“The Great Dictator 1940” – Until Now

by mkleit

 

In 1940, Charlie Chaplin’s controversial speech in the famous movie “The Great Dictator” was marked as one of the best that were ever done.

Whether it was by context or content, the speech showed Adolf Hitler, the leader mimicked by Chaplin, in a very “big brotherly” mood and seemed more gentle than aggressive as is shown by media.

From this, the first remark that would catch a viewer’s attention in Chaplin’s speech is the first phrase said: I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. A phrase which contradicts with Hitler’s aim in authority and he was considered the most famous dictators ever.

Another aspect would drive the viewer’s attention would be emotional baggage placed in the words such as brutes, greed, humanity, freedom, democracy, and slavery etc… He used reasonable arguments to support his speech such as referring to the Saint Luke’s Bible while appealing to values of brotherhood, the people, and liberty.

Moreover, this would probably be the most concrete factor of performing a great speech: timeliness. If a person would hear Chaplin’s speech in 1940 or nowadays, the same aspects mentioned in the speech would be applied to any dictator and would still have the same effect at any time.

In the field of imagery, Chaplin succeed in reflecting the “big brother” image by wearing a normal soldier’s uniform and not one of a general filled with stars and medals. But he kept the look of the leader by standing firm and still until the end of the speech, where he finished it by raising his arm when screaming the phrase: “let us all unite!” to send the crowd into raptures, while relying the whole time frame of the speech on facial expressions and head movement, which actually gave each loaded word its right and power.

The power of several words was key features of the dynamism of Chaplin’s speech. In general, it was very systematic. In that sense, the speech was organized in a way that it went from broad to specific.

At first, Chaplin talked about humanity and the power of goodness and unity, to then point, with his face, towards the soldiers and talk about liberty and fighting against slavery; the speech was finished with a return to the first point mentioned: freedom and liberty.

From that explanation, the speech would mark repetition of words such as machines, brutes, dictator, progress… and a perfect ascendance in pitch, tonality, and pace, at some parts of the speech, but mostly during the break of dynamism at the middle.

Yet the speech also marked a sudden cut, where Chaplin returned to the original tone and re-mentioned the supreme values which he was using at the beginning.

Probably the speech would not be perfect, but the level of emotions embarked in Chaplin’s is outstanding as well as phenomenal. The speech that was given in 1940 mimicking Hitler would still be applied now and referring to nowadays leaders.

The usage of the fear factor, emotions, values, logic, and supremacy are perfect examples of this. Nevertheless, Chaplin was perfectly able to embody the dictator of all time.

 

Charlie Chaplin from the film The Great Dictator

 

Speech text:

“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!”

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Freedom to Speak, Respectfully.

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