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Film of the Month / Mar 08 | silentmovies



Film of the Month / Mar 08
greatdictator - Newest pictures
The Great Dictator is a film directed by and starring Charlie Chaplin. First released in October 1940, it bitterly satirizes Nazism and Adolf Hitler, culminating in an overt political plea to defy fascism.

The film is unusual for its period, in the days prior to American entry into World War II, as the United States was still formally at peace with Nazi Germany. Well before the full extent of the horrors of Nazism had been uncovered, Chaplin's film advanced a stirring, controversial condemnation of Hitler, fascism, antisemitism, and the Nazis, the latter of whom he excoriates in the film as "machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts".[1]

The film was Chaplin's first "talkie", as well his most commercially successful film.

The film begins during World War I. Chaplin, as an unnamed Jewish private in the army of the fictional nation of Tomainia, valiantly attempts to rescue an officer named Schultz (Reginald Gardiner), only to lose his memory when the plane the two had taken off in crashes into a tree. Schultz escapes from the wreckage, and Chaplin spends the next 20 years in the hospital, thoroughly oblivious to the changes that are taking place in Tomainia: Adenoid Hynkel (Chaplin in a double role), now the ruthless dictator of Tomainia, has undertaken to persecute Jews throughout the land, aided by ministers Garbitsch (cf. Joseph Goebbels) (played by Henry Daniell) and Herring (cf. Hermann Göring) (played by Billy Gilbert).

The amnesiac soldier returns to his barbershop in the Jewish ghetto, still unaware of the political situation, and is shocked when storm troopers paint "Jew" on the windows of his shop. In the ensuing scuffle with the stormtroopers, he finds a friend, and ultimately a love interest, in Hannah (Paulette Goddard), a beautiful resident of the ghetto.

Meanwhile, Schultz, who has come up in the ranks in the intervening 20 years, recognizes the barber (who is reminded of WWI by Schultz and therefore gets his memory back) and, though surprised to find him a Jew, orders the storm troopers to leave him and Hannah alone. Hynkel (cf. Adolf Hitler), in addition, has relaxed his stance on Tomainian Jewry in an attempt to woo a Jewish financier into giving him a loan. Egged on by Garbitsch, Hynkel has become obsessed with the idea of world domination. (In one famous scene, he dances with a large, inflatable globe to the tune of a theme from Wagner's Lohengrin.) On Garbitsch's advice, Hynkel has planned to invade the neighboring country of Osterlich (cf Österreich, the German name for Austria) and needs the loan to finance the invasion. Eventually, the financier refuses, and Hynkel reinstates his persecution of the Jews, this time to an even greater extent.

Schultz voices his objection to the pogrom, and Hynkel orders him placed in a concentration camp. Schultz flees to the ghetto and begins planning to overthrow the Hynkel regime. To decide who will carry out this plot, a coin is placed in one of five puddings, and the person who receives the one with the coin in it is to carry out the mission to blow up the palace, considered a suicide mission. However, Hannah has placed a coin in every dessert, leading to one of Chaplin's most comical scenes. Eventually, both Schultz and his barber friend are captured and condemned to the concentration camp.

Hynkel is initially opposed by Benzino Napaloni (cf. Benito Mussolini and indirectly Napoleon Bonaparte) (played by Jack Oakie), dictator of Bacteria, in his plans to invade Osterlich. After some friction (and a comedic food fight) between the two leaders, a deal is made (which Hynkel immediately breaks) and the invasion proceeds successfully. Hannah, who has since emigrated to Osterlich, once again finds herself living under Hynkel's regime.

Schultz and the barber escape from the camp wearing Tomainian uniforms (featuring the double cross in parody of the Nazi swastika). Border guards mistake the barber for Hynkel (with whom he shares a remarkable resemblance, to the point that, if not for his clothes, he would be an absolute duplicate). Conversely, Hynkel, on a duck-hunting trip so that people will not expect an invasion, is mistaken for the barber and is arrested by his own soldiers. The barber, who has assumed Hynkel's identity, is taken to the Tomainian capital to make a victory speech. Garbitsch, in introducing "Hynkel" to the throngs, decries free speech and other supposedly traitorous and outdated ideas. In contrast, the barber then makes a rousing speech, reverting Hynkel's anti-Semitic policies and welcoming in a new era of democracy.

The 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.
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.
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.
The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men — cries out for universal brotherhood — for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world — millions of despairing men, women, and little children — victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me, I say — do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed — the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people.
Soldiers! Don’t give yourselves to brutes — men who despise you — enslave you — who regiment your lives — tell you what to do — what to think and what to feel! Who drill you — diet you — treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men — machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men!
Don’t hate! Only the unloved hate — the unloved and the unnatural! Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty! In the 17th Chapter of St Luke it is written : “the Kingdom of God is within man” — not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people have the power — the power to create machines. The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.
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 security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie! They do not fulfill their promise; they never will. Dictators free themselves, but they enslave the people!! Now, let us fight to fulfill 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!!!
Hannah, can you hear me? Wherever you are, look up, Hannah. The clouds are lifting. The sun is breaking through. We are coming out of the darkness into the light. We are coming into a new world, a kindlier world, where men will rise above their hate, their greed and brutality.
Look up, Hannah. The soul of man has been given wings, and at last he is beginning to fly. He is flying into the rainbow — into the light of hope, into the future, the glorious future that belongs to you, to me, and to all of us. Look up, Hannah. Look up.
***
Hannah, despondent over the recent events, hears the barber's speech on the radio, and is amazed when "Hynkel" addresses her directly: "Hannah, can you hear me? Wherever you are, look up! Look up, Hannah! The clouds are lifting, the sun is breaking through! We are coming out of the darkness and into the light! We are coming into a new world; a kindlier world, where men will rise above their greed, their hate, and their brutality. Look up, Hannah!" The film concludes with Hannah indeed looking up, with a renewed sense of optimism.

The film stars Chaplin as Hynkel and the barber, Paulette Goddard as Hannah, Jack Oakie as Napaloni, Reginald Gardiner as Schultz, Henry Daniell as Garbitsch and Billy Gilbert as Field Marshal Herring, an incompetent adviser to Hynkel. Chaplin stars in a double role as the Jewish barber (the Tramp in all but name) and the fascist dictator, clearly modeled on Adolf Hitler.

The names of the aides of Adenoid Hynkel are similar to those of Hitler. Garbitsch (pronounced "garbage"), the right hand man of Hynkel is very similar to that of Joseph Goebbels and Field Marshal Herring was clearly modeled after the Luftwaffe chief, Hermann Goering while beyond doubt the "Diggaditchie" of Bacteria, Benzino Napaloni, was modeled after Il Duce, Benito Mussolini.

Much of the film is taken up by Hynkel and Napaloni arguing over the fate of Osterlich (Austria). Originally, Mussolini was opposed to the German takeover since he saw Austria as a buffer-state between Germany and Italy. The international community (in particular, France and Britain, Mussolini's Stresa front partners) did not share Italy's concern over German annexation of Austria and even supported League of Nations sanctions against Italy. Left alone, Mussolini soon (1936) submitted to Hitler's will, withdrew Italian troops from the Brenner Pass along the Austrian border, and moved closer to Germany, as Hitler did not apply sanctions against Italy. This conflict is almost forgotten today given Italy's alliance with Germany and Austria during World War II.

The film contains several of Chaplin's most famous sequences. The rally speech by Hynkel, delivered in German-sounding gibberish, is a superb caricature of Hitler's oratory style, which Chaplin studied carefully in newsreels.[1] The German words schnitzel, sauerkraut and liverwurst can be made out, along with English phrases such as "cheese'n'crackers" and frequently "lager beer", in the fake German Hynkel speaks during the rally and at other points in the film when he is angry (though he ...


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