362. The Great Dictator


Movie: The Great Dictator

Release Date: October 15, 1940

Director: Charlie Chaplin

Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Jack Oakie, Henry Daniell, Reginald Gardiner, Billy Gilbert and Maurice Moscovich

Tag Lines: “The Comedy Masterpiece!”

“Chaplin talks . . while You Laugh!”

“He talks.”

“Once again – the whole world laughs!”

Relevance: After watching Richard Attenborough’s 1992 ‘Chaplin’ starring Robert Downey, Jr., I became a little obsessed with Charlie Chaplin as an actor and human being. I was already aware of his character “The Tramp,” especially the iconic scenes of the dancing dinner rolls or the wobbling shack on a cliff, but I wanted to study him more. That was the first time I came across ‘The Great Dictator,’ a prime example how if you are open-minded and willing to learn, art can lead you to much greater art.

Billed as his first true “sound” film, I remember being in awe of how Chaplin was able to release a satirical film about Adolf Hitler and other dictators in the very early years of World War II. I quickly appreciated the film’s wit and heart and has since watched the film numerous times throughout the years.

Today’ s Thoughts: I loved revisiting this film for three simple reasons. One, it is simply a great film to watch, especially if you are a fan of satire. Chaplin’s use of humor, irony and exaggeration to expose the ridiculousness of contemporary politics is (sadly) even more topical today. Two, I can watch that “globe” scene over and over again. It is simple, elegant and ridiculous all at the same time and more importantly all at the right time. And lastly, that speech and plea for peace and good will at the end of the movie is one of the best moments in cinematic history! There are many great screenplays in the history of Hollywood, but I can only think of a handful that also include a great speech or monologue that brings the film together or leaves such a lasting effect in the minds of its viewers that it alone is its own masterpiece. This is one of those speeches.

Just reading these words written in 1940 stirs up many emotions:

“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. And this world has room for everyone, and the good Earth is rich can provide for everyone…

“…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.”

1940. 2020. We have come so far, yet we are still the same.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Picture (nomination), Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Charlie Chaplin (nomination), Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Jack Oakie (nomination), Academy Award for Best Writing, Original Screenplay, Charlie Chaplin (nomination), Academy Award for Best Music, Original Score, Meredith Wilson (nomination), National Board of Review (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award (winner), National Film Registry (1997).

Ways to Watch: Amazon Prime, DVD Availabililty.


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