Directed by Charlie Chaplin & Wheeler Dryden
Produced by Charlie Chaplin
Written by Charlie Chaplin
Starring Charlie Chaplin
Music by Charlie Chaplin & Meredith Willson
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) October 15, 1940
Running time 124 min.
Country United States
I explained the other day the trouble that I have been having in the last few days. Things have been a bit difficult and I have fallen a little behind on my schedule. I am endeavouring to catch up as quickly as possible. It should be three weeks before my roof is repaired after the damage that it received after being battered by last week’s storm. I’ve still been watching movies but not been blogging about the experience so I am a little behind. It will take me a little while to catch up.
The Great Dictator was the first ‘talking picture’ that Charlie Chaplin made, over a decade after the Jazz Singer. Chaplin was the last person to make an (almost) silent film with Modern Times in 1936 but by 1940 he knew that he had to have characters talking. I think the reason why Chaplin took so long to speak (legibly) on film was because he was afraid that his Tramp would lose his mystique and charm. Many people claim that this film is the first Chaplin comedy that doesn’t feature the little Tramp yet the Jewish barber character is really the Tramp even if he’s not wearing the baggy pants and bowler hat.
The real comedy character in this film is not the Jewish barber, as every scene he is in is much too sentimental and schmaltzy, but the character of the dictator, Hynkel, proves that Chaplin could do verbal comedy as well as anyone else at the time (Groucho Marx and W.C. Fields included), as well as his brilliant physical comedy. I especially like where the dictator is addressing the crowd in faux German and some nonsensical English comes out. Brilliant.
This is a very funny film for the most part though it does get a little bit bogged down with the sentimentality. The film feels as though it is about half an hour too long as well as it does seem to drag a little towards the end. The film parodies quite effectively the idiotic thinking of the Nazis and Hitler that they were racially superior and the Holocaust, although Chaplin said that if he knew the full extent of the horrors of the concentration camps he would not have made the movie at all. I am glad that he did because future generations need to see just what a fool Hitler and his moronic cronies were and to take this as a lesson so that these sorts of horrors never happen again.
One good thing is that just last week Chaplin’s feature films were rereleased onto DVD after being out of print for 5 years. These DVDs, including The Great Dictator, Modern Times and City Lights are available at Big W for $13 (or $30 for three DVDs).
- Tom Gregory: Maria Conchita Alonso, Charlie Chaplin, and Walt Disney Take on a Dictator (huffingtonpost.com)
- Comedian’s Lake Geneva Furnishings (online.wsj.com)
- Film: Newswire: Early Charlie Chaplin film uncovered (avclub.com)
- 2 reviews of Charlie Chaplin (rateitall.com)
- 14 reviews of Charlie Chaplin (rateitall.com)
- Why I’m now a happy Chaplin fan (guardian.co.uk)
- MM@M: Charlie Chaplin and The Sad Clown. (filmexperience.blogspot.com)
- Long lost Charlie Chaplin film found at antiques fair (telegraph.co.uk)
- Early Charlie Chaplin Short Discovered in Antique Sale (cinematical.com)
- Lost Chaplin Film To Get Premiere At Last (news.sky.com)