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In his notorious masterpiece The Great Dictator, Charlie Chaplin (City Lights, Modern Times) offers both a cutting caricature of Adolf Hitler and a sly tweaking of his own comic persona. Chaplin (in his first pure talkie) brings his sublime physicality to two roles: the cruel yet clownish “Tomanian” dictator and the kindly Jewish barber who is mistaken for him. Featuring Jack Oakie (Thieves’ Highway, Lover Come Back) and Paulette Goddard (Modern Times, The Women) in stellar supporting turns, The Great Dictator, boldly going after the fascist leader before the U.S.’s official entry into World War II, is an audacious amalgam of politics and slapstick that culminates in Chaplin’s famously impassioned plea for tolerance.
Modern Times (1936)
Charlie Chaplin is in glorious form in this legendary satire of the mechanized world. As a factory worker driven bonkers by the soulless momentum of work, Chaplin executes a series of slapstick routines around machines, including a memorable encounter with an automatic feeding apparatus. The pantomime is triumphant, but Chaplin also draws a lively relationship between the Tramp and a street gamine. She's played by Paulette Goddard, then Chaplin's wife and probably his best leading lady (here and in The Great Dictator). The film's theme gave the increasingly ambitious writer-director a chance to speak out about social issues, as well as indulging in the bittersweet quality of pathos that critics were already calling "Chaplinesque." In 1936, Chaplin was still holding out against spoken dialogue in films, but he did use a synchronized soundtrack of sound effects and his own music, a score that includes one of his most famous melodies, "Smile." And late in the film, Chaplin actually does speak--albeit in a garbled gibberish song, a rebuke to modern times in talking pictures. --Robert Horton
The Great Dictator (1940)
Since Adolf Hitler had the audacity to borrow his mustache from the most famous celebrity in the world--Charlie Chaplin--it meant Hitler was fair game for Chaplin's comedy. (Strangely, the two men were born within four days of each other.) The Great Dictator, conceived in the late thirties but not released until 1940, when Hitler's war was raging across Europe, is the film that skewered the tyrant. Chaplin plays both Adenoid Hynkel, the power-mad ruler of Tomania, and a humble Jewish barber suffering under the dictator's rule. Paulette Goddard, Chaplin's wife at the time, plays the barber's beloved; and the rotund comedian Jack Oakie turns in a weirdly accurate burlesque of Mussolini, as a bellowing fellow dictator named Benzino Napaloni, Dictator of Bacteria. Chaplin himself hits one of his highest moments in the amazing sequence where he performs a dance of love with a large inflated globe of the world. Never has the hunger for world domination been more rhapsodically expressed. The slapstick is swift and sharp, but it was not enough for Chaplin. He ends the film with the barber's six-minute speech calling for peace and prophesying a hopeful future for troubled mankind. Some critics have always felt the monologue was out of place, but the lyricism and sheer humanity of it are still stirring. This was the last appearance of Chaplin's Little Tramp character, and not coincidentally it was his first all-talking picture. --Robert Horton
The Gold Rush (1925)
After the box-office failure of his first dramatic film, A Woman of Paris, Charlie Chaplin brooded over his ensuing comedy. "The next film must be an epic!" he recalled in his autobiography. "The greatest!" He found inspiration, paradoxically, in stories of the backbreaking Alaskan gold rush and the cannibalistic Donner Party. These tales of tragedy and endurance provided Chaplin with a rich vein of comic possibilities. The Little Tramp finds himself in the Yukon, along with a swarm of prospectors heading over Chilkoot Pass (an amazing sight restaged by Chaplin in his opening scenes, filmed in the snowy Sierra Nevadas). When the Tramp is trapped in a mountain cabin with two other fortune hunters, Chaplin stages a veritable ballet of starvation, culminating in the cooking of a leathery boot. Back in town, the Tramp is smitten by a dance-hall girl (Georgia Hale), but it seems impossible that she could ever notice him. The Gold Rush is one of Chaplin's simplest, loveliest features; and despite its high comedy, it never strays far from Chaplin's keen grasp of loneliness. In 1942, Chaplin reedited the film and added music and his own narration for a successful rerelease. --Robert Horton
Certainly, Charlie Chaplin at this point in his career (1952) had earned the right to reflect on his years as an entertainer, and could make his film as overlong and soppy and sentimental as he darn well pleased. But that doesn't mean the rest of us have to abet this kind of melodramatic indulgence. Chaplin stars as Calvero, a fading clown who helps a paralyzed dancer regain the use of her legs and achieve great fame, but of course at grave cost to Calvero. The film is famous for featuring the only onscreen teaming of Chaplin with the other legendary comic of the silent era, Buster Keaton, and is equally infamous for Chaplin having allegedly cut out most of Keaton's best bits in their sequence together. How much Chaplin sabotaged his own movie to keep Keaton from shining has been much debated, but consider: In Keaton's autobiography, he calls Chaplin the greatest screen comic of all time. In Chaplin's autobiography, he never mentions Keaton. --David Kronke --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Great performances in 2 roles. Classic Chaplin Tramp character with a blend of the dictator all wrapped up with just the right level of comedy. Read morePublished 18 months ago by BrentHenry123
The blu-ray restoration is excellent. The performance is great! However, the ending is a letdown on the part of Charlie Chaplin. He is best at performing art. Read morePublished on Aug. 15 2013 by LP
The Movie is quite good. Even today there are parts of it that are still worth remembering. For anyone who has studied the History around Nazi Germany, and specially "The... Read morePublished on June 3 2013 by Roller
This classic is tasty and enjoyable allways. I have watched it at least half a dozen times, and every time it is like new.Published on July 20 2012 by Sakusammakko
Olly Moss is a brilliant minimalist poster designer. His work appears in Empire Magazine and can be readily found online. Read morePublished on July 28 2011 by CharlieReviews
This movie is still funny and timely today. Some great classic scenes (the bouncing globe scene is still amazing). Read more
One of the funniest films I've watched. It's got the funniness of the his silent films and the best bits of all the Adolf Hitler/World War 2 comic sketches that you've seen... Read morePublished on Sept. 1 2010 by Ben Nicholson
I love this movie, I've watched it so many times, and still laugh. Charlie Chaplin was/is a brillient film maker, and very clever, and a amazing comedian. Love all his pictures. Read morePublished on Sept. 23 2007 by Shen
"The soul of man has been given wings"
This movie is hyped up causing some sort of frenzy; someone calls it a classic or likes the thought that someone is mocked, and... Read more