Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin

A photograph of the famous comedy director, Charlie Chaplin.

In 1939, comedian Charlie Chaplin began writing “The Great Dictator”, which would go on to be incredibly famous, especially for the speech he delivers at the end of the film. Chaplin was already a household name for his silent comedies that he had already produced which featured his character, the tramp, who shared the famed mustache that Hitler himself wore, and would have him be a featured role in this new film. Because of this, he was able to produce the film himself, with his own money, unlike Capra’s films which were produced by the government which developed more trust and humility in Chaplin's films than Capra’s. The film itself stressed liberty, democracy, and freedom above anything else, which spoke deeply to the American people.

 

Still Image from The Great Dictator.

A screenshot from "The Great Dictator" trailer in 1939 featuring Charlie Chaplin as The Barber, and Paulette Goddard, as the woman he loves. 

Throughout the entire film, Chaplin draws you in with his use of comedy and gags in order to deliver a very real emotional message to the audience. Because of Chaplin’s use of emotion as well as his mixing of comedic timing, his films were not nearly as “in your face” as Capra’s were. His Jewish barber character was made very relatable as he had been in a war before and had little to no memory of his life before. Because of this relatability, Chaplin succeeded in giving humanity to the Jewish population. In the film, he does as much as he can to belittle the dictator, a representation of Hitler, as a way of using laughter to conquer him. In one scene, the dictator is giving a speech that is compiled of Gibberish and just random words, such as banana and sauerkraut, spoken quickly and in a German accent in order to show that what he’s saying is not real nor should it be followed. 

One of the highlight scenes in the film is one where Chaplin as Hitler is dancing around with a globe and looking longingly at it. Much of the scene the globe is faced on North America and his want for land that is not his. This represents the entirety of a dictator and that all they want is the world and will stop at nothing to achieve it and that no part of the world is safe from a man like this.

Charlie Chaplin in "The Great Dictator"

A still image taken from Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" from the scene where he as the Jewish barber and the dictator are merged and he gives his famed speech.

At the end of the film, the Jewish barber finds himself in a situation where he must address the country and gives a wildly famous speech that would last around five minutes and end the movie. During the speech, he used great composition and eliminated all around him, Nazis, his typical gags, the microphones; everything. Doing this involved a great deal of risk on Chaplin’s part as a director and writer because he was notorious for his comedy, not his political work. Despite this, the speech became known as one of the greatest speeches ever given and gave many hope with the idea that just one person can make massive amounts of change in the world which is why this is considered a form of propaganda coming out of World War II. He talks about equality for all, fairness for all, and uniting the many throughout the speech. Probably his most powerful part of his speech is the very end, which at this point in it he is now yelling rather than timidly speaking like when he started. Chaplin ends the film and speech like so:

 

“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!”

Film
Charlie Chaplin