The Great Dictator is a 1940 American satirical political comedy-drama film written, directed, produced, scored by and starring Charlie Chaplin, following the tradition of many of his other films. Having been the only Hollywood film-maker to continue to make silent films well into the period of sound films, this was Chaplin’s first true talking picture.
Chaplin’s film advanced a stirring, controversial condemnation of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, fascism, antisemitism, and the Nazis. At the time of its first release, the United States was still formally at peace with Nazi Germany. Chaplin plays both leading roles: a ruthless fascist dictator, and a persecuted Jewish barber.
The Great Dictator was popular with audiences, becoming Chaplin’s most commercially successful film. Modern critics have also praised it as a historically significant film and an important work of satire. The Great Dictator was nominated for five Academy Awards.
In his 1964 autobiography, Chaplin stated that he could not have made the film if he had known about the true extent of the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps at the time.
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 want to live by each other’s happiness.
Not by each other’s misery.
We don’t want to hate and despise one another.
And this world has room for everyone, and the good Earth is rich can provide for everyone.
The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.
Greed has posioned 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 us abundance has left us in want.
Our knowledge has made us cynincal.
Our cleverness, hard and unkind.
We think too much, and feel too little.
More than machinery, we need humanity.
More that 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, liberty will never perish. …
don’t give yourselves to brutes – men who despise you – 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 like cattle, use you 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 – the unloved and the unnatural!
Don’t fight for slavery!
Fight for liberty!
In the 17th Chapter of St Luke it is written: “the Kingdom of God is within man” – not one man nor a group of men, but in all men!
You, the people have the power – the power to create machines.
The power to create happiness!
You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.
Then – in the name of democracy – let us 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 youth a future and old age a security.
By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power.
But they lie!
They do not fulfil that 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 – to 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.
in the name of democracy, let us all unite
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