I am an unapologetic admirer of Charlie Chaplin‘s work and politics. He was a comical and filmmaking genius, who was not fully appreciated until he was gone. His personal life and multiple marriages (and affairs) made headlines, and political complaints that he was a socialist and communist (sound familiar) eventually drove him from America and into exile in Switzerland.
One of Charlie’s greatest achievements is the the film The Great Dictator, a comedy and his first “talking picture.” Originally released in October 1940, the film, in which Chaplin wrote, produced, directed and starred in, openly criticized and ridiculed Adolph Hitler, Nazi oppression, and fascism. Until then, no one in Hollywood had dared to satirize Nazism or comment on the persecution of the Jewish people.
Chaplin plays duo roles in the film: the Jewish barber and the dictator Hynkel (Hitler). In the film’s climax, the barber assumes the identity of Hynkel and delivers a rousing and emotional speech, declaring democracy, free speech and a free society. He (the barber and Chaplin himself) calls for humanity in general to break free from dictatorships and use science and progress to make the world better instead.
“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 kindlier world, where men will rise above their hate, their greed and brutality. Look up, Hannah. 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, the glorious future that belongs to you, to me, and to all of us. Look up, Hannah. Look up”
It is no surprise that with the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the growing anger of the 99% over the rampant greed and disinformation that exists in our society, that someone would put Charlie’s poignant words from The Great Dictator to images from those things that plague mankind today. The words and theme of Chaplin’s speech ring as true today as they did then.
WATCH, share and be inspired: