Charlie Chaplin, and Hitler

Charlie Chaplin was the first great movie star. He first went to the USA with the great circus entrepreneur Fred Karno. By 1914, he had made his way into movies. By 1919, when he founded United Artists, he was the biggest star in the world. The clip above was an early outing for what was Chaplin’s stock character, the tramp. The next is he fight scene from The Kid (1921) and shows much of what made him. The comic timing, the brilliant slapstick, and the inherent physicality of music hall were translated to the screen.

Sound troubled Chaplain, and it was probably true that his best days were done. It wasn’t until 140’s The Great Dictator that he release his first talkie, a satire upon the rise of Hitler.


It is often claimed that the subsequent controversy, and accusations of communist sympathies in a neutral United States, forced Chaplain into Swiss exile: in truth, it probably had more to do with controversies surrounding his private life.

The plotline sees Chaplin’s Jewish barber mistaken for the great dictator, Adenoid Hynkel (also played by Chaplin). He has to give a speech, and when he does so he delivers this to our ears perhaps rather platitudinous ; this was 1940, and I for one will forgive him.

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