Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Wartime Wednesday: Charlie Chaplin and The Great Dictator

 Wartime Wednesday: 

Charlie Chaplain and The Great Dictator 

Most folks are familiar with the silent film character The Little Tramp, but you may not know much about his creator Charlie Chaplin. Born in England to parents who were in the entertainment industry (his mother was a sometimes actress and his father a singer), Charlie and his brother Sydney had a difficult childhood. By the time Charlie was two years old, his parents had separated, with his alcoholic father doing nothing to help financially. With little income, the family was soon destitute, and the boys were sent to a workhouse. 

After his mother entered a mental asylum in 1898, Charlie and his brother were sent to live with their father, who they barely knew. Two years later, he died of cirrhosis of the liver. Thanks to connections of this father, Charlie became a member of the Eight Lancashire Lads dancing troupe. He toured for two years, but wanted to pursue acting. He worked at a variety of odd jobs while periodically performing in local and short-run plays. He eventually landed a role that he held for more than two years in a stage production of Sherlock Holmes. 
In 1907, Sidney found work with the Fred Karno Repertoire Company and secured a position for
Charlie a short time later. The boys were highly successful, and by 1910 Charlie was on his way to America. The troupe returned to England in 1912, and Charlie was offered a motion picture contract. He agreed to appear after he fulfilled his vaudeville commitments which he did so in November 1913. The following year “Kid Auto Races at Venice” was released – the first film in which Charlie wore The Little Tramp costume. 
Success followed success, and by 1917 Charlie built his own studio after the expiration of his latest contract. He became even more successful, and in 1919 along with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffiths founded United Artist Corporation a company, that distributed films over which the artists had complete control, creating an entirely new method of producing films. 

Charlie continue to produce his own films, but struggled to make the transition to “talkies.” He felt The Little Tramp character would not do well, so he ignored sound films, and in 1931 issued “City Lights” with a complete musical score he’d written himself. 
Preoccupied by the economic and social problems of the Great Depression, he left Hollywood and embarked on an international tour of observation and study. The result of his tour was Modern Times, released in 1936. 
Then came war, and Charlie decided to use his celebrity to poke fun and comment on the dictator with
the same bristle brush mustache, who erroneously stated that the actor was Jewish. Chaplin later responded “he didn’t have that honor.” “The Great Dictator” which he wrote, directed, produced, scored, and starred in would become his most commercially successful film. According to one source, Chaplin decided to do the film after he saw the Nazi propaganda film “Triumph of the Will” by Leni Riefenstahl. He repeatedly watched the film in order to mimic Hitler’s mannerisms then went on to prepare the storyline over the course of 1938 and early 1939. Filming began shortly after the invasion of Poland in September of that year. 

The film was wildly popular with Americans and British alike, but Chaplin would later write in his autobiography “Had I known of the actual horrors of the German concentration camps, I could not have made The Great Dictator; I could not have made fun of the homicidal insanity of the Nazis.”

Have you seen “The Great Dictator?”

About A Doctor in the House

They’re supposed to be allies, but mutual distrust puts this pair on opposite sides. 
Emma O’Sullivan is one of the first female doctors to enlist after President Franklin Roosevelt signs the order allowing women in the Army and Navy medical corps. Within weeks, Emma is assigned to England to set up a convalescent hospital, and she leaves behind everything that is familiar. When the handsome widower of the requisitioned property claims she’s incompetent and tries to get her transferred, she must prove to her superiors she’s more than capable. But she’s soon drawn to the good-looking, grieving owner. Will she have to choose between her job and her heart? 
Archibald “Archie” Heron is the last survivor of the Heron dynasty, his two older brothers having been lost at Dunkirk and Trondheim and his parents in the Blitz. After his wife is killed in a bombing raid while visiting Brighton, he begins to feel like a modern-day Job. To add insult to injury, the British government requisitions his country estate, Heron Hall, for the U.S. Army to use as a hospital. The last straw is when the hospital administrator turns out to be a fiery, ginger-haired American woman. She’s got to go. Or does she?

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  1. I saw "Great Dictator" years ago and I have a slightly different take on it. Making fun of you-know-who may have helped to shatter his image in the free world. But then I also enjoyed "Hogan's Heroes." Both pieces make the Nazis look stupid. I don't think they diminish the horror of what the Nazis did, but that's just me.
    Charlie Chaplin was a genius. Acting, directing, doing music, producing.

  2. Thanks for stopping by. I also enjoyed Hogan's Heroes because like the Great Dictator humor was used effectively to explore topics in a "safe" way. Did you know that the guy who played LeBeau had been in a Concentration Camp?