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Wednesday October 4th 2023

The Gold Rush | 1925

The Gold Rush film location: Sugar Bowl, Truckee, California
The Gold Rush film location: prospectors struggle up the 'Chilkoot Pass': Sugar Bowl, Truckee, California | Photograph: Google Maps

Charlie Chaplin is a Yukon prospector who after terrible privations, finally gets rich, in the film which includes two of his classic scenes – the bread roll dance and the eating of a boot.

Originally wanting to shoot more on location, Chaplin was ultimately obliged to build elaborate sets of the old Klondike on the stages and backlot of his Chaplin Studio.

The studio can still be seen just south of Hollywood Boulevard at 1416 North La Brea Avenue in Hollywood. The studio went on to become the HQ of Herb Alpert's A&M Records and is now owned by the Jim Henson Company – hence the cheery green Kermit atop the gatehouse.

The Gold Rush film location: Jim Henson Productions, La Brea Avenue, Hollywood
The Gold Rush film location: the old Chaplin Studios in Hollywood: Jim Henson Productions, La Brea Avenue, Hollywood | Photograph: Shutterstock / Logan Bush

A real location sequence is the slow procession of prospectors up the steep, snowy incline of what is supposed to be 'Yukon’s Chilkoot Pass', the route that took the miners through Alaska’s Coast Mountains.

The scenes were shot on the slopes of Mount Lincoln in the Sierra Nevadas, northwest of Lake Tahoe at an area now occupied by the Sugar Bowl Ski Resort, about ten miles west of west of Truckee, California.

The hundreds of extras were recruited in the city of Sacramento, 90 miles southwest, and brought in by train.

There’s a marker commemorating the shoot on the south side of Donner Pass Road alongside the Sugar Bowl Village Gondola Parking lot, between Norden and Donner.

And, yes, that’s the pass which gave its name to the ill-fated Donner Party which came to grief in the area in the winter of 1846. Their tragic plight partly inspired Chaplin (they did indeed attempt to eat the hide from which their snowshoes were made).