Charlie Chaplin, as Adenoid Hynkel, performs a balletic routine with a globe in “The Great Dictator.”
John Bengtson, who has performed fabulous detective work in tracking down movie locations in early films, will introduce Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” at 7:30 p.m. on April 19 at the Alex Theater, 216 N. Brand Blvd., in Glendale. Bengtson will also have a book signing for “Silent Traces: Discovering Early Hollywood Through the Films of Charlie Chaplin.”
Released before the U.S. entered World War II, “The Great Dictator” is a satire on Adolf Hitler with Chaplin in dual roles as dictator Adenoid Hynkel of “Tomania” and “a Jewish barber.” The cast also features Jack Oakie as Benzini, the head of Bacteria (a burlesque of Benito Mussolini of Italy); Henry Daniell as Herr Garbitsch (propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels); and Billy Gilbert as Herring (Hermann Goering). Paulette Goddard, who plays Hannah, made her debut as a leading lady in “Modern Times” and was Chaplin’s third wife. She separated from him in late February 1940 shortly after production finished on “The Great Dictator” and divorced him the next year.
David Totheroh, the grandson of Roland “Rollie” Totheroh, the cinematographer on many Chaplin films, including “The Gold Rush,” “Modern Times” and “The Great Dictator,” will also attend.
The movie is being presented by the Alex Film Society. Ticket information is available at this link.
The Nazis didn’t allow the movie to be shown in Germany, but Hitler had his own print and watched it many times, laughed frequently and marveled at Chaplin’s expert mimicry.
That sounds familiar.
Chaplin was rightly convinced that once ‘The Tramp’ spoke on screen, the magic of his character would disappear. He was not against sound, but understood his character creation completely. So he held off until just the right moment before ‘The Tramp’, as a Jewish barber, addressed the humanity in all of us through perfectly composed words that had to be spoken. In essence, The Tramp went out with the greatest dignity possible. Bravo, Charles Spencer Chaplin!
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Chaplin years later said he would not have made this film if he had known about the Holocaust. He didn’t think anything funny could be made about Hitler.
I bought my tickets this afternoon. I’ve seen TGD many times but this will be the first time on the big screen. Looking forward to it.