It began in 1933, and by the end, the Holocaust had claimed the life of 6 million Jews. And although the Chaplin began filming THE GREAT DICTATOR just before WWII, and claimed that he wouldn't have produced it had he known the war was coming. I believe it's timing could have come sooner. To my dismay, it was only last week that I had the bittersweet experience of viewing Charlie Chaplin's movie in its entirety. And while this film is older than most of our parents, it was quite refreshing to witness a star speak up for the underdogs of our world-of both then and now: "Jew, Gentile - black man - white."
The stage was set for Chaplin within the walls of the Little Theatre in West Los Angeles, and it was truly magical. Although Chaplin dominated the silent film industry, this film produced audio and Charlie made such dense use of it. First of all, Charlie played the role of, Hynkel, a Jewish Barber being bullied by Nazi's for reasons he could not comprehend. To be specific, there is one scene where a Nazi officer tags Hynkel's barber shop window with the word "JEW", and a beat later is when Hynkel arrives an abandoned shop.
Immediately, the barber takes a wet rag to it and begins to remove it. Now, the shop was abandoned, but because the Nazi officers are still patrolling the street, the Jewish barber is observed and then confronted about it. The Nazi physically engages in a fight to put the Jew in his "inferior" place. Then, Charlie yells for the Police to protect him from this Nazi.
As you can imagine, he had no such luck. Things would evolve where one Nazi officer becomes two. And not until a strong Jewish female knocks two officers out with a pan, while their backs are turned to her, does Hynkel become safe. She then hides him in her home because she knows of the sweep of Nazi's yet to come. And she knows, as we do, what would have happened to that Jewish man.
Throughout the movie, we see the Nazi's bully and bulldoze these wonderful people we dub "jews". And if it weren't for the slapstick humor approach, i'm not sure I could stand to receive this message for long.
By the end, the comical twists and turns will place Hynkel in a Nazi uniform. And I must admit that Chaplin didn't need much to look like Hitler's twin. Yet instead of Hitler of Germany, he would use the title of Dictator of Tomania. And as his Nazi cohorts are expecting the message to be about their Nazi Agenda- it is quite the opposite. He opens with "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."
Now because I can't do it justice, nor would I ask you to watch a two hour film because it moved me: i'll copy paste the final speech and ask you for five minutes of your time.
This was a phenomenal movie, and Chaplin's portrayal of Hitler in the movie is too good to be true. I had no idea Chaplin would not have gone through with the movie if he had known about the war to come, but I'm glad he did. This movie is a classic, and while it is obviously not profoundly historically accurate, it paints a picture of the world from that time. We see through the lens of many characters in this film that give us a full understanding of this wonderful movie. Powerful and yet funny, this movie is one that should be watched by all, as it stands the test of time as a good movie to this day.
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