed Warren826 Paranormal via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When Ed was 5, he claimed he saw an apparition: a dot of light that grew until it became his family's landlady, who had died the year before. In The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed and Lorraine Warren, Ed recalled that she was "semi-transparent, wearing what looked like some sort of shroud ... then she vanished." Soon after, Ed was having dreams of dead relatives he’d never met, including an aunt who would send him messages about his future, telling him that he would help many priests but never become a priest himself. "I'm not a priest today, but I do work closely with them," he said in The Demonologist.

2. Lorraine Warren discovered her abilities when she was a child.

Like Ed, Lorraine began having unusual experiences when she was young, too—but she just assumed everyone had those same abilities. That all changed when she was 12. As she recalled in The Demonologist, it was Arbor Day at her all-girls' private school, and her classmates had just planted a sapling. "Just as soon as they put the sapling in the ground, I saw it as a fully grown tree ... filled with leaves blowing in the wind," she said. When a nun asked her why she was staring at the sky, Lorraine responded, "I told her I was just looking up into the tree ... 'Are you seeing the future?' she asked me, just as sternly. 'Yes,' I admitted, 'I guess I am.'"

3. Ed and Lorraine Warren began dating as teenagers.

Ed and Lorraine both lived in Connecticut and met in 1944, when they were both just 16 years old—Ed worked as an usher at a movie theater that Lorraine and her mother frequented. They began dating, and soon after, Ed went off to fight World War II.

4. Ed and Lorraine Warren got married in 1945, thanks to a sunken ship.

In 1945, when Ed was 17 years old, he enlisted in the Navy. He had only been deployed for a total of four months when he was sent back home on a 30-day "Survivor's Leave" after his ship went down in the North Atlantic Sea. It was during that short break that Ed and Lorraine got married, then he returned to war. The couple later had a daughter named Judy.

5. The Warrens thought they'd make their livings as artists.

The Conjuring (2013).Warner Bros.

After the war, the Warrens had to figure out how to make a living. "Each of us had skills as landscape artists, and we each harbored a desire to paint," Lorraine said. Ed had taken art classes, so, she said, "we began our marriage under the assumption that we were going to be artists."

Rather than painting landscapes, the Warrens decided on a more unusual subject on which to focus: haunted houses, which Ed found in the newspaper. They'd go to the houses, sketch them, then knock on the door and "offer [the sketch] for information about the haunting," Lorraine said. If the story was compelling enough, they'd actually paint the house and sell that artwork later. They spent about five years going around the United States, painting and investigating haunted houses.

6. Lorraine Warren was initially a skeptic.

Despite her early experiences with clairvoyance, Lorraine didn’t believe in ghosts until later in life, after she and Ed began visiting and painting haunted houses. "In the beginning, I was more than a bit wary of the people with whom we spoke," she said in The Demonologist. "I thought they were kind of suffering from overactive imaginations or were just making things up to get attention." But when she noticed the similarities between the experiences—including from people who had never met, and who were from opposite sides of the country—she became a believer.

7. Ed and Lorraine Warren founded the New England Society for Psychic Research in 1952.

The Warrens founded the New England Society for Psychic Research to document their cases, and they also created The Occult Museum—a space in their Monroe, Connecticut, home, which adjoined Ed's office—to house haunted objects and the files and tapes from their investigations. Today, the NESPR is run by the Warrens's daughter Judy and son-in-law, Tony Spera, and its website keeps a log of some of the cases the Warrens investigated, including that of an alleged werewolf and the infamous possessed doll, Annabelle.

8. Lorraine Warren had her abilities tested.

Lorraine WarrenJason Kempin, Getty Images

As the Warrens began taking on bigger and bigger cases, skepticism about the couple grew. To quiet critics, Lorraine agreed to be tested by Dr. Thelma Moss, an actress-turned-psychologist and parapsychologist (a researcher with an interest in the occult) working in a UCLA lab studying things like Kirlian photography. She found that Lorraine's clairvoyance was “far above average,” according to The Demonologist.

9. Ed and Lorraine Warren never charged money for their investigations.

Instead, they made a living from giving lectures at colleges, and by licensing the rights to their stories for film, TV, and book projects.

10. Ed and Lorraine Warren saw their main roles as educators.

The Warrens began giving lectures because, according to The Demonologist, there was a growing interest in the occult in the late 1960s, and many of the people they saw affected by dark phenomena were college students. They hoped that, through their lectures, they might discourage people from exploring the occult in the first place.