Friday, August 1, 2008


(1925) (No official rating; "G" equivalent)

We saw this on a snowy night in Maine at a library in a small, nearby town. It was mostly seniors in the audience; in fact, Keegan was the only kid present. He was nine years old, and we were surprised to see our super active son (he has never sat still watching TV) completely involved in this classic film. The Gold Rush is one of Charlie Chaplin’s masterpieces, and should hold the attention of kids both over and under the age of ten (and it’s good training for reading subtitles, as they're short and sweet!). There is plenty of action and adventure, a villain and love interest, plus some comic moments of sheer genius. Set in the Alaskan Yukon, Chaplin’s Little Tramp is a misfit of a gold prospector, hoping to strike it rich, and the impressive special effects of the film easily convey the biting cold and the painful hunger endured by the Little Tramp and his cohorts. There are many memorable scenes, and choosing a favorite between the dance of the dinner rolls (a bittersweet scene, with the Tramp waiting for the girl who never shows), the leather-boot-as-Thanksgiving-turkey scene, and the fantastic, white-knuckled moment when our hero’s humble cabin is teetering on the brink of a cliff is impossible.

Not all silent films will work for younger kids. Some are very slow, and not all of them contain the great physical comedy that artists such as Chaplin were known for. Many of Chaplin’s films would make delightful family viewing, but The Gold Rush is certainly a favorite. Note: Netflix has a two-disc set which includes both the silent version, and the 1942 sound version. I recommend the original, but must admit I haven't seen the latter.

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