Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Comedian In New York (1925), Part IV: Midnight premiere of The Gold Rush

Moe Mark, president of the Mark Strand Theater,
 greets Chaplin. At left is Joseph Plunkett,
Managing Director. 8/16/25

Chaplin arrived back in the city on the 15th after spending a day in Brighton Beach as per his doctor's orders to get some rest away from the big city hustle and bustle and to breath in the fresh sea air. He had been suffering from (take your pick): a cold, exhaustion, low blood pressure, a nervous breakdown, etc. Not to mention the hubbub caused by a supposed bitten lip. The gossips were quick to point out that his lips on the night of the premiere showed no sign of a scab or any other mark.

The premiere was held at midnight on August 16th at the Mark Strand Theater on Broadway. Several thousand people gathered at the back door of the theater to await his arrival but Chaplin tricked them by driving right up to the front door in a conventional black-and-white taxicab. His friend, Harry d'Arrast, paid the fare while Charlie sauntered in practically unnoticed until an onlooker spotted him and began shouting. A crowd quickly gathered and twenty policeman came to Charlie's rescue.

Before the curtain went up,  a wave of applause went over the theater and people stood up in their seats to catch a glimpse of Chaplin who quietly greeted old friends* as he made his way down the aisle. He was a little nervous and appeared much relieved when he finally reached his seat, which was in the center of the theater on the aisle.
It was a proud night for Chaplin as while he sat looking at the picture and listening to Carl Edourard's orchestra he was not insensible to the chuckles and shrieks of laughter provoked by his own antics on the screen. The joy of the spectators testified to the worth of the picture on which he had worked for more than eighteen months. (Mordaunt Hall, New York Times, August 17, 1925) 

When the film was over at 2:20a.m., Chaplin went to the stage and thanked the audience. He ended his "very brief" talk by saying that he was very emotional.

At some point during the festivities, Brunswick officials presented Chaplin with a gold-plated phonograph record of his two compositions "Sing A Song" and "With You Dear, In Bombay" which Chaplin recorded with the Abe Lyman Orchestra in early 1925. The songs were supposedly part of the sheet music that accompanied the film, all of which Chaplin supervised.

A small premier party was held in the ballet rehearsal room of the theater. A select few friends had invitations pressed into their hand by Chaplin's associates as they entered the theater. Chaplin appeared at the party "weary but relieved" that the picture was at last launched.

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*Edna Purviance was in New York City at the time of the premiere but I could find no evidence that she attended the opening. Edna was en route to France to make her final film Éducation de Prince. However Chaplin's original leading lady, Mabel Normand, did attend. She was also present at the Los Angeles premiere in June.

Sources: 
Variety, August 19, 1925
"The Screen by Mordaunt Hall," New York Times, Aug. 17, 1925
Los Angeles Times, August 25, 1925
Picture-Play Magazine, November 1925

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