A rare Sunday post from me as Tommy T is on the disabled list this week. Get well soon, brother.
There’s a marvelous documentary on Showtime: The Real Charlie Chaplin. It’s well-done and the presentism is kept to a minimum.
Charlie Chaplin was the first worldwide celebrity who wasn’t a political or military figure. He stayed out of politics until the rise of Hitler made that impossible. Chaplin was always a man of the left but taking a stand-then and now-loses you fans. It would eventually cost Chaplin more than that during the second Red Scare. He was run out of the country by forces of reaction and stupidity. Those same forces are at work in 2022.
The Great Dictator has always been a controversial movie even among those who share its politics. There are those who believe that Hitler’s crimes are so immense that he should never be mocked or parodied. Along with Chaplin, Ernst Lubitsch, and Mel Brooks I beg to differ. Satire and humor reveals and exposes evil. You bring the evildoers down a peg with mockery.
What’s not to love about Adenoid Hynkel and the double ross standing in for Hitler and the swastika?
The Great Dictator plays on the resemblance between Chaplin and Hitler. It was one reason many refused to take the furor over the Fuhrer seriously. He looked like Charlie Chaplin. the world’s greatest comedian.
Chaplin plays two roles. The oppressed as the little Jewish barber picked on by fascist bullies and the oppressor Adenoid Hynkel.
The finale of the movie is a speech given by the barber in dictator drag. Here are the money quotes from this epic speech:
I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone – if possible – Jew, Gentile – black man – white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness – not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.
Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost…
Then – in the name of democracy – let us use that power – let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world – a decent world that will give men a chance to work – that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfil that promise. They never will!
Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfil that promise! Let us fight to free the world – to do away with national barriers – to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers! in the name of democracy, let us all unite!
Those words are as true in 2022 as they were in 1940.
The last word goes to Charles Chaplin as the antithesis of The Great Dictator: