Flickchart Film School: 1925
In 1925, the dawning of a new age in film that is right around the corner can already be seen. One of the largest steps is not only seeing film, but also hearing it. A big step towards this process was made when Western Electric and Warner Bros. decide to work together in order to make a system to make motion pictures with sound.
We also see the beginning of the use of foul language in the cinema. While the most infamous early use is most well-known as appearing in Gone With the Wind, The Big Parade beat their “damn” by fourteen years. The Big Parade, an epic silent war film used a title card that said, “March and sweat the whole damned day…”, marking one of the earliest uses of a curse word in an US film.
Special effects in film even took a huge step forward. Not only were dinosaurs used for the first time in the science fiction and fantasy genres with The Lost World, but the film also marks the first time that models were used with stop-motion animation. Willis O’Brien, who utilized this technology, would use these techniques later in King Kong.
The best film of 1925 as voted by the users of Flickchart is The Gold Rush. Not only was The Gold Rush the film that Charles Chaplin most wanted to be remembered by, but also became the highest grossing silent comedy of all time. Chaplin was inspired by not only by prospectors in Alaska, but oddly enough also by stories of the Donner party, which were forced to eat members of their group to stay alive.
With The Gold Rush, Chaplin’s infamous Tramp character heads to the Yukon to stake his claim. While there, a storm forces him into a cabin with Big Jim McKay, played by frequent Chaplin collaborator Mack Swain, who has just found a sizable amount of gold, and Black Larsen, played by Tom Murray, who is an escaped convict.
When a falling out leads Larsen dead from a fall off a cliff and McKay with amnesia, The Tramp gives up his hopes of striking it big in gold country and instead becomes a caretaker for a prospector’s cabin. During a trip to a nearby makeshift town, he meets a girl named Georgia, whom he believes has fallen for him the way he has fallen for her.
After The Tramp throws a heartbreaking New Year’s Eve Party for Georgia and her friends, to which none of them show up, Georgia decides that she may have been too rough on him. While at the bar where Georgia works, The Tramp runs into McKay, who has been looking for him in order to find the gold he can’t remember where he hid. Together, the two find the fortune and become rich. Later on, the two are on a boat, which Georgia happens to be on as well. Georgia, having changed her ways, kisses The Tramp while having their photo taken and the two go off together.
Like many Chaplin films, The Gold Rush featured turmoil from his personal life. Lita Grey was originally cast in the role as Georgia. However when the sixteen year old Grey married Chaplin and became pregnant, the role went to Georgia Hale. Chaplin and Hale would go on to also have an affair during the filming. Hale would even go on in later accounts to say the film’s final kiss was not faked, which probably leads to why Chaplin cut this as the film’s ending when the film was re-released in 1942.
Thankfully, The Gold Rush was instead remembered for its numerous classic comedic scenes that have become iconic in comedy history. One such scene involves a starving Tramp so desperate that he cooks his own shoe. In the scene, the shoe was made of licorice, yet Chaplin, the consummate professional, had the scene shot 63 times over three days. This led to Chaplin having to be sent to the hospital due to insulin shock. Also while starving, Big Jim watches The Tramp as he turns into a chicken right before his very eyes. For anyone that has even seen a cartoon, they can lead this famous trope to this classic film.
Chaplin also expertly used models to create a scene in which a snowstorm moves a cabin that The Tramp and Big Jim are staying in so that the cabin teeters back and forth over a cliff. This scene seamlessly blends the use of the models and live action comedy.
But quite possibly the most famous scene from The Gold Rush is a scene in which Chaplin, envisioning his dream of a perfect New Year’s Eve Party, creates dancing rolls, by putting two forks into two rolls and by using his head, gives the illusion of tiny legs dancing out of The Tramp’s head. This famous scene has been used many times since, most notably in Benny and Joon and was such a success when first released, some projectionists even rewound the film to show it again.
The Gold Rush is by far one of Chaplin’s most memorable films and is filled with scene after scene of classic iconic comedy moments. Even though it is one of Chaplin’s greatest, The Gold Rush was just a taste of the greatness that was still to come from one of cinema’s greatest luminaries.
For those interested in more films from 1925, check out these films:
Speaking of great silent comedians, check out Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman. Quite possibly Lloyd’s best film, he plays a nerd who enters college and attempts to become the big man on campus. Lloyd’s film may be over eighty years old, but the determination and hope to become the most popular guy in school is one that still resonates today.
The first version of the classic story Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ was released in 1925 with a budget that was almost four million dollars, yet went onto gain nine million dollars and would later be remade into one of cinema’s most famous epics.
Still the most famous version of the famous story, Lon Chaney’s The Phantom of the Opera remains the actor’s most popular role. Chaney devised his own makeup and his performance became one of early cinema’s most haunting roles.
Last, but certainly not least, is the phenomenal Russian classic The Battleship Potemkin. The film, which made the montage a popular technique to tell stories out of order, was not only groundbreaking, but is also an incredible account of the naval riot at Odessa that led to a massacre of the Russian people.