Project Description

Charlie Chaplin: The Gold Rush

A very warm welcome to the tenth in our series of monthly releases of limited edition Charlie Chaplin photographs for 2019—part of our celebration of the 130th anniversary of his birth—where each month we focus on a key Charlie Chaplin film.  

Over the course of 2019 we will build a substantial collection of important Charlie Chaplin photographs—all of which are available to purchase and hang on your walls at home or in your office. You can see photographs from previous months here.

This month we offer a collection of images from Charlie Chaplin’s 1925 film, The Gold Rush. The images that follow are available to purchase in limited editions as museum-quality archival handmade silver gelatin photographs, in a range of sizes from 10 x 12 inches to 48 x 60 inches. Scroll down and select an image for full details.

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AN INTRODUCTION TO THE GOLD RUSH (1925)

Charlie Chaplin produced The Gold Rush to prove that comedy and tragedy were never too far from one another.

Chaplin’s inspiration came from photos he saw of the 1896 Klondike gold rush and a book on the Donner Party Disaster of 1846 whereby a party of snowbound immigrants were reduced to eating the corpses of their dead companions in order to stay alive. In true Chaplin style, he was inspired to combine the horror and deprivation of these two events into a comedy.

“I was after the feeling of Alaska, with a sweet, poetic, yet comic, love story. When I started on this film I sweated hard to keep the original thought. That is where many of us go wrong. We sell ourselves an idea and then leave it flat–with the result that we have nothing in the end but hodgepodge.” – Charlie Chaplin

Set somewhere in the Alaskan wilderness, Chaplin takes on the role of a Lone Prospector who is marching across the Chilkoot Pass in the search for fame and fortune. After getting caught in an unruly blizzard, he finds himself taking refuge in a cabin with a renegade and a gold prospector by the name of Big Jim. Over the course of the feature film, the Lone Prospector falls in love, has his heart broken, uncovers a hidden gold deposit, becomes a millionaire and is reunited with his lost love on his return to America.

Chaplin had a hard time casting his leading lady. 15 year-old Lillita MacMurray, who had appeared in The Kid and The Idle Class, snuck away from home with her friend Merna Kennedy and visited Chaplin Studios on Saturday 3 February 1924. On greeting them, Chaplin insisted that Lillita audition for the role and a few days later, the part was hers. They renamed her Lita Grey and reported that she was 19 years old, rather than a young 15. Filming began and it appeared to be running smoothly until, that is, the middle of September 1924 when Lita discovered she was pregnant with Chaplin’s baby. The pair married on 25 November 1924, Chaplin moved Lita and her mother into a small house away from the nosiness of the press and Chaplin began his search for a leading lady once again. Chaplin recruited actress Georgia Hale for the role and shooting resumed on 2 January 1925.

The film premiered on 26 June 1925 and was an unparalleled success. 

The Chilkoot Pass

The Chilkoot Pass
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The Lone Prospector explores the Chilkoot Pass, the set where filming took place.

The snowy set

The snowy set
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Cameraman Rollie Totheroh films the Prospector trying to find his bearings.

A shivering Prospector

A shivering Prospector
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The starving and shivering Prospector sits snow-covered inside the cabin.

A snow-covered sleep

A snow-covered sleep
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The Prospector sits in a snow-covered cloak in an attempt to warm himself up.

Big Jim at gunpoint

Big Jim at gunpoint
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Larsen tries to scare both Big Jim and the Lone Prospector out of the cabin using his shotgun but he is overpowered by Jim, and the three agree to an uneasy truce that they all stay in the cabin.

Best of three

Best of three
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The three starving men draw cards to decide who will leave in search of food. Originally the Prospector lost, was cast out of the cabin and returned with supplies. However, Chaplin later rewrote the plot and re-shot all of the scenes.

In the Monte Carlo dance hall

In the Monte Carlo dance hall
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The Prospector watches the cheering crowds in the Monte Carlo dance hall.

The dance hall girl

The dance hall girl
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The Prospector sees the dance hall girl (Georgia Hale) and falls in love with her but she takes no notice of him.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year
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Georgia helps bring in the New Year with a bang. The celebrations are raucous but also tinged with sadness. Chaplin, as was his custom, went to many of the extras and gave them individual character backgrounds.

The cliffhanger

The cliffhanger
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Photographs such as this—which document the empty set where important film action took place—will be a feature of each collection of photographs we launch throughout 2019.

“Charlie came up with the idea that the house in which he and Swain were snowed in, should blow away, and I suggested that it came to the edge of a cliff and teeter over. Charlie said, ‘I don’t like that, Eddie.’ We went on debating how we would do this, and finally Charlie came in and said, ‘I’ve got it! The house blows over, gets on the edge of a cliff, and teeters on the edge, and nobody knows if we’re going to fall or not. How do you like that?’ We all said, ‘Fine!’ I really don’t think Charlie knew that I had suggested this. It got embedded in his subconscious mind, and he thought that it was his idea.” – Eddie Sutherland

 Want to see more?

To find out all about our plans for 2019—in which we celebrate the genius of Charlie Chaplin—just click on the green button below, and read on.

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Charlie Chaplin ™ © Bubbles Incorporated SA 2019
Photographs © Roy Export S.A.S / Roy Export Co. Ltd
Scans by Cineteca di Bologna / Musée de l’Elysée