Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Great Dictator

During an unnamed World War I battle, a Jewish barber (Charlie Chaplin) from the fictional country of Tomania saves the life of a superior officer and is immediately knocked into a coma. Released from the hospital two decades later, he returns to his shop where, unbeknownst to him, his people are persecuted at the behest of a vile dictator (Chaplin, again). "The Great Dictator", Chaplin's first genuine talking picture, functions great as propaganda, but is somewhat slight as a Chaplin movie which is just as well considering the historical context. The best comedic scenes involve gags with Chaplin as the vain, insecure dictator Adenoid Hynkel and his bullying ally Benzino Napaloni humorously portrayed by Jack Oakie. The final speech, a direct plea to the audience for peace and sanity, is surprising and moving.

In 2002, Kevin Brownlow and Michael Kloft in collaboration with Turner Classic Movies, released a documentary entitled "The Tramp and the Dictator" which documented the paralleled lives of Charlie Chaplin and Adolf Hitler and how his awareness of these similarities, no matter how trivial, spurned Chaplin to create "The Great Dictator." Kenneth Branagh narrates this intriguing film which features some remarkable, colorized making of footage.