Charlie Chaplin, the Lone Adventurer

“In the meantime, it may be that his present series of pictures – The Kid, The Pilgrim and The Gold Rush – with their gags and their overtones of tragedy, their adventures half-absurd, half-realistic, their mythical hero, now a figure of poetry, now a type out of the comic strips, represents the height of Chaplin’s achievement. He could scarcely, in any field, surpass the best moments of these pictures. The opening of The Gold Rush is such a moment. Charlie is a lone adventurer, straggling along after a party of prospectors among the frozen hills: he twirls his cane a little to keep his spirits up. On his way through a narrow mountain pass, a bear emerges and follows him. Any ordinary movie comedian, given the opportunity of using a bear, would, of course, have had it chasing him about for as long as he could work up gags for it. But Charlie does not know that the bear is there: he keeps on, twirling his cane. Presently the beast withdraws, and only then does Charlie think he hears something: he turns around, but there is nothing there. And he sets off again, still fearless, toward the dreadful ordeals that await him.”

– Edmund Wilson, 1924 (excerpted in American Movie Critics)