By Scott Ross
Charlie Chaplin makes a pair of dinner rolls dance like the most graceful hoofer who ever lived and eats his shoe as if it was a rare delicacy in this glorious comedy with traces of pathos and melodrama. Using the mad dash for Alaskan gold as his starting point, Chaplin fashioned a beautiful vision of the Tramp (or, as he always referred to him, “The Little Fellow”) against not merely his fellow man but the elements themselves. Once asked why he never developed any interesting camera angles, Chaplin answered, “I don’t need interesting cameras angles; I’m interesting:” This is largely true, but the sight of hundreds of hopeful panners ascending the dizzying Chilikook mountain pass is one of the singular images in American movies. Highlights include the justifiably famous shoe-eating routine and the starving Mack Swain’s delirious hallucination of Charlie as an over-sized chicken. Georgia Hall is the comely, ambivalent dance-hall hostess. Decades later Chaplin re-edited the movie, added a bit of narration to replace the original title cards, and composed a pleasant score.
Text copyright 2013 by Scott Ross