1940, Charlie Chaplin: ‘The Great Dictator’

I may well be the last person to have discovered and watched this final scene from ‘The Great Dictator’. I am completely astounded at Charlie Chaplin’s speech. This film was released in New York 15th October 1940 over a year before the US declared war on Japan (7th December 1941). This was Chaplin’s first talking film, he wrote it, scored it, starred in it, directed and produced it. What an amazing feat from within 1940’s Hollywood, delivering such a passionate condemnation of antisemitism, fascism, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party to a broad audience. It is hard to believe that this speech comes from a popular film, a comedy. Adolf Hitler had been parodied in two other films before this but the serious nature and intense passion of this speech caught my breath. Chaplin noted in his autobiography that he would not have made the film if he had known the true conditions in Nazi German concentration camps. But I can’t help but wonder if perhaps this film and this final speech may have had influence within US culture, bringing their thoughts to what was happening in Europe and just what it was that the UK was fighting for. I also feel this speech is still very relevant today, showing brilliance and the strange nature of humanity. I applaud Chaplin’s belief in the beauty of humanity.