Chaplin’s The Great Dictator

I may have posted this once before. It’s a brilliant piece, and well worth repeating, though… Enjoy.

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  1. Posted November 11, 2009 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Chaplin made a lot of great films, but I’ve always thought this was one of his best.

  2. Steph's Dad
    Posted November 11, 2009 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    This scene had to have boiled J. Edgar Hoover’s ass.

    After the Second World War the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) began to investigate people with left-wing views in the entertainment industry. In September 1947 Chaplin was subpoenaed to appear before the HUAC but three times his meeting was postponed. Unknown to Chaplin, J. Edgar Hoover, and the FBI, now had a 1,900 page file on his political activities. Hoover advised the Attorney General that when Chaplin left the country he should be allowed to return.

  3. Ed Kelly
    Posted November 11, 2009 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Compare that thoughtful, lovely speech to what we have today.

  4. Fletch
    Posted November 11, 2009 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    The transcript:

    Hope… I’m sorry but I don’t want to be an Emperor – that’s not my business – I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible, Jew, gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another, human beings are like that.

    We all want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone and the earth is rich and can provide for everyone.

    The way of life can be free and beautiful.

    But we have lost the way.

    Greed has poisoned men’s souls – has barricaded the world with hate; has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.

    We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in: machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little: More than machinery we need humanity; More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

    The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men, cries out for universal brotherhood for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me I say “Do not despair”.

    The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress: the hate of men will pass and dictators die and the power they took from the people, will return to the people and so long as men die [now] liberty will never perish…

    Soldiers – don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you and enslave you – who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel, who drill you, diet you, treat you as cattle, as cannon fodder.

    Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts. You are not machines. You are not cattle. You are men. You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don’t hate – only the unloved hate. Only the unloved and the unnatural. Soldiers – don’t fight for slavery, fight for liberty.

    In the seventeenth chapter of Saint Luke it is written ” the kingdom of God is within man ” – not one man, nor a group of men – but in all men – in you, the people.

    You the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to make life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy let’s use that power – let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give you the future and old age and security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie. They do not fulfil their promise, they never will. 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, 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!

    Look up! Look up! The clouds are lifting – the sun is breaking through. We are coming out of the darkness into the light. We are coming into a new world. A kind new world where men will rise above their hate and brutality.

    The soul of man has been given wings – and at last he is beginning to fly. He is flying into the rainbow – into the light of hope – into the future, that glorious future that belongs to you, to me and to all of us. Look up. Look up.”

  5. Posted November 11, 2009 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    Charlie Chaplin’s work has always been an inspiration to me. I am inspired by his artistic drive and his ability to effectively convey passionate messages about the human condition through his art. I think it is time that Dreamland has a Chaplin festival (we need to start the “Illuminati film night” again). I will post it on the website.

  6. Posted November 11, 2009 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    That would be very cool, Naia. Let me know when you’re ready, and I’ll help you publicize it.

  7. Left Cross
    Posted November 14, 2009 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    To be clear, Chaplin was a socialist. He was speaking of a classless future society. Is that also your goal?

  8. Posted November 14, 2009 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    My goal isn’t socialism. I like capitalism just fine. I do think, however, that there needs to be both a strong safety net for those who need it, and laws on inherited wealth, etc, that discourage the growth of an aristocratic class… which I believe we have now. I think that the growing discrepancy between those in the top 1% and those in the bottom 50% is a recipe for disaster. Capitalism needs rules.

  9. Mark H.
    Posted November 14, 2009 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    Charlie Chaplin was one of the first great artists of the 20th century, and he was the most important artist of the century’s new art form — film — surely the most important, most influential art form of the first half of that century. And yes, he was a socialist. Absolutely a socialist. Driven out of the USA by McCarthyism, too, wasn’t he? So, what’s the point of asking if people who appreciate his films have to agree with his politics? (Whose politics from a half century or more ago would anyone fully agree with?)

    Does Chaplin’s politics, somehow, Left Cross, invalidate the value of his art? The Little Dictator is a great, great film — and it’s target was Nazism! What’s your objection? I don’t get it. Targeting Nazism, wasn’t that a good thing? And I’d stand by Chaplin’s attempt to explain the origins of Nazism as a respectable, honest, intellectual sincere effort by a great artist to address one of the great problems of his age. It was so effective in fact, the result was a piece of enduring art for all ages.

    Charlie got red baited too much while he lived, and red baiting him now, thirty years after his death, is shameful.

    Thanks Mark M for posting the clip!

  10. Left Cross
    Posted November 15, 2009 at 2:08 am | Permalink

    Mark H.: What makes you think I’m not on his side?

    “Nazism” was a particular brand of Fascism, which Mussolini preferred to call Corporatism. It means the coalescence of capital and the state. It is no coincidence that Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco all supported capitalism and helped it along in their respective nations. They did oppose liberal reforms of other western nations, but gladly accepted the antagonistic culture of capitalism.

    Mark M.: Sure, humanitarian reform is an excellent short term goal. But we have to agree upon a broader vision for what a future society should be, not keep pretending that authoritarian social structures don’t make us into uncaring people. Even if we succeed in winning stronger labor standards and somehow manage to keep the rich idiots from going Galt, their class still has immense power to control so much more. Capitalism isn’t just about a method of trading; it’s a whole social system. If we are going to secure a livable future for us all, we have to recognize the interdependence of all our institutions: politics, kinship, economy, culture.

  11. Mark H.
    Posted November 15, 2009 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Left Cross — guess I read your quick, pointed question incorrectly. It struck me as coming from a red-baiting perspective, as it just brought up Chaplin’s politics, out of context, said almost nothing about them, and then asked Mark M. if he shared Chaplin’s politics (as summarized by you). In these days, left wing artists of earlier days, and of these days too, are frequently dismissed as artists by those who disagree with their politics. I thought this was what you were doing. I apologize for misunderstanding you. Though I don’t think your comment indicated that you agreed with Charlie’s politics, it just pressed someone else to come out for or against socialism.

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