Is Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” a good watch?

By: | Post date: July 30, 2016 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Culture

This has already been answered by Mark Blanchard in the negative, in: Mark Blanchard’s answer to Do any credible scholars consider the speech given at the end of the “Great Dictator” to be one of the best in history?

I put The Great Dictator on Hulu last night, with high expectations: I’d known of the film since childhood, particularly the dancing with the globe scene, and my childhood in Greece had been fed on a steady diet of Charlot. (And it will always be spelled Σαρλώ with an omega, dammit!)

Reluctantly, I must agree with Mark.

Pros of the film:

  • The Jews are portrayed as just regular folk, and not exoticised.
  • There is indeed Esperanto on those shopfronts.
  • Given the Hays code wilderness of American film in 1940, the film is daring in its satirical content.
  • Paulette Goddard is easy on the eyes. (And I thought she was easier on the eyes before she scrubbed up; but then, I haven’t seen Modern Times (film), where she’d played the same character.)
    • I was going to say Paulette Goddard did not look plausibly Jewish; good thing I checked Wikipedia (her father was Jewish).
    • I was also going to say there’s no way it was believable that the visibly 50 year old Barber could be going out with Paulette’s Hannah. Oops: Chaplin and Goddard were married at the time.

Cons of the film:

  • It’s not that funny. I have laughed out loud at several films from the 30s; this was not one of them.
  • It is sloppily plotted; the similarity of the Barber to Hynkel and the deus ex at the end is an afterthought, the scenes are incoherently strung together.
  • The mix of satire, slapstick, and political advocacy is not inspired, it is incoherent.
  • The satire is pretty dumb. Not for making light of concentration camps, something Chaplin can’t be blamed for when noone knew what concentration camps were like, and years before the Final Solution. But because it’s not particularly pointed or perceptive.
  • The music, unlike the acting, does exoticise the Jews.
  • Esperanto in Fraktur… does not look recognisably like Esperanto.

Maudlin, over-long, preachy rather than persuasive.

Much better in the YouTube version with modern visuals and EDM tinkling in the background, than in the original.

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