NEW YORK (Oct. 15)
Marked by the breaking of two precedents, Charlie Chaplin’s long-awaited film lampoon of Chancellor Adolf Hitler, “The Great Dictator,” opened here tonight at the Astor and Capitol theaters, before distinguished and enthusiastic audiences.
Those attending includes H.G. Wells, Lion Feuchtwanger, Postmaster-General Frank C. Walker, Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia, Col. Julius Ochs Adler, Joseph M. Proskauer, George Backer, Somerset Maugham, Paul Block, Senator Robert L. Wagner, James Warburg, David Sarnoff, William S. Paley, Merlin H. Aylesworth, Edward M. Flynn, Albert Lasker, Marshall Field, Police Commissioner Valentine, Trying Berlin, Deems Taylor, Arthur Hays Sulzberger and Herbert Bayard Swope.
Speaking in a film for the first time in his long career, the famous comedian, in the climactic scene, virtually steps out of character to voice what is obviously a personal and long-nurtured plea for a return to sanity and tolerance by a world ridden by war and hate.
The appeal, delivered in impassioned tones that startled an audience that had hardly become accustomed to the clipped, somewhat British-accented voice of the hitherto silent actor, brought a spontaneous burst of applause from last night’s preview attendance of writers, editors and critics.
In the film Chaplin, who is of Jewish parentage, plays a dual role, that of a Jewish barber and Adenoid Hynkel, dictator of Tomania. The barber role merges into the dictator role at the moment when Hynkel’s troops have overrun the neighboring land of Osterlich, affording the barber dictator his opportunity to speak his mind.
Many of the scenes are laid in the city’s ghetto and a central theme running throughout the film is the dictator’s insane persecution of the Jews. A number of the scenes are concerned with “spontaneous” pogroms.
A notable achievement of Chaplin’s is the fidelity with which he has reproduced the psychopathic frenzy of Hitler’s oratory and the very tone and inflection of his voice. Other notorious Nazi characters lampooned in the film are Propaganda Minister Goebbels, who emerges as Herr Garbitsch, and Marshal Goering, who becomes Herr Herring. In the latter part of the picture, Hynkel is joined by Benzino Napoloni, dictator of Bacteria, a caricature of Mussolini, played by Jack Oakie. Another important role is carried by the famous Yiddish actor, Maurice Moscovich, who died several months ago, who plays the part of Mr. Jaeckel, a resident of the ghetto. Co-starred with Chaplin is Paulette Goddard, who plays the role of a girl of the ghetto.
Following, in part, is the speech with which Chaplin concludes the film:
“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 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…
“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 has come 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….
“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 lied! They do not fulfill that promise. They never will! Dictators freed themselves but they enslaved the people. Now 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, where progress will lead to the happiness of us all.”