Several weeks ago was found myself on a tangent. I was reading something or trolling someone or eavesdropping on some conversation and I heard about “The Great Dictator” by Charlie Chaplin. “The Great Dictator” is a satirical film written, produced and starring Charlie Chaplin that was made in 1940. It was nominated for several Academy awards including best actor and best original screenplay.
In my usual fashion, I went online to find a copy of this film (either through Netflix or download) and came up empty. However, my local library had 10 copies available. I realized that I hadn’t checked out a DVD from the library (let alone watched a DVD) for several years.
The film itself is amazing!! It was Charlie Chaplin’s first talkie and you can tell it was a labour of love. What is truly powerful about this film is that fact that it’s a satirical take on the Nazi Regime and it’s oppression of the Jews in Germany. This is historically and culturally significant because this film was made prior to America declaring war on Germany. Germany – at the time of the release – had already invaded Poland, Denmark and Norway but World War 2 had not begun in earnest. Russia, the United States and Britain had not officially declared war (although Russia and Britain were doing other related military procedures without directly coming into conflict with Germany).
The second amazing element of this film is the final speech. The plot of the movie is that a Jewish, German barber-turned-soldier (played by Chaplin Tramp character) awakens from a coma he suffered during the First World War (fighting for Germany) to find that Tomanian (Nazi) regime in power and oppressing Jews. This barber eventually becomes mistaken for the Tomanian dictator, Adenoid Hynkel. The powerful final scene Hynkel/Barber is ushered to the stage to speak to the entire gathered Tomanian Army on the eve of the European invasion. The speech delivered in this scene is powerful!
This embedded youtube video is not a direct cut from the movie but rather a remix of the speech with modern images and events. It is quite moving to see and hear how a message that was so culturally relevant in 1940 still carries weight in the world we find ourselves in today.