Charles Chaplin

The Great Dictator 10 November 04

Section: chaplin

Categories: Film / dvd-mine

What always stands out for me when I see this film is how Chaplin, in Hollywood in the late 1930s, was so aware of the conditions in Germany under the Third Reich. Aware of the terrible persecution, intimidation and the presentiment of genocide (Herring, the Göring in the film, mentioned to Adenoid Hynkel that they had developed a gas which can kill lots and lots of people.). Chaplin had access to enough information to make this powerful film, while many major U.S. companies were investing heavily in the Third Reich and the U.S. stood by and watched it all develop (no, it wasn’t entirely because of the isolationist sentiments of the population — that would never stop the U.S. from carrying out wars in its own interest.).

Seeing this film has always felt like a ray of sunlight burning through the moral fog of U.S. involvement in World War II. I was raised on the myth of the U.S. holding the high moral ground in this era, when in fact it was other countries, mostly the Soviet Union, — not to mention the Resistance in Europe and the victims within the Third Reich: the socialists, communists, handicapped, Jews, homosexuals — who took the brunt of Nazi aggression and is where the heroes can be found. The U.S. could move into the void of a disintegrating British colonialism and set a boundary of contention for the coming cold war with a battered Soviet Union.

I just realized as I finished this viewing of the film today, November 9th, the anniversary of Kristallnacht... while the U.S. continues terrorizing and killing the people of Iraq, mostly children, with a new fervor and bluster flowing from the intoxication of its new “mandate” which they would now shove down the throats of not only the Americans but of the rest of the world.


Civilian and military casualties of World War II →

Trading with the Enemy by Charles Higham → →

Estimation of upwards of 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths since start of invasion →

Nuremberg Diary by G. M. Gilbert →

Passage from dialogue between G. M. Gilbert and Hermann Göring

Göring: “Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.”

Gilbert: “There is one difference. In a democracy, the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.”

Göring: “Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.” (Nuremberg Diary by GM Gilbert)

Title: The Great Dictator

Written and directed by: Charles Chaplin

Starring: Charles Chaplin, Jack Oakie, Reginald Gardiner, Henry Daniell, Billy Gilbert, Grace Hayle, Carter DeHaven, Paulette Goddard, Maurice Moscovitch, Emma Dunn, Bernard Gorcey, and more

Languages: English, Esperanto

  • Title: The Great Dictator